Rob Portman is still a Pharisee. In other news: Spring Break!

I’ve been thinking about marriage today–gay, straight, what have you.  Fratguy and I have been in a civil union for 15 years.  I think that’s the right term, as we were “married” by a notary (you can do that in Maine), but because we’re an opposite-sex couple, everyone calls us “married,” although neither of us wanted to darken the door of any church in the service of enacting our civil union.

But you get used to this kind of thing when you’re in a straight union–a lot of the time you benefit from other people’s assumptions about you.  It means (for example) that you don’t have to carry around your marriage license as proof of your legal relationship.  The words “husband” and “wife” really are magic in that respect–I’ve never been asked to prove it.  My husband’s agreement about our status suffices.

Sometimes those assumptions are annoying–such as when other people lay their trip about what marriage is on you, and judge your marriage by their standards, not yours.  (These assumptions are almost always about the behavior of women in marriages, not the men they’re married to.  Men usually benefit from the assumptions people make about them as married men, even if those assumptions are totally wrong.)

In any case, this is all just a windup to direct you to go read Madwoman with a Laptop‘s thoughts on her 29 years with the woman whose wife she will never be, along with a really thoughtful analysis of civil unions, gay marriage, and her very intentional rejection of marriage and wifedom although her state now permits same-sex marriage.  (Colorado’s civil unions bill is on its way–I know it’s weak tea, but we’re trying.)  I read Madwoman today before hearing the news that Rob Portman (R-OH), a conservative U.S. Senator, now gives gay marriage the old okey-doke because one of his sons is gayJon Chait is right–conservative Republicans have consistently shown absolutely zero imagination (let alone compassion) about the lives of people they think they don’t know.  From Portman’s editorial in the Columbus Dispatch:

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

Right–because none of his constituents or fellow Americans ever pointed this out to Portman before, it never occurred to him that teh gayz are people, too!  None of them were ever as “honest” or “courageous” as his son.  It only seemed real to him when his son pointed out that being gay is “simply a part of who he is.”

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

It never, ever occurred to Portman that marriage equality might have been important to the other parents of gay and lesbian children, who also surely “want. . . [their] kids to lead, happy, meaningful lives with the people they love.”  Well.  It’s nice that Rob Portman now supports marriage equality, but it just stinks to hell that his Damascene conversion happened only because he sees an immediate benefit for one of his own.  As the Church Lady might say, isn’t that special?

If only every state house representative, state senator, governor, U.S. congressperson, U.S. Senator, and president whose daughters have had abortions would come out in support of abortion rights!  Of course when it’s their kid, they see the need for the procedure to be regulated, safe, and readily available.  If it’s you or your kid who needs an abortion?  Well, you might as well lay back and try to enjoy that vaginal probe.

Whatever.  I’m done with that old Pharisee, Rob Portman, and his “faith tradition” of screwing over every one of his constituents to whom he’s not related.  La Famille Historiann is going on spring break.  I’ll check in from the beach/volcano/jungle when I can.  In the meantime, have fun, wear sunscreen, and play nice! 

17 thoughts on “Rob Portman is still a Pharisee. In other news: Spring Break!

  1. Just an observation on the labels. Here in the Commonwealth country to which my family has moved, people tend not to assume but to ask, partner or spouse, when it comes up. In the states, people usually assumed married as the default for a female+male+child family.


  2. Thanks for the linky-love, cowgirl, and enjoy your break. Your destination sounds exotic. If mojitos are available, down one for me, will ya? Meanwhile, the Not-My-Missus and I are headed up to the Garden State late in the week. No mojitos, not exotic, but at least the Republicans there are not of the vaginal probe variety.

    As for Portman, yep, you and Physio nailed that one. What a jerk. The gay people of the world who are not your child hate you, Senator.


  3. Ruth – yes! Or a decent education, or 3 meals a day, or the possibility of a retirement not lived in abjection.

    This is the fundamental problem of politics: senators’ children are never poor.


  4. This blog is a community of historians: anyone know the first U.S. example of Republican oh-noez-my-fambly!-might-need-gubmit-so-I’ll-bravely-dissent-from-the-party noise? I can’t think of anything older than the 2002 announcement by Nancy Reagan that she kinda liked stem cells.


  5. I completely agree with your criticism! But one linguistic comment: I’d avoid using “Pharisee” as a term of condemnation, since it is rooted in anti-Semitism. Hillel was a Pharisee, for example, and so every Hillel community on every college campus takes its foundation from the Pharisees, who were a very progressive Jewish sect of the Second Temple Period. Obviously your intention was in no way anti-Semitic! But this is the problem with having anti-Semitism built into our cultural associations. (And I apologize for the fact that this word of caution is the first comment I’ve ever made at your site, when I’ve been reading your blog for awhile.)

    Have a wonderful spring break!


  6. What Now: I didn’t realize this. I am not a NT scholar. I called him a Pharisee just because Paul wuz one until his conversion on the road to Damascus, which led him to see that his persecution of the gays the Christians was wrong.

    LadyProf: good question. The one example I can recall is like the one you cite only about a decade old. I believe it was former Senator Pete Domenici who supported funding for children with autism because he has a grandchild with autism, but I can’t recall the details. I also think former Senator Jim Jeffords had something like that going on, also in the early 2000s, which led to his switch from R to I to give the Dems a few months in the majority in the U.S. Senate in 2001 (which they lost in the 2002 midterms.)


  7. Pingback: From Pine View Farm » Blog's archive » No Sympathy for Empathy

  8. Not to be pedantic here … but I’m married to a NT scholar, so I can’t quite help myself: Paul actually remained a Pharisee after his conversion on the road to Damascus. He continued, according to the Book of Acts and in Philippians, to call himself a Pharisee in the present tense. Paul was one of many Pharisees who became members of what was essentially the school of Jesus (like the school of Hillel, etc.), but they remained Pharisees.

    None of this challenges your main point, of course, which I totally agree with! I just didn’t want your language to inadvertently undermine the power of your argument.


  9. More unwedded bliss here in New York State: got my last *ever* tax statement from Zenith on the $$ I had to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of getting my best buddy health insurance — now she’s on the federal dime, which of course, pays for nothing. But at least we don’t get taxed on it.


  10. In other news, the sky is blue. I am so tired of everybody fainting every time a Republican does something sane. I mean, how low can our politics go?

    Have a great vacation. Beach/volcano/jungle sounds like fun!


  11. But hey, he’s still a better person than my uncle! My uncle literally disowned my cousin for marrying a divorcee who refused to convert to Catholicism. God only knows what he would have done had my cousin been gay. Ah, how low the bar on decency…


  12. I don’t think we can say he’s a better person on the basis of this policy switch. I think we can say, however, that he’s probably a better politician than your uncle!

    I’m sorry for your cousin. Life’s too short.


  13. Pingback: Obligatory comment on this week’s outrage that broke the internets. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  14. Pingback: Obligatory comment on this week’s outrage that broke the internets. | Historiann

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