Human Rights

GOP Rep. Assures Us He's Against Marriage Equality Despite Having Gay Son

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) pulls an anti-Rob Portman.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) reiterated his anti-equality stance on same-sex marriage Sunday, despite having an openly gay son. Salmon’s comments contrast with Senator Rob Portman’s (R-OH) change of heart on marriage equality earlier this month, inspired by his son coming out.

“I don’t support the gay marriage (sic),” Salmon told KTVK-TV, adding, “My son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say … I’m just not there, as far as believing in my heart that we should change 2,000 years of social policy in favor of a redefinition of the family.” 

“It just means that I haven’t evolved to that station,” Salmon admitted, “Rob Portman apparently has. I haven’t.”

Rep. Salmon voted in favor of DOMA in 1996, which is currently being challenged by the Supreme Court. He also voted for a defeated bill in 1999 that would have banned same-sex couples from adopting children in Washington D.C. The congressman’s wife, Nancy Salmon, helped raised $50,000 to defeat a failed anti-marriage equality bill in Arizona in 2006.

Think Progress’ Zack Ford contrasted the ways Salmon and Portman reiterated and changed, respectively, their stance on marriage equality. Senator Portman coordinated his announcement with his son’s support. On the other hand, “Salmon has done the opposite, speaking without the consent of his son in an attempt to soften his own anti-gay positions, including past support for banning same-sex marriage and adoption.”

A 2010 Phoenix New Times profile of Rep. Salmon’s son, also named Matt, reveals he had a tough time coming out to his Mormon family. Salmon Jr. told the New Times he struggled reconciling his sexuality with his upbringing, even trying “reparative therapy” before finally accepting his identity. He says his family wasn’t as welcoming. Matt’s partner was banned from the home, and several of his siblings un-friended him on Facebook.

"Everybody's pretty much told me, 'You're fine, we love you, but your partner's not welcome because we don't want gay around us,'" the younger Salmon told the New Times. "And I'm like, 'Well, I am gay. What if he doesn't act gay? Is that okay? Can he come around?'"

According to a CNN poll, 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, which pollsters correlate with a rising number of Americans claiming gay friends or family members.

"Some people have recently taken to calling it the 'Rob Portman effect,' after the Republican senator from Ohio who learned that his son is gay and changed his position on gay marriage as a result," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Rep. Salmon isn’t the only Republican Arizonan voting against the public and members of his family on gay rights. In 2010, Senator John McCain had to clarify his position on marriage equality after his wife and daughter posed for NOH8, a pro-marriage equality campaign.

h/t Think Progress

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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