This morning on Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer discussed Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s change in position on gay marriage. Portman, a Republican, was opposed to same sex marriage until he discovered that his son is gay. Now, he is the only Republican Senator to be in favor of same sex marriage. Schieffer’s editorial seemed to laud, not only Portman’s decision, but also the reason for his decision: “People can have differing views on what constitutes marriage, but wanting a fair shake for your kid is about as good a reason to take a public position as any I can think of. It is after all, the principle on which this nation was founded.”
I also praise Portman’s decision to support gay marriage; there is nothing wrong with being gay, and gay people ought to be afforded the same rights as anyone else. But, unlike Scheiffer, I do not praise Portman’s reasons for supporting gay marriage. I believe this is true because, at its core, the decision to support gay marriage is an ethical decision and requires ethical reasoning. In general, choosing to support an ethical position simply because the position affects me (or because it affects my family) constitutes a bad reason for supporting it. We ought to consider how our positions would affect anyone, not just those we know or are close to. Ethical reasoning requires that we detach ourselves from our particular situation and consider what might be best, not just for us and ‘our own’, but for everyone (or everything) involved in the decision.
Whether or not your son is gay should have no bearing on whether or not being gay is wrong. Perhaps if conservatives and Republicans had a better idea of what it means to reason ethically, we might not have to wait until their family members to come out of the closet in order to extend rights to everyone that deserves them.