Prop 8’s key witness endorses marriage equality
June 22nd, 2012
I’ve always had compassion for David Blankenhorn. He’s a man with strong convictions and good intentions who struggled with two contradictory beliefs:
1. gay people are entitled to equality and a society that fully includes gay people is made better by it
2. same-sex marriage would be a negative contributor to heterosexual marriage, and that heterosexual marriage is essential to a healthy society and is in the best interest of children
And it is the second belief that placed Blankenhorn as the primary (virtually only) witness in defense of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
It can be tempting to write off people who do not support equality as being motivated by hate or intellectually incapacitated.
But Blankenhorn’s arguments are not irrational. These are beliefs that are held by many intelligent people who are not motivated by hatred or malice, just long-held unproven presumption. Having “always” believed this to be true, they are prejudiced in their approach to the marriage issue and filter arguments in its favor through the presumptions of harm.
But this does not mean that they are happy with their conclusions. Blankenhorn was not at all happy that he hurt gay people (and even less happy that many people assumed that he wished to) nor was he overjoyed to be politically lumped in with people with whom he shared no other positions.
And I suspect that he discovered that while the anti-gay collective talks about family and children in their advertisements, in reality he was the only one who really cared about the children. He actually wanted to “protect marriage” so that “children could have a mother and a father” while his allies (of a sort) wanted to rail against the Homosexual Agenda.
Well, he’s had enough. So Blankenhorn is, somewhat grudgingly, reversing course.
He still believes that gay marriage could be a bad thing for marriage, but the anti-gay culture war mentality is even worse. In a NYTimes Op-Ed:
I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. 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.
I had also hoped that debating gay marriage might help to lead heterosexual America to a broader and more positive recommitment to marriage as an institution. But it hasn’t happened. With each passing year, we see higher and higher levels of unwed childbearing, nonmarital cohabitation and family fragmentation among heterosexuals. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the reconceptualization of marriage as a private ordering that is so central to the idea of gay marriage. But either way, if fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage overall, I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now.
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 getting married 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?
I welcome his support on the issue of marriage.
I am not unequivocal in my endorsement of this new position. I’m troubled by the implications of to gay couples of assigning rights based on from whom the DNA strains originated. But I can accept that there are valid arguments that can be made for this position and many same-sex couples not only accommodate biological contributors but insist upon their being a part of the child’s life.
And I am happy that David is evolving to a place where his contradictory views are less contradictory. His is a process that we will continue to see on a grander scale. I hope we are gracious when it happens to people we know.