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Portman's son tells story of coming out

Portman's son tells story of coming out
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Monday, March 25, 2013 - 5:27pm

(CNN) -- In an op-ed published Monday by the Yale Daily News, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's son, Will, wrote about a private family matter turning into a story that dominated national headlines earlier this month.

"I came to Yale as a freshman in the fall of 2010 with two big uncertainties hanging over my head: Whether my dad would get elected to the Senate in November, and whether I'd ever work up the courage to come out of the closet," stated the first line of Will Portman's column.

His dad won the November election and a few months later, Portman wrote a letter to his parents about his secret, then shipped it overnight to Ohio.

That was the beginning of a two-year process that ultimately led to his father making a surprising announcement on March 15, when the Republican senator decided to buck his party's platform and endorse same-sex marriage.

"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," Portman told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, citing his son's decision as the impetus for the decision.

Portman was the first sitting Republican in the U.S. Senate to come out in support of same-sex marriage.

His son, Will, has since become a high-profile anecdote in the same-sex marriage battle, currently a top issue as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments this week on two cases dealing with the issue.

Portman said his parents called as soon as they got the letter, and while they were surprised and inquisitive, they were "absolutely rock-solid supportive," he wrote. "That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was."

Over the coming months, he began to tell his friends and family that he was gay and subsequently learned that his best friend was also gay.

The next summer, his father's name was in the news first as he began campaigning for Mitt Romney and and more when he was considered a potential running mate for the GOP presidential contender.

"The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process," he wrote. "My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we'd be open about it on the campaign trail."

In August 2012, Romney announced that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin had been chosen for the job. Will Portman wrote that he was "pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign."

Addressing criticism from the left that his father took two years to openly support same-sex marriage, Portman wrote that part of the reason for the delay was his own reluctance to make his personal life public.

But Portman added he's proud of his dad's decision "because he's shown that he's willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand." The Yale junior also cautioned against the often-negative political discourse over the issue.

"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," he said. "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."

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