Portman On Gay Marriage: Will Crumbling Walls Tumble?

It took me a while this morning to realize that Sen. Rob Portman’s op-ed announcing he had changed his mind and now supported same-sex marriage (mainly as a result of learning his own son is gay) was being considered a big shocker. Sure, as Dave Weigel pointed out, most of the Republicans who have thrown in the towel (with relief or chagrin) on this topic are not elected officials, much less well-established conservative senators near the top of Mitt Romney’s 2012 running-mate list.

But it’s been obvious for a good while which way the wind was blowing: in public opinion polls and particularly in generational public opinion findings. Anyone paying the least bit of attention understands that for social conservatives, this is just a lost cause, particularly after President Obama withdrew bipartisan cover for marriage equality opponents. Besides, when Dick Cheney’s announced his own support for same-sex marriage in 2009, he was neither struck by lightning nor kicked out of the conservative movement. So it was just a matter of time until others followed.

But Portman’s move could trigger a wave of conversions in the Republican ranks, and that in turn could break down legal resistance to same-sex marriage. Already we’ve seen most conservatives abandon the “traditional marriage” cause as a backlash generator and vote mobilizer. Now we’ll see if votes change in state legislatures, and the walls come tumbling down.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.