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Portman endorses same-sex marriage in 'change of heart'

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has endorsed same-sex marriage — a “change of heart” that came after his son revealed to him two years ago that he was gay. 

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“I think we should be allowing gay couples the joy and stability of marriage,” Portman told a small group of Ohio reporters on Thursday, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer

In a separate op-ed published Friday in the Columbus Dispatch, Portman wrote: “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”

Portman is now the only sitting GOP senator to publicly back gay marriage, an issue that has been gaining support in public opinion polls over the past several years.

President Obama announced his support for gay marriage in 2012, and former Vice President Cheney has long advocated in favor. 

Last month, dozens of prominent Republicans — including former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman — signed a legal brief arguing same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. 

Portman, who served as former President George W. Bush’s budget director, said he began to reconsider his own opposition to same-sex marriage after his son, Will, revealed to him in 2011 that he was gay. 

“Will ... came to (Portman’s wife) Jane and me and announced that he was gay, that it was not a choice. It was who he is and he had been that way since he could remember,” Portman told the Ohio reporters. 

“Jane and I were both surprised, very surprised, but also very supportive of him. Our reaction was not about policy or positions. It was about him as a son and letting him know we were 110 percent supportive of him.”

Portman said his son’s revelation gave him a “new perspective” on gay marriage.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Portman credited his son for sparking his shift in opinion.

"That launched an interesting process for me, which was kind of re-thinking my position, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders and going through the process of, at the end changing my position on the issue," he said to CNN.

In 1996 while serving in the House, Portman voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman under federal law. 

In February, the Obama administration filed a legal brief before the Supreme Court arguing that DOMA is unconstitutional and “violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection.”

House Republicans have taken up the defense of DOMA. The Supreme Court will hear arguments this month on a case challenging the law. 

Portman said he does “not plan to take a leadership role” on gay marriage but wanted Ohio voters to know his position had changed.