Maybe Pols Should Get Out More


Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman's "change of heart" on same-sex marriage got me thinking.

The respected and leading Republican -- who was seriously vetted as a VP pick by Mitt Romney's campaign last year -- now says he supports gay marriage, two years after his own son told him he's gay.

Portman is the most prominent Republican to express such support since former VP Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay and legally married.

In Portman's case, it's a complete reversal. He co-sponsored and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act as a member of Congress back in 1996.

While Portman's new view is no doubt welcome in the LGBT community and (I guess) he deserves props for being guided by his heart instead of his political party, it is telling that he doesn't face reelection until 2016 and that, clearly, his "change of heart" is born solely from personal experience.

This leads me to think all politicians should maybe get out more.

A majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. Nine state and the District of Columbia allow it. And the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear arguments on two same-sex cases.

Congress lives in a bubble of self-protection, privilege and perks. I've often argued that its policies are skewed because of this. If members of Congress had more personal experience on more social issues -- poverty, lack of health-care, hunger, lack of education, urban crime, family planning -- maybe they would be more empathetic to the millions of constitutents whose lives are so different from their own, in many more ways than sexual orientation.