U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, once on the short-list to be Mitt Romney's 2012 running mate, has reversed his opposition to gay marriage, revealing that his own son is gay.
Portman Thursday told reporters from several Ohio newspapers that when his son, Will, 21, informed him that he was gay two years ago, "It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have, to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years," according to an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The newspaper also noted that Portman, who as a congressman backed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, thinks part of the law should be repealed. The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to the case later this month.
"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," he wrote in an op-ed that ran Friday in the Columbus Dispatch.
Sen. Portman, 57, reveals two other interesting points in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash: He told Mitt Romney "everything" during the vice presidential vetting process and he consulted with former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter, Mary, is gay.
Related: Rob Portman's Reversal
Gay marriage was banned in Portman's home state of Ohio with an amendment to the state constitution that was passed in 2004.
Portman said he believes that same-sex couples who marry legally in states where it's allowed should get the federal benefits that are granted to heterosexual married couples but aren't currently extended to gay married couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act, such as the ability to file joint tax returns.
The news comes at a time when several high-profile Republicans, including former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, have endorsed gay marriage and when public opinion on the issue appears to be shifting.
Conservative gay-rights groups heralded Portman's announcement.
"If there was any doubt that the conservative logjam on the issue of civil marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples has broken, Senator Portman's support for the freedom to marry has erased it," Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said.
"Senator Portman's evolution on this issue highlights how personal it is for Americans, whether they're the junior senator from Ohio or your next-door neighbor, all Americans have a gay friend, colleague or family member, and understand them to be as deserving as their straight counterparts of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are the promise of the United States."
But it comes at a time when much of the base of the GOP is still very much opposed to gay marriage. Speaking Thursday at an annual conference for conservatives, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida exhorted opponents to treat his opinions with respect.
"Just because I believe that states should have the rights to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot," Rubio said.
The GOP will have some soul-searching to do on the issue, which is still important, particularly to evangelical social conservatives who have voted Republican.
"While you still have some GOP lawmakers willing to take a stand for traditional marriage, the Republican leadership has walked away from this issue," David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network wrote.
"In turn, what very well may happen is that conservative evangelicals all across the country may start walking away from the GOP. That's not just empty rhetoric. That really could be reality."