Better Late Than Never, Senator Portman

portman portraitThis is a guest post by Rabbi Michael Adam Latz.
News broke earlier today that Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio came out in favor of marriage equality. Motivated by his own son’s coming out as gay, Senator Portman—who served in two cabinet posts in President George W. Bush’s administration—reversed his long standing opposition to same sex marriage. “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 in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
Cable news and cyber space have been all “atwitter” over the Senator’s policy reversal. “Rob Portman and the Politics of Narcissism,” read one headline, the author commending his change of heart, but judging harshly his reason for doing so.
Good lord! People change their minds. This is a good thing. As Jews, we believe in the power of t’shuvah, of turning our hearts towards a greater spiritual purpose, towards a life of holiness and wholeness. This is the essence of the Yamim Noraim—the Days of Awe—when we pour forth our souls, atone for our transgressions, and recommit ourselves to lives of dignity and Divine purpose.
Yes, I’d love for all legislators to “do the right thing” and support marriage equality simply because it is the right thing to do. However—whether they come to voting in favor of marriage legislation because their kid comes out, or because they’ve learned how to read polls, or because their clergy member encouraged them, or because they’ve reflected deeply and realize that discrimination is un-American—the point is that they come forth and support human dignity and equality. Hallelujah! Tony Kushner was right: The world only spins forward.
I say: Better late then never, Senator Portman! Welcome to the side of history that celebrates love and commitment, that venerates compassion and justice, that uplifts the soul towards the ever expansive moral arc of the universe. Welcome Senator Portman. We’re glad to work with you to achieve America’s promise.
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz has been the senior rabbi of Shir Tikvah congregation since 2009. He lives in Minneapolis with his husband Michael and their two daughters.