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The Traditional Values Coalition gives Rob Portman hell

March 15, 2013|By Jon Healey
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Thursday that he has reversed his stance against same-sex marriage rights since learning that his son, Will Portman, is gay.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Thursday that he has reversed his stance… (Brendan Hoffman / Getty…)

Andrea Lafferty, the president of the Traditional Values Coalition, says something offensive about gays and lesbians practically every time she speaks on the subject. Nevertheless, she hit a new low Friday in her response to conservative Republican Sen. Rob Portman's disclosure Thursday that he now supports same-sex marriage.

The op-ed Portman (R-Ohio) wrote for the Columbus Dispatch offers a perfect argument for conservatives to drop their opposition to same-sex couples taking vows. "We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives," he wrote. "We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility."

Portman came to his new position the same way former Vice President Dick Cheney apparently did: because one of his children is gay. "Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay," Portman wrote. "He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is."

TIMELINE: Gay marriage chronology

The "wasn't something he chose" part of the equation is what Lafferty can't seem to accept. She offered a mock press release of her own Friday, saying one of her children had recently told her he's a drunk driver, and after a few days of reflection, she's dropped her opposition to drunk driving. "My child is a drunk driver and I love him. It is a part of his identity, who he is," she wrote, adding that her new personal involvement in the issue has taken her "above the whole discussion of the morality of it."

The point of the fake disclosure, Lafferty wrote, was to highlight the "twisted, self-serving logic" of those, like Portman, who flip on the issue of same-sex marriage when they discover that a child is gay.

"There are absolutes. There is right and there is wrong. There are objective truths. A civilization which has no governing principles or laws is doomed to collapse. That is the soul of conservatism," she wrote. "The tough part of being a parent is telling one of those young souls whom we have been charged with raising that he or she is wrong."

There are objective truths, but only in the areas where we have absolute knowledge -- like arithmetic. For centuries, it was an objective truth that the sun revolved around Earth. We know better now.

It's sad but not surprising that Lafferty would compare Portman's son to an alcoholic who won't stop driving. She clings to the belief that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured, but that's like saying left-handers can be cured or that being short is a deformity.

The black and white world Lafferty lives in has no room for people like Portman who, when confronted with a new reality, reconsidered a stance that was based on faith instead of facts. She rails against him for changing his mind, but isn't that exactly what we want our elected officials to do, learn and adapt?

Being against homosexuality or same-sex marriage isn't a governing principle. Equal protection under the law is -- a principle, by the way, that this country didn't embrace until the mid-19th century. That's when the 14th Amendment was ratified, barring the institutional discrimination against minorities that the Founders had not seen fit to stop. Thankfully, we have a long history in this country of learning from our mistakes. You might even call that one of America's traditional values.

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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey

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