John Boehner Would Hate Gay People Even If He Was Raising One

John Boehner “can’t imagine” coming around on gay rights, even if his children came out. And that makes him a poor parent.

U.S. House Speaker Boehner pauses during remarks to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington

Parental acceptance is a topic of conversation far too common in the queer community; too many of us are abandoned by our parents or feel overwhelmingly like we need to leave our families, friends, and peers behind in pursuit of tolerance and harmony. Too many of us are hiding in the closet because it’s unsafe, or too risky, to open the door.

Republican politician Rob Portman announced his newfound support for gay marriage on CNN and in an Op-Ed for The Columbus Dispatch last week, writing two years after his son’s own coming out that the process caused a change in his personal opinion on the issue:

He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he was. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he was gay, but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

The decision to come forward on his new perspective was heavily influenced by the upcoming hearings on DOMA, and came as a shock to fellow party members who remember that Portman was vetted as a potential VP for the one and only Mitt Romney. (Romney, according to Portman, did not mind that his son was gay, and knew as part of said vetting process.)

But this was great news for Portman’s son, Will, who got to watch his father come around to accepting his weirdo queer life on national television, even if rank-n-file Republicans felt differently.


House Speaker John Boehner, who also hails from Ohio, was asked on a recent segment of ABC’s “This Week” about Portman’s announcements, with host Martha Raddatz curious how he would react to his own child’s coming out, and whether it would change his political views. “Listen,” he responded, “I believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I believe, it’s what my church teaches me and I can’t imagine that position would ever change.”

But let’s step back from interviews, from political appearances, and from the dying Republican party for just a minute, because this is larger than John Boehner and Rob Portman: this is about family. And data shows that familial acceptance is important for LGBTQ youth – and that familial rejection leads to homelessness, poverty, mental health problems, and even accelerated rates of suicide.

Caitlin Ryan, of the Family Acceptance Project out of San Francisco, embarked on an ambitious research project published in 2009 that showed these correlations clearly and without question, observing the following in her co-authored papers:

Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Ryan and her colleagues also shed light on loopholes, writing that attempting to “change” your child’s sexual preferences—even in a “supportive” manner—was interpreted as rejection. The only way to be a supportive parent, in other words, is to truly accept: to embrace, encourage, and take pride in your child’s life and successes despite who they are trying to begin a family or life with. It’s science!

In materials for the Family Acceptance Project, the organization encourages discussing LGBT identities and politics with your child, supporting their identity despite your discomfort, and advocating against their mistreatment—both within your own family and the larger world—in order to give them a supportive home life. When John Boehner put himself at odds with Rob Portman, a parent who has challenged himself and his understanding of the world in order to support his son and his family, his words revealed a twisted set of priorities.


It goes without saying that America is a country built on families—families of different colors, shapes, sizes, religions, ethnicities, socioeconomic class, genders, and political backgrounds—and that every family needs to be built on trust, acceptance, and love to breed a healthy generation of Americans.

Perhaps John Boehner should spend more time with his kids and less time on his talking points.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. And this is why the concept of Republican “family values” is hypocritical and nonsensical.

    • whoever came up with the Republican idea of family value based it off their own white Protestant family to the exclusion of every single other person. several hundred years later, their colonial model is outdated but they still push it onto everyone without realizing that not everyone wants to live just like them and do everything they do. it must be sheer madness

  2. I think these are very exciting times that we are living in. To be young in America today makes me feel like my parents must have felt growing up when segregation crumbled. It won’t be easy, but I still feel excited to hope that, within my lifetime, this country will see an end to these short-sighted and negative leaders. I can’t wait to rise to the morning that everyone can walk under the sun as themselves, love whoever they feel like, and escape the outdated trap of binary gender.

    • It’s amazing to be able to step back and realize that yeah, the world sucks at trans rights and we fight for gay marriage more than gay homeless youth and republicans are STILL getting elected post-rape comments, BUT, where was the world when I was born? And where will it be when I die? And what am I going to do to get it there? I’m hopeful too, when I stop and count the years and the increasing rate of progress in them. Maybe we can have that morning in our lifetime.

  3. Also announced today, the GOP isn’t planning on changing their message but their image. I really don’t think that telling me that queers aren’t equals while standing at a gay pride parade is going to work.

    Maybe actual moderate Republicans will finally realize their party has been hijacked by nutjobs. Till then, here’s to my party winning by large margins!

  4. I don’t care how the news presenters pronounce it, at the end of the day, this guy is named ‘boner’. And true to his name, he is a dick.

  5. This is not surprising, though. If Boehner had the empathy to actually imagine his son being gay, and what he would do in that instance, then he’d already support gay rights. I bet if you’d asked Portman that same question three years ago, he’d give the same answer.

    More and more nowadays I feel like the Republican party in its current incarnation is just a giant example of the Typical Mind fallacy combined with a lack of imagination.

  6. Unfortunately, due to the 2010 “wave” election, the Republican party and their “family values” will haunt the world for quite a while longer. While I am glad that many in both parties have suddenly decided to embrace equality in marriage, the abruptness of the change makes me wonder if the move is real or just political expedience.

    One of the most confusing things about politics is the existence of gay Republicans.

  7. Frankly the notion that Portman ‘came out in support’ as anything other than a political maneuver seems a bit optimistic.

    Not that political maneuvers are bad, merely that I doubt it came out of the goodness of his heart.

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