A Republican U.S. senator who last month shook up the gay marriage debate by announcing his support says he has been asked a lot about his shift while back home in Ohio.

Rob Portman says the economy and deficit are his top priorities as he prepares to return to Washington, but same-sex marriage has also come up repeatedly during his Ohio travels the last two weeks.

“People have been very respectful and I’ve had a lot of good conversations about it,” Portman told WBNS-TV (http://bit.ly/14OVrwO ) in Columbus. He said some people are concerned that churches could have to perform same-sex weddings.

“I don’t think churches should be required to perform weddings they don’t approve of, or recognize marriages they don’t approve of, and that’s something I’ve talked to a lot of Ohioans about this past week that I’ve been home,” Portman said Wednesday while touring a medical devices company in suburban Columbus. “This is not about telling churches what they have to do. It’s about letting individuals make that choice for themselves.”

Portman acknowledges that his new viewpoint came after his son Will told his parents he is gay. But the senator said studying the issue convinced him that supporting it was the right thing to do.

“I had a change of heart based on a personal situation, but the more I think about it and the more I was able to delve into the issue, the more I believe that this is something that would be better, actually, for stability and the kinds of benefits you get from marriage,” Portman said.

“I suspect that people who have colleagues or friends or family who are gay who talk to them; in my case, my son did talk to me about my positions on the issues, and that can be very influential,” he said.

The first-term senator from the Cincinnati area said he didn’t discussed the issue with Illinois Republican Mark Kirk before his colleague this week became the second GOP senator to announce support of same-sex marriage.

“We have different points of view in our caucus on this obviously,” Portman said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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