Senator Changes Mind on Gay Marriage: Love Trumps Truth

“Ultimately, for me, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.” Ohio Senator Rob Portman (here)

In the debate over gay marriage, the beliefs espoused by Rob Portman will continue to gain traction among those who, like the Ohio Senator, have heretofore opposed so-called same-sex marriage. In the end, all we need — and all that matters — is love. Love will trump truth and it will not even be close. Of course, Biblical love and Biblical truth are not incompatible, but in a culture which has embraced a life lived on how one feels — not how one thinks — then truth will be expendable.

One can hardly blame Senator Portman for his change of heart on gay marriage. As a Congressman, he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. But, that was 15 years before his son, a freshman at Yale University in 2011, would announce to the Senator and his wife that he was gay:

He said it (his son’s announcement) prompted him to reconsider gay marriage from a different perspective, that of a father who wants all three of his children to have happy lives with people they love.” (here)

As the father of three sons myself, I can certainly relate to Senator Portman’s desire that all of his children “have happy lives with people they love.” After all, who among us wouldn’t want their own children to find happiness and love with significant others? But, how can one find true happiness — much less true love — when that happiness and love is rooted in what the Bible calls sin? Quite simply, one can’t.  The truth of the matter is that there can be no happiness or love — at least as the Creator has defined them — outside of the bounds of Biblical marriage. Of course, sometimes happiness and love are absent from marriages between one man and one woman, but that does not change the truth that God has designed marriage from the very beginning to be a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33, ESV)

For those who don’t want to accept what the Apostle Paul wrote as truth, none other than Jesus Himself spoke of God’s design for marriage:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Gospel of Matthew 19:3-6)

If Jesus, who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), did not change the definition of marriage, the truth is that we are not at liberty to change the definition of marriage either, no matter how loving or compassionate we might want to seem. In our culture — even among Christian leaders — there is often confusion as to how love (grace) and truth co-exist together in perfect harmony. And, if there is confusion among pastors, it should not surprise us when folks in the pew, like Rob Portman, choose love/grace over truth when it comes 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.”

In the coming days, it will not just be the Bill Clintons of the world who change their minds on gay marriage. There will be more conservative Republicans who will have a change of heart and mind on the issue of same-sex marriage. In America, love will always trump truth. That doesn’t make it right. That’s why the Church must continue to proclaim the truth in love, even when others won’t. After all, it is only the Truth which will set people free to be able to find true happiness and love.



12 comments for “Senator Changes Mind on Gay Marriage: Love Trumps Truth

  1. Susan Marshall
    March 15, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I really appreciate your views on this subject. I totally respect those of Christian faith to hold to the values you put forth. My question is what about those who aren’t bound by religious doctrine? Marriage is more of a civil institution while “Holy Matrimony” is the vehicle for those who believe in Christianity to get married via their church of choice. Shouldn’t any committed couple (black/white, gay, heterosexual, etc.) enjoy the legal and financial security that a civil marriage provides? People always seem to think a Will or Power of Attorney will ensure that their partner in life will have the same rights as a spouse (this doesn’t speak to social security benefits, etc. at all though). I speak from experience – that is absolutely not true. I was a paralegal at an office in Tampa whose clientele were 95% gay – we had numerous instances in which we prepared estate planning documentation to prevent any such problems and yet, when push came to shove, the doctors, hospitals and funeral homes bowed to the wishes of the family – not the partner.

    I understand this would be a major struggle for a Christian if their child was gay – of course you would want them to be happy and have a fulfilling life – no matter what – free will and all that, but how do you support them without judging them and still hold true to your faith?

    The main issue I have with any of the “hot button” topics that seem to have religion as their basis for their point of view is that of America being settled by those fleeing religious persecution. Yes, I believe most of those were of various Judeo-Christian persuasions, but the ideal of founding the country on “freedom from religious persecution” still resonates. To me – a spiritual, not religious person – that means I should be free from having one (any) religion’s views forced on me by individuals, institutions and government. I’m sure atheists feel the same way. Our republic (not democracy) is one dedicated to “liberty and justice for all” and I believe that minority individual rights are the priority in a republic as opposed to the majority in a democracy.

    Just wanted to posit a differing view for your feedback.


    • March 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM


      Thanks for the feedback and offering your view on the subject. I certainly understand your argument about “Holy Matrimony” vs. “Civil Marriage,” although that begs the question of whether or not the institution of marriage is something that can ever be separated from and/or changed from its origins, which I believe are religious. In other words, is marriage the idea of the Creator or is it a construct of the state? Of course, having just officiated at a wedding in our church a few weeks ago, I pronounced the couple husband and wife based upon the authority vested in me as a minister of the Gospel AND the state of New Mexico. Therefore, marriage is both/and in terms of its religious and civil components, IMO. Therefore, I do not believe that the state is at liberty to change or redefine marriage as such.

      That does not necessarily address the issues about protecting the rights of same-sex couples without the benefit of marriage. How we protect the rights of same-sex couples in our pluralistic society where, as you rightly point out, “our republic (not democracy) is one dedicated to ‘liberty and justice for all’ (great movie, by the way),” is the struggle that many Christians have when it comes to same-sex marriage in particular and gay rights in general. It would not surprise me that within the next few years (sooner rather than later) that there will be some kind of distinction made between civil marriage and religious marriage. Perhaps the Supreme Court, in this term, will rule in such a way that same-sex marriages will be legalized nation-wide, but at the same time allowing churches or other religious groups to only perform those marriages which would not violate their beliefs. I did not say it in the OP, but I believe that traditional marriage will no longer be the norm in the next few years. To try and “fight” for its preservation, I believe, is a lost cause from a political perspective. I still believe that the culture can be influenced from a spiritual perspective, but how the Church influences the culture will need to look a lot more like the way that Jesus did it than the way that some religious/political leaders do it today. As always, I appreciate your perspective and opinions, even when we may not always see eye-to-eye on a particular issue. Hope all is well with you and Rob (saw that on FB). Look forward to being up your way one of these days. God bless,

      Your friend,

  2. Tom Parker
    March 17, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    I wonder how many more Republican politicians feel the same this Senator does but are afraid to announce it to the world? I wonder out loud why he did not have this change of heart while the 2012 election season was in full force? Seems like a lot of hypocrisy.

    • March 17, 2013 at 1:29 PM


      You are probably right about other Republican politicians who might not publicly support gay marriage, but who privately are either neutral or supportive. I think that the libertarian wing of the Republican party will see more defections from the pro-traditional marriage stance to a more neutral, “states’ rights” stance (a recent speech by Marco Rubio appears to show a shift in this direction). I don’t remember if Rob Portman was up for re-election in Ohio in 2012, but it certainly begs the question why he did not publicly disclose his change of heart on this issue until after the elections. By 2016, it would not surprise me if the Republicans no longer included a pro-traditional marriage plank in their platform. From a political and cultural perspective (but not from a Biblical/Religious one), the battle to preserve traditional marriage is all but lost. Politicians, even ones who were formerly opposed to same-sex marriage like Sen. Portman, know which way the cultural winds are blowing on this issue and will change course accordingly. Hypocritical to be sure! Thanks and God bless,


  3. Bennett Willis
    March 17, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    What is Dick Cheney’s position on this?

    • March 18, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      I would think that Cheney is at least in favor of states deciding the issue of gay marriage. I’m not sure if he is for a federal solution by making same-sex marriage legal across the United States, but I think this is where the Republican Party is headed in general.

      • Tom Parker
        March 19, 2013 at 5:21 AM


        Do you think Southern Baptists, particularly those in SBC leadership positions should have seen this dramatic change in GOP views coming that surely are not compatible with SBC views? Also where does the SBC go politcially now that for many folks in the SBC all they ever voted was Republican?

        • March 19, 2013 at 9:05 AM


          Good morning! Two good questions. I think those in SBC leadership should have seen this coming, but in some ways are too naive when it comes to the hardball politics of Washington, D.C. We practice our own brand of politics within the Convention, but that is tame compared to what is practiced by those in power in the Halls of Congress. I just started watching a new series on Netflix, “House of Cards.” The main character, played by Kevin Spacey, says that power — even above money — is the preferred commodity in Washington. If that is true (and I think it is), then the overwhelming number of politicians — even conservative ones — will change or modify their positions to stay in power. There are very few truly principled men (or women) in politics when it comes right down to it.

          As to your second question, I think many Southern Baptists will either not vote or will vote Third Party. I know many voted Third Party last time around because they would not vote for President Obama and they could not bring themselves to vote for a Mormon. Social issues (abortion and traditional marriage), along with economic policies, have been the key differences between Democrats and Republicans. If the Republican Party morphs into a “Democrat-lite” party, then many conservative Evangelicals will abandon the Republican Party. Of course, as Ryan points out, perhaps this will bring many Christians — including Southern Baptists — back to a firm reliance on the Gospel to change our nation instead of politics. Thanks for stopping by this morning. Have a great day and God bless,


  4. Tom Parker
    March 21, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    Howell: Have you read or heard how the leadership of the SBC convention is responding to this change in the view of homosexuality in the Republican Party?

    • March 21, 2013 at 8:53 AM


      I have not heard or read anything as of yet regarding the SBC’s official response to the Republican Party document that was released on Monday. I would imagine that there have been private conversations among SBC and RNC leaders as to what the document means. If I had to make an educated guess (and this is purely a guess), I would say that Republican leaders are assuring Southern Baptists and other conservative Evangelicals that the Party’s position on gay marriage is not changing, despite the language of the document. However, politicians lie, so whatever is said today may very well be inoperable next year and certainly by 2016. Thanks for the question. Have a great day and God bless,


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