by Laird Harrison and Scott Shafer
He waffled. He backtracked. And on Friday David Blankenhorn, a leading opponent of gay marriage, announced in the New York Times that he is giving in.
In his 2007 book “The Future of Marriage,” and in testimony defending California’s Proposition 8 in court, Blankenhorn argued that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
The founder of the Institute for American Values, Blankenhorn served as the star witness for the defense in Perry vs. Brown, the federal case against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Blankenhorn still believes in the principle that led him to oppose gay marriage, he writes:
I opposed gay marriage 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.
But fighting gay marriage hasn’t strengthened heterosexual marriage at all, he writes. The institution has continued to disintegrate, and the argument about gay marriage is tainted by “anti-gay animus.”
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.
Anyone who witnessed the Prop. 8 trial in 2010 (and sadly few did since the U.S. Supreme Court banned cameras in the courtroom at the last minute) remembers Blankenhorn’s testimony as one of the highlights.
Blankenhorn testified that allowing gays and lesbians to wed would undermine traditional marriage. That’s when the fireworks began.
During hours of withering cross examination by Prop. 8 opponent David Boies, Blankenhorn bickered, argued and stonewalled — often refusing to answer Boies’ “yes or no” questions with a one word answer. Speaking of marriage at one point Blankenhorn said, “If you change the definition of the ‘thing’, it is hard to imagine how it wouldn’t have an impact on the ‘thing’.”
It left both men — and Judge Vaughn Walker — a little exasperated.
Boies also questioned Blankenhorn’s appearance as an “expert witness.” (Blankenhorn earned a masters degree in England, where he studied the history of labor unions.)
Under persistent questioning by Boies, Blankenhorn was forced to acknowledge that legalizing same sex marriage would most likely “improve the well being of gay and lesbian households and their children.”
Blankenhorn also confirmed an earlier statement in “The Future of Marriage” that the U.S. would be “more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage than we we were on the day before.”
A perfect witness for Prop. 8 Mr. Blankenhorn was not. And his ambivalence on the stand makes his conversion to same sex supporter less than surprising.
The question now is how far will he go? Will he file an amicus brief for the opponents of Prop. 8 if and when it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court? Where does his evolution end?