One of the Most Prominent Marriage Equality Critics Dramatically Recants
The pro marriage-equality forces already have two of the nation's most prominent conservatives, former Vice-President Dick Cheney and his former solicitor general, Ted Olson, on their side. Now they can add one of the most respected and well-known opponents to their ranks.
In perhaps the most public way possible -- an opinion piece in the nation's most important and respected newspaper, the New York Times -- David Blankenhorn wrote on June 22 that he is doing a 180-degree turn in his thinking for what boils down to three essential reasons:
• "The equal dignity of homosexual love": "The time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over," he writes.
• "Comity": "I have no stomach for what we often too glibly call 'culture wars.'"
• "Respect for an emerging consensus": "Most of our national elites, as well as most younger Americans, favor gay marriage."
Significantly, in a follow-up article in the Times, Blankenhorn pointedly notes that much (if not most, if not all) of the opposition on the Right is attributable to "an underlying antigay animus."
Blankenhorn expressly states that he still personally prefers marriage between a man and a woman, "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."
What he does not do is acknowledge that the 1950s TV sitcom ideal of the nuclear family has long since been blown apart, without any help from gay men or lesbians. He does, however, admit that heterosexuals are doing a pretty good job of making a hash of traditional marriage. "If fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage over all, I think we'd have seen some signs of it by now," he admits.
What makes Blankenhorn's change of heart (or raising the white flag, take your pick) so dramatic is his prominence on several fronts opposing same-sex marriage.
He was the key witness for the side arguing in federal court to preserve Proposition 8, which forbids gay marriage in California. He is the founder and president of the Institute for American Values. He wrote one of the most influential books on the subject in 2007, "The Future of Marriage."
Predictably, the anti marriage-equality forces that a few days ago lionized him are busy attempting to discredit him.
The National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown accused him of "succumbing to the continual pressure of the cultural elite." Equally predictably, the ultra-right wingers on FreeRepublic are accusing Blankenhorn of being a "latent homosexual." (For the record, Blankenhorn is himself married and the father of three children.)
At the same time, gay-rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign are heaping praise on him. "While it can be difficult as a public figure to change course, I applaud him for taking a courageous and principled stand," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "His experience wrestling with the issue of marriage equality and coming out on the right side of history will be an inspiration to millions of fair-minded Americans who are in the same place."
But Blankenhorn has some good company. Ted Olson, who was the lawyer who successfully argued Bush v. Gore, and whose wife Barbara was considered one of the leading right-wing intellectuals in the country (she died in 9/11), had a similar "Road to Damascus" conversion and is now the leading plaintiff fighting Proposition 8. And although Dick Chaney has always been supportive of his daughter Mary, who just married her partner, he has long been looked at by conservatives as the most influential far-right person in high office.