John Radell, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Delaware, said Portman’s personal situation was difficult, “but that doesn’t mean you stray from your faith.”
“I understand loving your son,” he said. “But Sen. Portman represents more than his son.”
Radell said that “without question” Portman’s shift would make his political future — particularly any presidential aspirations — more difficult.
Curt Steiner, an Ohio GOP consultant who helped run Portman’s first House campaign in 1993, disagreed.
“I think it’s always good to be forthright with your positions,” Steiner said. “Some social conservatives will disagree with Rob Portman on this issue, but they understand the life that he leads, they understand his commitment to family, and they understand his commitment to them.”
The leader of a conservative group that promoted passage of a 2004 amendment in Ohio to ban gay marriage said he has heard from several people upset by Portman’s stance.
“They feel betrayed,” said Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values. “They’re not mad. They’re sad and betrayed.”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett agreed that some Republicans are unhappy, but he said he received more phone calls Friday about the governor’s budget. He said Portman has “taken a great deal of time to think it through and I certainly respect his right to make up his own mind.”
Richard Socarides, who was President Bill Clinton’s top adviser on gay issues, said Portman’s son Will “proved once again that the most powerful political act any gay person can take is coming out.” He said polls show that “people who know a gay person are far less likely to support discrimination.”
Other prominent Republicans who have endorsed gay marriage include: Sen. John McCain’s wife, Cindy, and daughter, Meghan; former first lady Laura Bush; former national GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Steve Peoples, Donna Cassata and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report. Ann Sanner reported from Ohio.