WASHINGTON Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a rising national star in the Republican Party, announced Thursday that he has a gay son and could no longer justify his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Portman's revelation makes him the only sitting Republican senator to publicly support giving gay men and lesbians the right to marry and one of the most prominent so far of a growing number of Republicans to publicly oppose their party on the issue.
In a series of interviews and in an op-ed article published in the Columbus Dispatch, Portman said that he did not want his son Will, who is 21, treated any differently because of his sexuality.
"I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I've had for over 26 years," he told CNN. "That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay."
Portman's announcement raises difficult questions for the Republican Party, which is trying to rebuild after the 2012 presidential election loss, but still holds firmly to positions on issues like gay marriage and immigration that are alienating to many voters.
His position drew a cool response from some quarters and puts him at odds with his party's leaders in Congress, who have long looked at him as a faithful conservative and loyal ally.
Portman chose to articulate his thoughts not only in personal terms but in terms intended to resonate with conservatives as well.
"We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives," he wrote in the op-ed. "We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility."