Prop 8 Supporter David Blankenhorn Does 180, Comes Out For Marriage Equality

Is it April Fool’s Day? We’re not sure how else to reconcile the news that conservative David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values and an advocate of “traditional marriage,” has come out in favor of marriage equality.

As recently as 2010, Blankehorn was public in his belief “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.” It was a view he espoused in the book The Future of Marriage and as a witness in the Proposition 8 trial. (His testimony is included in the Dustin Lance Black play 8.)

Seems like a flimsy argument to us: There are plenty of gays and lesbians who want to marry but not have kids. And there are millions of hetero couples who adopt children legally.

Maybe Blankenhorn thought so too: In a New York Times opinion piece today, he revealed his stance of same-sex marriage had “evolved.” (God, we hate that term.)

No same-sex couple, married or not, can ever under any circumstances combine biological, social and legal parenthood into one bond. For this and other reasons, gay marriage has become a significant contributor to marriage’s continuing deinstitutionalization, by which I mean marriage’s steady transformation in both law and custom from a structured institution with clear public purposes to the state’s licensing of private relationships that are privately defined.

I have written these things in my book and said them in my testimony, and I believe them today. I am not recanting any of it.

But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. 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.

Another good thing is comity. Surely we must live together with some degree of mutual acceptance, even if doing so involves compromise. Sticking to one’s position no matter what can be a virtue. But bending the knee a bit, in the name of comity, is not always the same as weakness. As I look at what our society needs most today, I have no stomach for what we often too glibly call “culture wars.” Especially on this issue, I’m more interested in conciliation than in further fighting.

A third good thing is respect for an emerging consensus. The population as a whole remains deeply divided, but most of our national elites, as well as most younger Americans, favor gay marriage. This emerging consensus may be wrong on the merits. But surely it matters.

Wow, hardly a ringing endorsement. If we hadn’t already picked our Douche of the Week this guy would’ve won by a landslide. But at least he’s on the right side now, even if for the wrong reasons.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said Blankenhorn’s statement reflects a broader shift in America, even among right-wingers:

As the leader of a right-of-center think tank and network that promotes conservative values, David knows that children grow up best when they are raised in families that are treated with fairness, respect, and dignity. His journey towards marriage has been a long time in the making and he is a welcome addition to the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry.”

We’d bet $50 bucks one of Blankenhorn’s kids just came out.

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  • bystander

    Sounds like his position still has a bit more “evolving” to do. But its moving in the right direction.

  • Spike

    Bet $50 bucks HE just came out.

  • B

    His NY Times opinion piece had several interesting statements, interesting to the extent that the statements indicate his motives:

    “I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been.”

    “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.”

    I.e., he is admitting that his opposition to same-sex marriage was at least partly due to other issues he wanted to promote, and what he was trying to do just wasn’t working.

    But he also says:
    “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.”

    In other words, he doesn’t want to have to associate with NOM et al. just as he would not want to have to associate with the KKK.

    Also, one wonders if his new opinion was in part the result of having his beliefs “critiqued” by David Boises during the Proposition Eight trial.

  • Cam

    If NOM’s supporters are starting to get too embarrassed to be associated with them, they’re in real trouble.

  • Charli

    Again…” their ship is sinking” Rats are jumping off left and right!

  • StraightGrandmother

    Listen I think you should know something. I contacted the Institute for American Values about a year ago and asked for their tax forms. They didn’t give me any problems at all and sent them.

    100% of his Foundations funding I htink it was 2009 or 2010 was The Bradley Foundation. Yes the same Bradely Foundation that just funded the FAKE Regnerus “Gays make bad parents” research out of Texas. The Same Bradely Foundation who in 2010 gave the Family Research Council $40,000 to fund a Marriage Project which I am pretty sure was that CD the FRC Made.

    Now think who Blankenhorn gets his funds from to survive…. and think of what he said today.

    We can nitpick that he did not say it exactly the way we would have liked but son of a gun he DID EVOLVE.

    I called and got his e-mail address and sent him a thank you e-mail. I try always to thank people who help me. Please consider doing the same.

    [email protected]

  • Hyhybt

    @Spike: That’s hardly fair. This article is entirely consistent with a progression he seems to have been on for quite a while, and likely has more of ahead… why would you jump to any conclusions about his or his family’s personal lives because of it?

  • Alexi3

    @StraightGrandmother: Thank you for the info. and the advice. I will be sending him an email. I agree with you, it is important to acknowledge and affirm those who are willing to continue to evaluate and update their positions. This type of action may be of greater value, in the long term, then simply attacking those who wish us harm.

  • Carl 1

    Although his position is far from a glowing endorsement, I do think it may be beneficial in bringing over other conservative elements who have an instinctive knee jerk reaction to any language they regard as being overly liberal. By sticking to his previous staunchly conservative language but throwing in a support for equality, the reasoning may hep get through to some conservatives. I don’t hold out much hope, but there’s a small sliver of it there.

    And it certainly doesn’t mitigate the damage he did before.

  • mason

    Someone’s hoping they’re not gonna get outed…..

  • Raziel

    @Spike: @Spike: lol- i bet his wife just came out, too. maybe it was an entire right wing coming out party… still, it’s movement in the appropriate and human direction.

  • 1equalityUSA

    I appreciate his honesty about anti-gay animus. NOM, Maggie Gallagher, Princeton’s Robert P. George, Nancy Wiggle Elliott of New New Hampshire, John Boehner I hope you like smell of formaldehyde because you are going extinct. Furtive glances at your carcasses by young people as they ooh and ah over your bigoted bodies floating in its own juices. Through the patina and yellowed sticker they’ll read the names of bigots who engendered disharmony and then went the way of the dinosaurs. I want a memorial wall with all of their names on it. Maya Ying Lin would do our community proud. She’s brilliant and subtle. I want a wall with their names on it as a reminder of the hatred and bigotry that promulgated such hatred from the whole Nation. Thank you for your words, Mr. Blankenhorn, but I still want artists from all over the U.S.A. to write, sing, chisel, draw, paint, and film all that we went through for future LGBT Americans. We cannot forget, nor can we let NOM-skulls forget what was done to us. Our Nation will have been made stronger for having overcome bigotry once again.

  • B

    Another article about his statement can be found at .

    It mentions that Blackenhorn ended up making a pro-same-sex marriage statement (just one) after being “walked” into a corner by David Boises. Blackenhorn was described as one of the more moderate people out of those who supported Proposition Eight. If you don’t think he seemed very moderate, take a look at the other guys, especially William Tam!

    Blackenhorn did zero damage during the Prop 8 trial – Judge Walker ruled that Blackenhorn was basically a commentator, not a researcher, and discounted his testimony as not being expert testimony. It was not even cogent. In fact, he might have helped the side opposing Proposition Eight – by choosing him, they threw away a chance to get a witness who would be taken seriously.

    There’s a big difference between being a commentator and a researcher. A commentator gets to spout. A researcher is expected to actually know what he is talking about.

  • Ian

    Maybe he got a $50 advance on a new book deal.

  • Adam

    “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 marrying 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? ”

    NO. We can’t. The meaning of marriage is not decided from on high by the ‘culture warriors’ but in the everyday decisions made by the ‘small folk’. The institution of marriage, should it survive, will evolve to meet the needs of the people entering into it.

  • Tommy

    Still waiting for my “I’m sorry.” gift basket.

  • Chuck

    Traditional marriage and families have been declining for decades. If anything, LGBT Marriage would improve the stats for marriage as an institution. So these bigots who drape themselves as “protecting marriage” are actually doing the opposite. They are hurting the institution by not allowing loving couples who so admire the institution that they are willing to fight in order to be allowed to honor it.

  • 1equalityUSA

    Legal recognition for LGBT Americans would be beneficial for society. With legal recognition comes legal responsibilities and stronger ties to loved ones. Spouses would be more readily available to assist their other half through tough times, whether old age or job loss. Having two be legally fused together would be better for society. It would strengthen our system, not weaken it. The community hospitals and long term facilities would need to absorb fewer people as, “spouses for life” would be more inclined to be present, both emotionally and financially. These kinds of couples exist now, though we are not legally recognized, illegally so.

  • Robert in NYC

    Absolute twaddle. The “deinstitutionalization” of marriage has more to do with uniquely hetero serial adultery, multiple marriages, divorces and women having babies out of wedlock. In his distorted opinion he would also have to conclude that hetero couples who can’t procreate or choose not to cannot combine their biological, social and legal parenthood into one bond, and what about older hetero people who are beyond child bearing age who marry later in life, often for the first time?

  • Hyhybt

    @B: They didn’t throw away their chance at witnesses by picking him; it’s just that none of their other witnesses could be bothered to show up :)

  • B

    No. 20 · Hyhybt wrote, “@B: They didn’t throw away their chance at witnesses by picking him; it’s just that none of their other witnesses could be bothered to show up :)”

    Not true. They had two billed as expert witnesses who showed up – Blackenhorn (who was deemed by the judge to not be an expert) and Kenneth Miller, who testified that there is significant political and social LGBT support in California but was only taken slightly seriously and then only on specific points that are explicitly supported by evidence. Several witnesses for the defendants were dropped at the last moment – Loren Marks, Paul Nathanson, , Daniel Robinson, and Katherine Young. The reason given by the defense was because they “were extremely concerned about their personal safety and did not want to appear in any recording of any sort, whatsoever.” Judge Walker’s opinion noted that in her disposition, Young testified that “homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality and that same-sex couples possess the same desire for love and commitment as opposite-sex couples.” In addition, “Young also explained that several cultures around the world and across centuries have had variations of marital relationships for same-sex couples.” Nathanson in his disposition noted that “religion lies at the heart of the hostility and violence directed at gays and lesbians and that there is no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by opposite-sex couples.” So, one suspects that the real reason they didn’t show up is that the defense asked them not to (their testimony might undercut the defense’s case) and the only “safety” concern that might have had was due to the Christians’ historical custom of burning heretics at the stake.

    There was also William Tam (one of the defendants who could not avoid testifying even though he wanted to and who was such a disaster that he was actually called by the plaintiffs).

    You can find the full transcript at

    The ruling is at
    Judge Walker has a summary of testimony and dispositions in that ruling in a far more digestible form than the transcript itself.

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