Prop 8’s key witness endorses marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

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.


June 22nd, 2012

As an adult who was adopted as an infant, I find Blankenhorn’s emphasis on DNA and biological lineage to be a myopic focus on something only marginally important (and growing less important with recent advances in genomic-based medicine). The concern for finding stable and loving homes for children is where I strongly agree with him. However, the range and variety of such homes is much wider than Blankenhorn can see.

Ben In Oakland

June 22nd, 2012

I agree with your assessment, Timothy.

But Blankenhorn still sees us as less than. and his still misses the point: if marriage is being de-institutionalized, that is due 99.9% to what heteroseuxals have done to it.

Stanley Kurtz’s ‘expose’
on marriage in scandinavia pretty much is the classic. trends that started in the ’70’s are blamed on gay people wanting to get married. 40 years is a long time.

Nevertheless, I wel come the change. I just wish he would apply his intelligence to the facts instead of navel gazing.


June 22nd, 2012

Marriage isn’t “de-institutionalized”. That’s pure nonsense. There are more rights and obligations attached to it now than ever before in history.

He thinks that marriage changed from a public state policy tool to a personal relationship. In fact the opposite is true. Marriage started out as an agreement between families to track parentage and to distribute wealth. The state only got really involved in family law later on. And using marriage to distribute financial benefits didn’t start until the 20th century, since those programs simply didn’t exist before, except maybe when it comes to tax cuts. And even that increased.

Ben In Oakland

June 22nd, 2012

I forgot the rest of my point.

Heterosexuals have been deinstitutionalizing marriage for decades. gay people cannot be deinsitutionalizing it by wanting to get married, unless he is seriously making the argument that straight people won’t want to get married becuase gay people are.

Which is just another way of saying that heteros are deinstitutionalizing marriage.

Not gay people.


June 22nd, 2012

I agree, Scott. I’m adopted, too. When these fundies go one about the child’s “right” to be raised by his/her biological parents, they’re slighting far more than just gay people. My mother (the ONLY mother I’ve ever had) came around on gay marriage after I told her they’re saying she and my father are just as unfit a parents as a gay couple is.


June 22nd, 2012

Ryan, well good for your mother :)
We all should note that Blankenhorn makes his position change with risks. I called and asked for and received, I think it was their 2010 Tax forms. 100% of their funding at the Institute for American Values IS the Bradley Foundation.

The Same Bradely Foundation who funded the Regnerus FAKE “Gays make bad parents research” and all kinds of other anti gay mischief.

So think about his funding then think about what he wrote today….

I watched the whole video when he hosted the Corvino/Gallagher debate and I was strongly struck with a sense that he had changed. He did not have the stomach for the anti gay marriage fight. I sensed that and wow! Viola! Look He did evolve.

We may nitpick about exactly his words but let us not forget the main point. I try to always remember those who have helped me so I sent him an e-mail. Here is his e-mail address and I would hope that many of you thank him for his newly voiced support.

F Young

June 22nd, 2012

I’ve got to hand it to Blankenhorn that it is morally and intellectually courageous and honest of him to change his position so publically. I ama also impressed that he avoided getting snared by the confirmation bias of the Regnerus study.

I hope he continues to evolve by recognizing the strengths of same-sex families and the true origins of the decline of opposite-sex families.


June 22nd, 2012

Blankenhorn’s position IS irrational. He was tongue-tied when asked to explain how same-sex marriage would have a negative effect on the institution of marriage. He was unable to cite any negative effect on marriage in areas that had permitted same-sex marriage for a decade. His idea that somehow, some way same-sex marriage would hurt heterosexual marriage is nonsense. No wonder Judge Walker ruled that he is no expert on marriage. I suspect his evolution has more to do with knowing that he bet on the wrong horse than with any conviction.


June 22nd, 2012

This missing link:

Dave H

June 22nd, 2012

One of his most important points is that he has realized that most of the oppostion to marriage equality isn’t really based on parenting or protecting straight marriage – it’s based on anti-gay animus. They talk all the nice talk, but when you peel back the layers of the onion, that’s what it is. Of course, that fact was made clear during the same Prop 8 trial in which he was made to look non-credible.

I don’t know how much influence over general public opinion he has – certainly not as much as President Obama. But let’s hope he has some, and his well-reasoned and articulated change of position will influence others to do likewise.


June 22nd, 2012

Dave H = “One of his most important points is that he has realized that most of the oppostion to marriage equality isn’t really based on parenting or protecting straight marriage – it’s based on anti-gay animus.”

SGM – That is right, that is the truth.

Jimmy Mac

June 22nd, 2012

Sometimes the gift we get isn’t the one we want, but it is still a pretty good gift.


June 22nd, 2012

Left out of the quotations from Blankenhorn’s piece is his pointed refusal to recant anything he has said about us in the past. He stands on his record.

I don’t call this a change of position.

Specifically–and without providing examples–he continues to insist that gay marriage “effaces” the gift of love and care that society provides its children through the marriage of their biological parents[!].

He continues to insist–without supporting example–that gay relationships are different from straight relationships.

He insists–without supporting argument–that a gay marriage does not and cannot form the bond that he believes straight marriage forms by default.

And he continues to insist–without illustration–that gay marriage works in many ways to “deinstitutionalize” marriage in society, to the detriment of all.

Now, without tying up these rather loose threads, he adds something new to his unrecanted positions: Just because gay people and their relationships and their marriages are different from other people doesn’t mean society should pick on them. In fact, society should begin to be fair to them.

Such “risk” he takes!

Having just laid out and affirmed–again–his nonsense about marriage itself, about gay relationships, about the “effect” of gay marriage, he suggests that maybe we could all talk. About marriage as HE sees it.

You know, for the sake of the children.

Mark F.

June 22nd, 2012

It’s not totally irrational or bigoted to think that opposite sex parenting might have some benefits for children. However, there really is no proof.


June 22nd, 2012

The vanity of this, what, pivot? is as striking as the vanity of this person’s original position,. Who asked him to interfere in my life or the lives of many others in CA? He works for the same outfit that funded Regnerus. Let him address that ‘study’. Let him address Gallagher’s ongoing, increasingly malevolent campaign against her fellow citizens. I find this man to be blinded by his sense of his own rectitude. Let him really try to put matters straight.

Ben In Oakland

June 23rd, 2012

I’m thinking of sending this to him. I’m not sure why I’m hesitating.

Dear Mr. Blankenhorn,

As a legally married gay man, I want to thank you for your change of heart and mind regarding marriage equality. I know it wasn’t easy for you to recant publicly a position with which you are so publicly identified, and to say that you were wrong. I also appreciate that you are doing so at some risk to your reputation in some circles, as well as your financial bottom line. This requires courage, integrity, and a healthy self-respect. I commend you for all three. So, again, thank you.

But mostly, I want to thank you for calling out what is obvious to any gay person. This is what every single, so-called “gay issue” is REALLY about, whether adoption, Don’t Ask don’t Tell, sodomy laws, or any of it. This is about anti-gay animus, whether dressed up as sincere religious belief or conservative values, or admitted for what it so obviously is, at least to those of us on the receiving end. Unfortunately, that is the message that has been missing in action in every one of our marriage campaigns.

As a former sociologist, I also have to disagree with you on much of what you also have to say in your editorial, though I don’t doubt your sincerity. Any declared dynamic between marriage equality and the de-institutionalization of marriage, assuming we’re agreed on what that means, is simply neither warranted nor tenable in fact, logic, or experience. It may perhaps correlate to a third factor– a changing world of attitudes towards romance, family, and sex— but that’s neither causal nor dynamic. As a closer examination of Stanley Kurtz’s good data but spurious conclusions about marriage in Scandinavia show, these are trends that began decades ago in heterosexual society, and have nothing to do with gay people in general or marriage equality in particular. (Speaking of Kurtz, when someone selects data so that only the middle of a trend appears and supports one’s conclusions, leaving out the beginning and ending of that trend which would say just the opposite, well, the goes well beyond “implying” animus).

I cannot accept any conclusion based upon the assumption that such a dynamic exists, when it defies logic, fact, and experience. Preventing me from getting married does nothing to further your goal of uniting the biological, social, and legal bonds of parentage. We haven’t been allowed to be married until the last 10 years, and in only a few places. If marriage has been devalued, it is heterosexuals that have devalued it for the last 50 years, not us. We WANT to be married. We’re fighting for something we know is valuable. We are affirming the value of marriage, especially when children are involved.

If 40% of American births are out of wedlock, that also is not us, but heterosexuals—Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, if I can appropriate the cliché. If 40% of American marriages end up in divorce, that also must be laid at the feet of the heterosexual majority. Most of my friends have been together for decades.

If children do not know their biological parents in the senses you have iterated, then it seems to me your time would have been better spent talking to the heterosexual parents of those children. Not only does preventing me from getting married not further your goal, it is also a denial of this sociological fact: marriage serves a great many functions in society, not just yours, either exclusively or primarily. Among many other things that marriage does is the legal creation of kinship. It also confers a great many benefits, rights, and obligations, none of which were part of the institution 100 years ago.

Heterosexuals themselves are stating in growing numbers that your ideas about marriage and theirs don’t match. I agree with you that this isn’t a good thing. But, if some huge percentage of heterosexual couples are cohabiting rather than marrying, and having children outside of marriage, their decisions have nothing to do with us. They’re not asking my advice or permission. In fact, I suspect that anti-marriage equality produces the opposite of its intended effect: by not allowing us to get married, by doing nothing about divorce and illegitimacy, the heterosexual majority has stated categorically that marriage is not the gold standard for relationships after all, whatever the longevity and qualities of that relationship, even if children are involved. Other arrangements, like domestic partnerships or simple cohabitation, will do. Given that most of my gay friends who are coupled have been together for decades without benefit of marriage, that’s a pretty clear statement that marriage is optional for success in life, family, and relationships.

I cannot buy the idea that if gay people are allowed to be married, then heterosexuals are going to say that if those people can marry—those much despised, disgusting homosexuals— then marriage is not worth bothering with. That would be tantamount to saying that faith, family, culture, upbringing, and the examples of their parents and families have only the weight of a feather when compared to the whirlwind force of despite and bigotry. That would also deny my experiences, and those of my married gay friends. The great majority of our friends and relatives are heterosexual, and they are unanimously delighted that we are married. They also believe in marriage.

You wrote that you “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.” For all of the reasons I’ve outlined, I don’t see that that could have happened. You’re talking about US when you should be talking to THEM. As I’ve often noted, the National Organization for Marriage does nothing to help anyone’s marriage, but exists solely to prevent my marriage.

But more to the point, you’re making a fatal assumption: that this whole debate has much at all to do with marriage, when in fact it has everything to do with gay people—the legitimacy of our lives, loves, families, sexuality, religious faith, our place in society and, indeed, in humanity itself. It has everything to do with an ancient, deep-seated, and durable prejudice, occasionally given some sheen of respectability as “sincere religious belief”. As I noted at the beginning of this letter, that’s ultimately what it is ALWAYS about.

Again, thank you for your change of heart and mind. It means a great deal.

F Young

June 23rd, 2012

@Ben in Oakland
“I’m thinking of sending this to him. I’m not sure why I’m hesitating.”

Your argument is fine, except that Blankenhorn expressly said that he was not recanting his opinion that “gay marriage has become a significant contributor to marriage’s continuing deinstitutionalization.”

It might be better to publish your argument as a stand-alone opinion instead of an email response to Blankenhorn’s article.

Ben in Oakland

June 23rd, 2012

I know he said that.that’s why I wrote what I did.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2012

Ben, I don’t know why you’re hesitating, that’s a great letter!

You should most certainly send it to him AND send it to as many other venues as you can.

Ben In Oakland

June 23rd, 2012

Priya–Because I don’t know if it would do any good, and i don’t want to be lecturing him when he’s trying, in a left handed, baqck stabbing sort of way to be helpful.

I also have my conspiracy theory. The timing of this and the regnerus study seem a little too fortuitous. Dump the lukewarm expert, who’s pissed about it, and call in a faux professor with credentials, in stead.

Maybe I’m reading too much Sherlock holmes.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2012

I see where you’re coming from Ben. I hope you’re able to consider this properly and make the right decision. Maybe part of your letter could go to Blankenhorn and another part could go to various media outlets.

Eastside Jim

June 23rd, 2012

Ben In Oakland – I want to commend you on your wonderful essay / email. Send it or not, your call, but PLEASE send it to every major media outlet as an opinion piece to be published far and wide. It could actually convert a few non-thinking opponents into thinking allies.

Thanks for writing it.

Rob in San Diego

June 23rd, 2012

Why is it still being referred to as “gay marriage” and not “marriage equality” or simply “marriage”? There is nothing gay to it.


June 23rd, 2012

Ben in Oakland,
Suggest every place you say marriage change it to Civil Marriage. Keep pounding away that this is a civil right. Send it right away, these people need to hear directly from the sexual minorities that they are or have been hurting. Go ahead and send it.


June 23rd, 2012

Here is a link to an NPR radio show with Blankenhorn I think the same day his op ed piece came out in the New York Times. I am far less impressed after listening to him I gotta admit. Maybe it is just me and others will feel differently. The page took a long time to load so hang in there.


June 23rd, 2012

Ben, you give him too much dignity. Your emotion gives him stature he doesn’t deserve. I find him contemptible. Now more than ever. Send if you want but post it where it might shame him. He should be shamed. Who pays his salary? Has he renounced Gallagher? Has he renounced the Regnerus ‘study’? No. It’s all ‘Admire my extraordinary moral whatsit’.

If SG wants us all to send him sunshine she didn’t just have to pay for two accountants. Or all it costs to keep our legal docs up to date. This is a PR event. It’s worthless. If he thought he’d get punished he wouldn’t have done it.


June 23rd, 2012

PS. I’m not attacking SG. I admire her fervor.


June 23rd, 2012

No offense taken Stephen.
I really don’t like this part in his radio interview. How pretentious! I don’t like the way his says this, not in print, but his voice if you listen to the radio show. But in print it is awful also.

Blankenhorn: I didn’t even know the history of the gay rights movement. So they would say things like…they would quote court cases…and I’d say “Can you just tell me what that is?”…because I was just ignorant. I used to get mad when people would come up to me after talks and they would always wanna say — these gay and lesbian advocates– come up to me and show me pictures of their family, saying “I want to tell you that were just like ordinary people. You must think we have horns, but here’s a picture of my daughter.” That really used to bother me, because I felt like saying, “Do you want to see pictures of my children? Do you want me to tell you that I’m a good person?” How am I supposed to respond to this? But now, in retrospect, I can kind of get the point a little bit. It’s the difference between knowing something and really knowing it. … I just don’t think I knew everything about it on the basis of personal relationships … This is the danger for intellectuals in general – they view the issue through the prism of words on a page by prominent people who’ve gotten book contracts … and who are professors at universities… so it’s this kind of crystalline, kind of ideologically coherent argumentation … but you walk out the street, you bump into somebody … you don’t get ideologically coherent argumentation, you just get people trying to make their way through life.

How arrogant! “Oh I am such a high intellectual.” Who the hell actually refers to themselves as an “intellectual?” And he admits that he didn’t know any people who are gay and when sexual minorities approached him to educate him about themselves and their families, this “high intellectual” refused the education and insults them by thinking, “I felt like saying, “Do you want to see pictures of my children? Do you want me to tell you that I’m a good person?”

I am not gonna lie he SERIOUSLY need to evolve more. AND he DOES need to APOLOGIZE, he does.


June 23rd, 2012

My dear SG. I’ve seen your posts here and at other sites and I have come to admire your emotion and indignation. I salute you.


June 24th, 2012

Okay, after listening to that Oppenheimer interview, I am convinced that Blankenhorn is either a stone-cold fool, or a Marriage Equality plant. He comes across as the love-child of Dwight Schrute and Kenneth Parcell.

I’ve come to understand that as an opponent, he was doing the Marriage Equality movement more good than harm. With people like Blankenhorn and Maggie Gallagher as the leading faces of the opposition, ……I really like our chances.

Eric in Oakland

June 24th, 2012

One good thing about the Regnerus Study is that it highlights how difficult it is to find statistically significant samples of kids raised by gay or lesbian couples. Most same sex couples are not raising children, and the ones who are cannot have been married for more than eight years. Furthermore, many of the children being raised by same sex couples are adopted, which does not count as procreation.

Marriage is obviously not a requirement for procreation and procreation is not common for married gays. These two clear facts make it extremely disingenuous to claim concern for children as a motive to oppose marriage equality.

Ben In Oakland

June 24th, 2012

Thank you all for your suggestions. Thanks to you, I realized it was better to submit it somewhere else. I also found the parts that were bothering me. We’ll see what happens.

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