People For the American Way

Senator Portman’s change of heart and the legacy of Harvey Milk

Anyone who’s heard the story of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk has likely heard his famous call:

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

That was one of the slogans used in the campaign against California’s Briggs Initiative in 1978. It was also the sign of something bigger for Milk, his staunch belief that sexual orientation was not a private matter, and that hearts and minds would only be changed if gays and lesbians came out to show their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the like that we’re all on the same team. That everyone has the same right to the proverbial life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Nearly thirty-five years after Milk was assassinated, that mantra has again proven true in the case of Will Portman and his father, US Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Why did Senator Portman’s change of heart take two years? Why has he continued to support the anti-gay policies of his party? There’s a lot of debate on both points, but one thing is certain: it was his son’s own coming out that forced the Senator to come out in support of marriage equality, and to do that interview and write that op-ed.

The Portman story breaks just eleven days before the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Stuart Milk recently told the United for Marriage coalition that we must have a public showing at the Court of who this impacts. In so doing, he is upholding one of the fundamental principles on which his uncle’s legacy is based.

Thank you, Harvey.

PS – If you’d like to join PFAW at the Court, click here for more information.


113th Congress, Briggs Initiative, California, Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, Edie Windsor, Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk Foundation, John Briggs, marriage, marriage equality, Ohio, Policy Corner, Prop 8, Proposition 6, public policy, Rob Portman, Stuart Milk, Supreme Court, United for Marriage, Will Portman