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Posts for October, 2012

Blankenhorn speaks out against Minnesota marriage ban

Timothy Kincaid

October 19th, 2012

In 2010, David Blankenhorn was the chief (virtually only) witness for Proposition 8. This proved to be an unwise choice for two reasons: Blankenhorn was not qualified to testify on much of the matter to which he was the assigned witness, and Blankenhorn is a decent man who isn’t anti-gay and thus was susceptible to reasoned and well-articulated argument in favor of equality. So much so, in fact, that he now supports including gay and lesbian couples fully into the fabric of society.

Here he is on Minnesota’s proposed constitutional ban on equality:

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.

Blankenhorn opposes NC marriage ban amendment

Timothy Kincaid

April 11th, 2012

It can sometimes be easy to forget that a principled opposition to marriage equality can exist. Mostly because we very seldom see one.

Usually what is presented in the cause of “protecting marriage” is old fashioned anti-gay animus dressed up as protecting the children or religious liberty of wedding florists or some such. But scratch the surface and it becomes clear that the real motivation is opposing “the evil homosexual agenda”. And while anti-gay activists may claim that they support civil unions (or whatever the least level of support they can claim without alienating a state), they don’t. It’s just a lie to make their anti-gay activism more palatable.

But there are a few – a small handful – who come to their opposition to marriage equality by honest means and genuinely believe that it is in the best interest of society to limit marriage to heterosexuals. One such person is David Blankenhorn. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Blankenhorn was the primary witness in favor of the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in the federal lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

Blankenhorn agreed with the plaintiffs that marriage would be good for gay couples. And, as do most liberal Democrats, he supports gay rights. However, his interest is focused on trying to encourage heterosexual families to remain intact (a laudable goal) and that fathers step up to their responsibilities (another laudable goal) and he believes that same-sex marriage works contrary to those goals (a position that I find wrongheaded).

David Blankenhorn is wrong. The Perry trial was basically an examination of the evidence and it found that David is wrong. And in addition to being wrong on the issue, Blankenhorn assumes the risk of damaging people whom he otherwise likes to advance a position for which he has no empirical evidence in support. Nevertheless, he simply is not in the same category as Brian Brown or Michael Heath.

David’s reputation suffered after the Perry trial. A good many people assumed that he has the same attitudes, biases and prejudices as, well, everyone else on that side of the debate. Some people found his testimony unforgivable and denounced him. I’m certain that it hasn’t been pleasant.

So perhaps that played some part in the editorial he released today with associate Elizabeth Marquardt opposing North Carolina’s constitutional amendment to ban any recognition of same sex couples.

The proposed amendment states that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” That’s a big mouthful, and it goes well beyond the issue of same-sex marriage.

For one thing, it means that North Carolina could not, now or ever, take any step or devise any policy to extend legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples. No domestic partnership laws. No civil unions. Nothing.

That’s mighty cold. If you disdain gay and lesbian persons, and don’t care whether they and their families remain permanently outside of the protection of our laws, such a policy might be your cup of tea. But it’s not our view, and we doubt that it’s the view of most North Carolinians.

We are family

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2010

From the New York Times

A majority of Americans now say their definition of family includes same-sex couples with children, as well as married gay and lesbian couples.

At the same time, most Americans do not consider unmarried cohabiting couples, either heterosexual or same-sex, to be a family — unless they have children.

Yet more evidence that marriage equality is important. People really do so you differently when you are legally married.

If he was quoted correctly, David Blankenhorn, the lead witness for the defense of Proposition 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, made a statement that could be interpreted to suggest that he’s finally made his way over to our side of the aisle.

David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a marriage research and advocacy group, said he was not surprised by the findings. “I like the standard definition of family: two or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption,” Mr. Blankenhorn said. “Keeps it simple and coherent.”

But, he added: “We live in groups, and we need each other. So it’s always a good thing, isn’t it, when any of us truly loves and is loved by another.”

Yes it is, David.

Blankenhorn rejects Rekers association

Timothy Kincaid

May 24th, 2010

David Blankenhorn, the key witness for the supporters of Proposition 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, is incensed over news reports that suggest that he relied on the claims of newly-disgraced Dr. George Rekers. He has written the following letter to the NY Times editor.

To the Editor:

“Scandal Stirs Legal Questions in Anti-Gay Cases” (news article, May 19) and “A Heaven-Sent Rent Boy,” by Frank Rich (column, May 16), suggest that my expert testimony in the California Proposition 8 trial on same-sex marriage was influenced by the writings of George Rekers, a psychologist and Baptist minister.

My expert report to the court — which was written entirely by me, includes a list of scholarly sources and is available for anyone to read — includes no mention of Mr. Rekers. And for good reason: I have never met Mr. Rekers or read any of his writings.

I recently learned that a separate, lawyer-generated document submitted to the court apparently does list an article by Mr. Rekers in connection with my testimony, but that document, on this point, is in error.

This matter is particularly important to me, since in my report to the court, as well as in my testimony on the stand, I clearly and emphatically rejected the anti-gay views that Mr. Rekers has apparently expressed.

David Blankenhorn
President
Institute for American Values
New York, May 19, 2010

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day eleven summary

Timothy Kincaid

January 26th, 2010

Thanks to Courage Campaign and FireDogLake

Today started with the continued cross-examination of Professor Ken Miller. Attorney David Boies further proved that Miller was ill informed and that his stated opinions did not seem to be consistent with the facts.

Boies provided exit polling that revealed that the third of Californians who attend church weekly voted 84% for Proposition 8 and in all other category of Californians the majority voted “no”. And while Miller had claimed that gay people have power due to union support, the exit polls show that union households supported the proposition. (which, I suppose, means that union households are disproportionately religious)

Boies provided a poll that showed that Americans were much less willing to vote for a presidential candidate that was gay (55%) than they were for a Catholic (95%), an African American (94%), or Hispanic candidate (85%).

He went on to illustrate that Miller had not familiarized himself with workplace discrimination, school bullying, or stereotypes about gays preying on children, or the extent to which such stereotypes impacted voters. (In short, the proponents’ expert witness isn’t very expert at all. But considering what he might have found had he bothered to look, ignorance may have been their best option.)

Miller admitted that some people voted for Proposition 8 based on stereotypes, but he could not say to what extent.

Then it got unpleasant for Miller. He has a new book that came out in 2009 in which he argues that initiatives that disadvantage minorities “can easily tap into an anti-minority sentiment”. He even gave examples including initiatives directed towards restricting the rights of homosexuals. One of Miller’s examples of initiatives that tapped into anti-minority sentiment and disadvantaged homosexuals was Proposition 22, the original ban on gay marriage that was overturned by the California Supreme Court.

Miller argued in his book that courts needed to strictly scrutinize initiatives and not be lenient because their role was to protect minorities from such initiatives. He had written in an article that “Once this majority puts its preference into the state constitution, the legislature and state courts can’t take it out. Only federal courts are the remedy.”.

A year later, Miller “no longer believes” his own book. In fact, he “did not believe all of it” when he wrote it. (Miller has just torpedoed his own career.)

Miller had earlier presented the support of the California Council of Churches as evidence of large religious support for gay rights. In cross-examination he reveals that he really doesn’t know what the CCC is or even if they were a group organized to oppose Proposition 8 (they trace their history back to 1913). His earlier position was that if a church belonged to the CCC then they supported gay marriage.

After all of Miller’s testimony about support from the Democrat Party, he was presented with an article in which he said that Democrats splintered along religious lines. Miller had already written that the issue, the primary determinant was religion: In order for gay people to have marriage rights, “They need to persuade those Christian voters that extending marriage rights to the gay community is consistent with their religious beliefs, not undermining them.” He had written that blacks and Latinos had been taught in church that sexual orientation was a matter of scripture and thus could vote for Barack Obama as a civil rights issue and for Prop 8 as a religious issue without conflict.

Boies got Miller to agree, as a social scientist, that “it is a general principle that it is undesirable for a religious majority to impose its views on a minority”. While Miller was babbling trying to find an out for the religious oppression of gay people, Boies announced that he had no more questions.

Thompson tried to recover in redirect. He had Miller reiterate that the Briggs initiative (to ban gay school teachers) and the LaRouche initiatives (to quarantine AIDS patients) did not pass.

Miller testified that he used to think that initiatives did not well serve democracy but since Massachusetts legalized marriage he changed his views and now sees them as a way for people to express their popular sovereignty. The exception he now sees is marriage. (In short, he found that his prejudices disagreed with his principles, so he made an exception. I can’t see how this will help either his credibility or his argument.)

In the afternoon, the defendants presented their second witness, David Blankenhorn. He is president of the Institute for American Values, a non-profit think tank that focuses on fatherhood, marriage, child rearing, child well being, and family structure.

He testified that to write his book, The Future of Marriage, he sought to learn about the anthropology of marriage across cultures.

In voir dire, Boise noted that none of Blankenhorn’s marriage writing was peer reviewed. Nor has he taught courses about marriage, fatherhood, family structure or anything else. Blankenhorn’s examinations of the results of same-sex marriage are limited to discussions with colleagues and reading articles. His only peer-reviewed work was on cabinet makers and black fathers. Judge Walker indicated that were this a jury trial Blankenhorn might not be qualified to testify as an expert but that he can testify.

Blankenhorn testified that marriage is the socially approved sexual relationship between a man and a woman which establishes the parenthood of the children. Marriage brings about the social, the legal, and the biological consequences of parenthood. “East, West North, South, 1000 years ago, it always does this thing.” As marriage changes, this aspect never does.

This is based on a broad consensus of scholars and anthropologists. For his “broad consensus”, Blankenhorn relies on a number of quite old books, the most recent of which is from 1985.

Blankenhorn read from some who say that marriage is an adult relationship but stated that he disagrees. Earnestly. He testified that he could not find any animus or hatefulness of gay people as the reason that people get married. (I dare say he’s correct. No one marries to spite gay people. And the original definitions were not designed to exclude but rather to allow society to know which man owns which woman and is responsible for her care. But the new definitions as applied by anti-gay amendments are absolutely intended to exclude gay people and to spite them.)

He testified that research shows that the ideal family relationship for a child is a biological mother and father in low-conflict marriage. (Again, he’s likely correct. And a principled argument could be made that these are the only family forms that society should reward with marriage. But it doesn’t. It rewards remarriage of widows and widowers, divorced people with children, the childless, the elderly, and indeed absolutely every other less-than-ideal coupling provided that they are opposite-sex. The question is not whether biological parents are a smidgen better than two mothers (a position that could probably be made), but why two mothers (who are better than, say, a mother and stepfather) are not provided with marriage.)

Blankenhorn testified that changing the rules of an institution results in weakening, what he calls deinstitutionalization. He notes that the deinstitutionalization has been the fault of heterosexuals: out of wedlock childbirth, divorce, assisted reproductive technology, and the very idea of same-sex marriage. He claims that “Scholars are telling us that process of weakening will be accelerated significantly by same sex marriage.” Transferring the institution from a child centered one to an adult-pleasure centered one would erase the institution.

It would become impossible to opine that a child needs a father. It could lead the public to consider polygamy. In short, Blankenhorn believes that allow same-sex couples to marry would remove the core purpose for marriage and leave it essentially meaningless and valueless. An institution that doesn’t define heterosexual couples tied to their biological children would have no purpose and would eventually die off.

Blankenhorn supports domestic partnerships and civil unions. He just wants to protect the privilege of marriage. (This is, in my thinking, the weakest argument. If one truly wants to “think of the children” then any structure that “denies a child their biological mother and father” would be equally disadvantageous. It matters little whether this deprived child’s same-sex parents are civilly unioned or civilly married.)

He co-authored an article supporting civil unions (and implies that Jonathan Rauch agrees with him that they are better – he does not). In reality the article supported a temporary compromise in which the federal government would recognize state marriages as civil unions provided that there were robust religious-conscience exceptions.

He argued that marriage is bigger than just the legal incidences of marriage (a point that our side has made repeatedly). Domestic partnerships are comparable but not the same as marriage. Then he said something perplexing: “It is discriminatory and morally wrong to call two things that are the same by different names.”

Boies then led cross-examination.

Boies showed that Blankenhorn’s institute treats biological and adoptive families the same. Blankenhorn testified that adoptive families are just as good. And he is not aware of any study that shows that children of gays and lesbians have different worse outcomes than straight.

If I understand the liveblogging correctly, Blankenhorn believes that the adoption of same-sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children. And he believes that America would be more just by allowing same-sex marriage. But he thinks it would lead to fewer marriage between heterosexuals.

(Odd, it never occurred to Blankenhorn that he would actually have to tie his opinions back to those who did research. I get the impression that he thought it would be similar to the polite debates in which everyone’s opinion is considered to be valid and that real research was treated as no more valuable than opinions based on “thinking about it for a long time” or writing a book.)

Boies gets Blankenhorn to admit that few (perhaps none) of his listed sources actually discuss either disinstitutionalization or same-sex marriage and that none make the two part linkage: same-sex marriage leads to deinstitutionalization which then leads to fewer heterosexual marriages. (This may be simply an extrapolation on the part of Blankenhorn, and he simply is not qualified to make such an extrapolation. He has not done research and it appears that he cannot back up his positions with the research of others. It’s difficult to understand why Cooper allowed two very unprepared witnesses to take the stand.)

That was it for today and cross-examination will continue tomorrow. The case is scheduled to end around noon, after which the judge will go ponder the evidence before the attorneys make their closing statements some time in February. Then Judge Vaughn Walker will make his decision.

Conservatives Refuse To Predict Dire Consequences For Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

August 20th, 2009

Townhall.com is probably the last place one would expect to find an article supporting arguments made by proponents of same-sex marriage, but Steve Chapman is mystified that no one who opposes same-sex marriage is willing to take him up on his challenge. His challenge is simple: We now have five states with same-sex marriage, with a sixth one (Maine) pending a November referendum. (By the way, have you donated lately?) Most of the others offer no recognition of same-sex unions whatsoever.

Chapman believes that this presents perfect laboratory conditions: an experimental condition and a control group. He writes, “in the next few years, we will have a chance to compare social trends in the states permitting same-sex marriage against social trends in the others.” So Chapman contacted three conservative opponents to same-sex marriage — Maggie Gallagher, Stanley Kurtz, and David Blankenhorn — and asked them to offer their predictions:

You would think they would react like Albert Pujols when presented with a hanging curveball. Yet none was prepared to forecast what would happen in same-sex marriage states versus other states.

Conservatives often predict catastrophic consequences for states that recognize same-sex marriage. Maggie Gallagher has even likened it to the end of civilization.Stanly Kurtz started a cottage industry blaming the decline of marriage in Scandinavia on same-sex marriage. But when put to the test, none of them will stand behind  their statements. What does that tell you about their convictions?