Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon is not making the Rob Portman switch: though his son is gay, Salmon does not support same-sex marriage. Salmon was candid with local news station 3TV in an interview on gay marriage and his son:
I don’t support the gay marriage… My son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say… I’m just not there, as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2,000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family. I’m not there. [...]
I don’t believe that this is a lifestyle that he chose. In fact, I remember him telling me at one point in time — he said, “Dad, do you truly believe that if I could have chosen a lifestyle I would have chosen this with all the things that come along with it?”
It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect; it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means that I haven’t evolved to that station. Rob Portman apparently has.
Portman became the first Republican Senator to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, citing his son's homosexuality as a main reason. While I'm generally dismissive of this sort of old-world prejudice, I will point out a few things to like in what Congressman Salmon has to say here. First of all, he reaffirms that he loves his son. That shouldn't be notable, but many gay kids have to deal with the real possibility of being disowned by their parents if they come out, and a conservative parent might be more responsive to someone like Salmon than someone farther to the left.
Another plus: Salmon's language is that of someone who is conceding a very strong case on the other side. There's that line about 2,000 years of social policy (more on that in a moment), but: "It doesn't mean that I don't have respect; it doesn't mean that I don't sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven't evolved to that station."
He frames accepting same-sex marriage as something people evolve to, and a position worthy of sympathy and respect. He also describes his son being gay as something he was born with, not something he chose, which separates him from many conservatives who insists that being gay is a sin, and therefore a choice, and to hell with the evidence (maybe literally). He kind of gets that he's behind the times here, he's just very rooted in his old ways.
And speaking of those old ways, let me pick on that one line: "I’m just not there, as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2,000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family." It sounds like he's a little defensive and he's looking for something solid to fall back on: 2,000 years of social policy. Here's the thing: most of that 2,000 years of social policy sucked. From the 2,000 year perspective, for most of that time rape victims were often forced to marry the rapist, wife-beating was common, not even taboo for most of that span. Women were confined by all sorts of restrictive social norms, and being gay was often literally a crime.
I get that people are into tradition, but Rep. Salmon would do well to articulate what tradition he's referring to.