It’s easy to have an opinion when the issue doesn’t require you to be informed or have a personal investment. When it hits closer to home, however, maintaining a staunchly black-and-white opinion gets far more difficult. Republican U.S. Sen. Portman learned that the hard way. The Ohio lawmaker now is doing some back-pedaling on one specific issue — same-sex marriage — two years after his son disclosed he is gay.
For most people, “marriage equality” is a complicated issue that continues to evolve as more and more people they know and respect “come out” as gay. The number of people polled who are in favor of same-sex marriage continues to grow, with a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll saying 58 percent of people support it. The U.S. Supreme Court soon might rule on the legality of the issue, but in the meantime some people still are coming to terms with accepting gays as equals.
For those who want to learn more about gays’ struggles — in a safe and non-judgmental environment — Ottawa University has the perfect opportunity this week. The Heartland Men’s Chorus from Kansas City is expected to present a concert — titled “When I Knew” — 7 p.m. Wednesday at Fredrikson Chapel, 1011 S. Cedar St. The concert is free, though a free-will offering will be taken to support the choir’s outreach efforts.
The university took a political risk by playing host to the choir, but it also shows the college’s willingness to embrace diversity, much like Sen. Portman did last month. Here’s an excerpt from a column in the Yale Daily News, written by Portman’s son, Will, a junior at Trumbull College, which is part of Yale University.
“I’m proud of my dad, not necessarily because of where he is now on marriage equality (although I’m pretty psyched about that), but because he’s been thoughtful and open-minded in how he’s approached the issue, and because he’s shown that he’s willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand. He was a good man before he changed his position, and he’s a good man now, just as there are good people on either side of this issue today.
“We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs. We should think twice before using terms like ‘bigoted’ to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or ‘immoral’ to describe the position of those in favor, and always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.
“I hope that my dad’s announcement and our family’s story will have a positive impact on anyone who is closeted and afraid, and questioning whether there’s something wrong with them. I’ve been there. If you’re there now, please know that things really do get better, and they will for you too.”
Portman is just one of three Republican lawmakers who support gay marriage. Portman’s situation might just be the beginning, as more people come out and their loved ones accept them — regardless of their sexual orientation. The senator’s situation also is emblematic of the need for society to focus on inclusiveness, rather than exclusivity. Only then will things truly get better for everyone concerned.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher