When anti-gay conservatives were defending California’s Proposition 8 in court two years ago, they were counting on David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values to be their star witness opposing same-sex marriage. This greatly backfired, and not just because Blankenhorn admitted that the children of same-sex couples would be better off if their parents could marry. In his ruling, Judge Vaughan Walker dismissed Blankenhorn’s “expertise” as “inadmissible opinion testimony” that is “unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.”
While it’s true that Blankenhorn lacked the proper academic credentials to qualify as an expert, his ineffective testimony may also have reflected his own lack of commitment to opposing same-sex marriage. In April, he spoke out against Amendment One, North Carolina’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, and now, in a New York Times op-ed, he has come out wholly in favor of marriage equality:
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. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness. [...]
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?
Will this strategy work? I don’t know. But I hope to find out.
It’s unfortunate that Blankenhorn still clings to some of his unfounded beliefs about parenting and that he does not yet fully appreciate how marriage equality supports the children of same-sex couples. Nevertheless, his courageous admission of a changed heart and mind should be commended. Like so many before him, Blankenhorn met same-sex couples, learned about their experiences, and realized that his point of view was visibly hurting people. He allowed new information to change his mind. Hopefully his new strategy will convince other social conservatives to do the same.