David Blankenhorn, a star witness for backers of California’s gay marriage ban in the Proposition 8 trial, has come out in favor of marriage equality, saying in a New York Times op-ed, “the time has come for me to accept gay marriage and emphasize the good that it can do. I’d like to explain why.”
Blankenhorn says he opposed gay marriage out of “believing that children have the right, insofar as society makes it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world.” He goes on to say, “Marriage is how society recognizes and protects this right,” and that, “Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you.”
However, Blankenhorn now recognizes another thing that is important in this debate:
For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same-sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers of Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over.
Thanks David, that’s really big of you to admit.
Blankenhorn goes on to say:
Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.
He then harps “comity,” how it’s occasionally good to give ground to someone else’s view, and “emerging consensus:”
The population as a whole remains deeply divided, but most of our national elites, as well as most younger Americans, favor gay marriage. This emerging consensus may be wrong on the merits. But surely it matters.
So the emerging consensus is “wrong on the merits” but because Blankenhorn is interested in “comity,” which surely must mean he would like to appear on the right side of this debate where truth and logic have given advocates good standing, he must begrudgingly capitulate.
You’ll remember Blankenhorn as the star witness brought out by the pro-Proposition 8 side in the 2010 trial who ended up admitting that a gay marriage ban did harm gay people and that he couldn’t think of a way in which gay marriage harmed the institution of marriage itself. In short, their star witness fell and fell hard.
Since then he has gone on to oppose North Carolina’s now enshrined ban on gay marriage, civil unions and, straight or gay, domestic partnership rights, saying it simply goes too far.
All that said, Blankenhorn does get points for admitting the following:
And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.
To his credit, Blankenhorn has seemed at least aware of the profound harms that such animus does to LGBT families–even if he hasn’t been willing to admit, and still doesn’t admit, that his own opposition to marriage equality is irrational and groundless.
And in case you think Blankenhorn has completely renounced his previous ways of thinking, this is not so. This is an evolution, not a revolution. He still thinks gay marriage has destabilized marriage as an institution, even though he couldn’t prove that at trial and still can’t prove it today. Nevertheless, he seems to believe it is worth moving the debate on from this kind of argument:
For this and other reasons, gay marriage has become a significant contributor to marriage’s continuing deinstitutionalization, by which I mean marriage’s steady transformation in both law and custom from a structured institution with clear public purposes to the state’s licensing of private relationships that are privately defined.
So my intention is to try something new. Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same. For example, once we accept gay marriage, might we also agree that marrying before having children is a vital cultural value that all of us should do more to embrace? Can we agree that, for all lovers who want their love to last, marriage is preferable to cohabitation? Can we discuss whether both gays and straight people should think twice before denying children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents?
What this actually adds up to is Blankenhorn saying “If you can’t beat them, join them.” The LGBT community didn’t really need Blankenhorn’s tepid and loaded support, but it is nice to anticipate how this will stick in longtime friend and fellow National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher’s craw.
She’s already issued the following short response, admitting Blankenhorn’s climb down may be significant:
My friend and mentor and one-time boss David Blankenhorn has just published a New York Times op-ed in which he gives up on opposing gay marriage. I haven’t yet read it carefully enough to respond, except to say that “the argument from despair” is the single most powerful argument gay-marriage advocates wield. I wish you well, old friend.
Brian Brown, current leader of the National Organization for Marriage, has said (read: made up) the following in response:
“David Blankenhorn has suffered extraordinary vilification and abuse as a result of his writings in support of marriage as the union of husband and wife and his testimony in defense of California’s Proposition 8,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “Still, even in announcing today that he feels he personally has come to ‘accept’ same-sex marriage, without supporting or condoning it, he expressly stands by every word he said in those writings and that testimony. He says his view of what marriage truly is, and of its indispensable social role, has not changed. I am certain that the commitment of the tens of millions of Americans who are working hard to maintain marriage as God designed it won’t change, either.”
“It is very unfortunate that he seemed to suggest in his op ed that many people who hold a view of marriage identical to his own hold it for dishonorable reasons,” Brown said. “That’s not fair or true, and he shouldn’t have said it. Still, we appreciate that he continues to stand by his past writings and testimony.”
David Blankenhorn’s jumping ship comes just a year on from when NOM’s own social media director, Louis Marinelli, decided he too couldn’t stomach the “culture wars” anymore and renounced his anti-gay position.