In response to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage, after learning his son is gay, some gay-rights supporters of marriage equality wondered, acidly, why Republicans have to have a personal stake before they grasp the case for marriage equality.
It's a legitimate question. If marriage equality is a simple matter of justice and freedom, it shouldn't matter if you know anyone gay or not. Its denial shouldn't have to harm someone you love to persuade you to act.
But most people who oppose discrimination against gays came to that position at least partly by getting to know someone gay. It's easy to regard homosexuality as a defect or a threat if you've never had that experience. Once you have, it's much harder.
So if Portman is a case of someone just figuring out what should have been clear long ago, we should cut him some slack. And the implication of his change of heart makes it clear that the campaign for same-sex marriage is bound to prevail in time, because everyone knows someone who is gay.
What happened to Portman will happen to a lot more people who currently oppose same-sex marriage. And in most places, it probably won't take too long.
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