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Rick Robinson: Rob Portman Supporting Same-Sex Marriage? Right and RIGHT

This week Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released a list of party officials endorsing him in his 2016 bid for reelection to the United States Senate. Many Ohio news sources passed on reporting Portman’s early broad base of grass-roots party support – instead giving column inches to some right-wing, neo-Federalists angered by his support for same-sex marriage.

Following his election to the United States Senate, Portman changed his view on same-sex marriage after his son came out. The change in position was the right thing for Portman as a parent and, more importantly, the RIGHT thing to do as a conservative.

Those who oppose gay rights under the guise of conservatism need to re-read Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater, the father of modern day conservatism. A man who viewed all issues through the microscope of individual liberty, Goldwater opined “a lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word means.” He predicted the religious right would one day try to take over the Republican Party and redefine what it meant to be a conservative.

The right – and usually the left, too – are shocked to learn Goldwater was one of the early supporters of gay rights. In 1993, when President Bill Clinton pushed the issue of gays in the military, Goldwater suggested gays had taken up arms since the time of Julius Caesar and further quipped: “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”

But Goldwater’s opposition to social factions within the GOP was broader than just a single issue. His declaration of extremism in the pursuit of liberty as a virtue applied across his political board. And he disdained moderation in the pursuit of justice.

When Goldwater backed the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the United States Supreme Court, the founder of the Moral Majority, Rev. Jerry Falwell, attacked the Arizona firebrand saying every good Christian should be concerned about his support. Goldwater responded in kind. “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass,” he suggested

Goldwater warned that religious factions like those created by Falwell would continue to impose their moral will on others, “unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.”

Goldwater’s true conservative wants government out of our lives – period. The Neo-Federalist wing of the conservative movement that Goldwater loathingly predicted wants government out of our lives – until there is a decision too important for us to make on our own. Apparently, our morality is a perfectly good basis for such intervention.

Those who oppose equal rights for all Americans turn a blind-eye to the liberty-based extremism Goldwater endorsed.

Instead of bashing Rob Portman, true conservatives should embrace their inner-Barry Goldwater and stand up to those trying to hijack the movement’s philosophical foundations. “I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism,” Goldwater said.

Championing the words of his 1964 campaign slogan, “In your heart, you know he’s right” add my name to the true-conservatives on Sen. Portman’s list of endorsements.

This column originally appeared at RARE and is published here with permission.
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