Sen. Rob Portman had a change of heart on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland shifted more slowly on that issue, but made a far more dramatic change in his support for gun control.
Nominally, the two candidates for the U.S. Senate fit into their ideological boxes – Portman, the Republican, is more conservative, Strickland, the Democrat, more liberal. But on social issues, enough nuances exist to puncture the usual stereotypes:
GAY MARRIAGE: Portman was the first Republican senator to declare his support for gay marriage, doing so in 2013 after announcing that his son Will was gay.
Until that abrupt switch, Portman had opposed same-sex marriage. But his son’s disclosure “allowed me to think of this from a new perspective,” Portman said.
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Strickland, meanwhile, voted against a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in September 2004, saying at the time that “it just offends me” that then-President George W. Bush would back a change in the Constitution to define the meaning of a single word.
But when he first ran for governor in 2006, Strickland said, “I have never indicated that I supported same-sex marriage.” At the time, a spokesman clarified that Strickland favored civil unions. Strickland reiterated that position during his unsuccessful 2010 re-election bid. But by 2014, Strickland was appearing at events in support of gay marriage.
As governor in 2007, Strickland signed an executive order saying no one could be fired from or denied a state job on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
GUNS: Strickland was once a darling of the National Rifle Association — one of the few Democratic lawmakers who received an A-plus from the group for his votes on gun issues. During Strickland’s 2010 run, the NRA campaigned for Strickland and he featured their endorsement in TV ads.
Strickland voted against the 1994 assault weapons ban and in 1993, voted against the Brady Bill, which created a waiting period before anyone could buy a handgun as well as a criminal background-check system before people could buy a gun.
But Strickland now supports expanding background checks to people buying guns at gun shows or on the Internet. He backs a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have banned suspected terrorists from buying guns and even admits he now would get behind an assault weapons ban if he believed it were enforceable.
“I think it’s possible to honor the Second Amendment and at the same time have common-sense efforts to curb gun violence,” Strickland said.
Portman, meanwhile, has an A rating from the NRA. Earlier this year he sided with a majority of Republicans in a test vote opposing a bill that would ban those on the no-fly list from buying guns. Portman said he was concerned the Democratic bills being considered didn’t adequately protect the rights of those mistakenly put on such lists. Portman also supported a Republican proposal that would delay, but not ban, suspected terrorists from buying guns. That measure would direct the attorney general to take a suspected terrorist into custody if he or she attempted to buy a gun.
In 2013, Portman voted against a bill banning magazines of more than 10 bullets. And he voted in 2003 in support of barring people from being able to sue gun manufacturers and gun sellers for gun misuse. In general, he has called for stricter enforcement of current gun laws, enhancing school security and improved mental health care.
TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS: After the federal government deemed that schools allow students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, Portman said the executive branch should stay out of the issue.
“They ought to be at least consulting with people in these local communities and schools and getting input,” he told WKSU radio earlier this year.” And again, this is probably one that’s more appropriate to go through the legislative branch.”
Portman, however, told WKSU he disagreed with a North Carolina law that requires everyone use the bathroom that matches their sex at birth.
“I don’t think it achieved the right balance between protecting the rights of individuals on the one hand and religious liberty on the other hand. I think it tilted the balance and that’s why I think it’s wrong.”
Strickland supports the White House proposal on transgender bathrooms.
ABORTION: Portman has a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life and was an original cosponsor of the ban on so-called partial-birth abortion when he was a member of the House. In the Senate, he is the lead sponsor of a bill that would make it a federal offense to bring a minor across state lines to get an abortion without parental consent. He’s also an original cosponsor of a bill that would ban abortions 20 weeks into a pregnancy. He opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.
He opposes using taxpayer money to pay for abortion and is a cosponsor of a bill that would ban taxpayer funding from going to abortions. He has also voted to block funding for taxpayer dollars to go to the United Nations while any member nation forces citizens to undergo involuntary abortions. And in 2012, he voted to move forward with a bill that would allow employers to refuse to cover certain health services — such as abortion or contraception — if the employer had moral objections to those services.
Strickland is “strongly pro-choice” and has held a roundtable with Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards to highlight his record.
However, in the House, he voted in support of a ban on partial-birth abortion. Strickland was against abortion rights when he ran for Congress in 1980, but by 1992 described himself to The Dispatch as in favor of abortion rights, saying he changed his position after being married.
IMMIGRATION: Strickland has called for the Senate to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would include border protection as well as create a path to citizenship. Portman agrees the current immigration system is broken, but says he can only support a plan that includes sufficient border and workplace enforcement.
Portman opposed an immigration proposal pushed in 2013, saying that the bill did not include those elements. He also expressed concern about President Barack Obama’s decision to issue an executive order that would have protected up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The Supreme Court blocked that order with a tie vote.
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