Many readers are pushing back against my perspective on Portman’s reversal on marriage equality. A representative email:
As a liberal, I become more and more convinced that Republicans (and, frankly, conservatives) suffer from an empathy deficit. They actually don’t have the imagination to understand the pain of others until they are subjected to pain themselves.
Now we have Rob Portman, who changes his position on gay marriage because his son is gay and he wants him to have the same opportunity to marry the person he loves that he and his wife had and that his other children will have. Assuming that Portman was aware that other gay people exist, and that other parents have gay children, he either doesn’t care about the pain inflicted on gay people who are not his child – or he does care, but not enough to actually take a tough stand (for a Republican). I’m glad he has switched his position, and in a public way, but why is it that the issue only matters if it affects him?
Likewise, Republicans like Nancy Reagan and her ilk who support stem-cell research because their own loved one has a disease for which a cure may rest on such research. I suppose they all need to have their homes washed away in a storm to believe in climate change. And while I would never wish rape on anyone, perhaps they would understand the plight of a pregnant teenager better if they themselves had an unwanted pregnancy. And I guess I should wish they all have children in interracial marriages, so they can come to believe that racism actually exists.
It’s terribly sad, really. They have no imagination at all. Or maybe they just don’t give a shit.
Or maybe they’re human beings with complicated feelings, beliefs and associations who take time to change on some unusually challenging changes. But even if they are pure opportunists, as a civil rights cause, it shouldn’t matter. What matters is support for marriage equality. Period. Late-comers should be as welcome as the pioneers. Yes, that takes a little magnanimity in victory. But Churchill was dead right about that.