By Scottie Thomaston
Edited and updated for clarification
David Blankenhorn, who founded the Institute for American Values, testified in the Prop 8 trial as a witness in favor of Proposition 8. He is the witness who, when cross-examined by attorney David Boies with questions on how marriage equality would harm heterosexual marriage, replied “The safest answer is: I don’t know.” (Later attorney Charles Cooper, defending Proposition 8, told Judge Walker the same thing: “I don’t know.”) He is also the witness who said we would be “more American” on the day marriage equality is legalized.
He evolved a bit further when he came out against North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment 1earlier this year.
Today in an op-ed in the New York Times, Blankenhorn says he now supports marriage equality:
IN my 2007 book, “The Future of Marriage,” and in my 2010 court testimony concerning Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, I took a stand against gay marriage. But as a marriage advocate, the time has come for me , to accept gay marriage and emphasize the good that it can do. I’d like to explain why.
He says that he has some reservations about gay relationships, but under the law these relationships should be afforded equal dignity:
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.
Importantly, and surprisingly – especially coming from a pro-Proposition 8 witness – Blankenhorn admits outright that much of the opposition to gay relationships isn’t based on the things others have suggested: honest disagreement or respect for tradition or religion; rather it’s based on anti-gay animus:
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.
Blankenhorn says he wants to move forward and work together to build coalitions with gays and straights alike to strengthen marriage.
NEW ORLEANS—A day after electing their first African-American president in a historic move that strives to erase its legacy of racism, Southern Baptists passed a resolution opposing the idea that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue.
Thousands of delegates at the denomination’s annual meeting in New Orleans on Wednesday were nearly unanimous in their support for the resolution that affirms their belief that marriage is “the exclusive union of one man and one woman” and that “all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful.”
(Yes, but wasn’t it the Southern Baptists who were lynching people because they decided they had no civil rights either)
Or also construing Scripture to make blacks inferior (as well as gays).
If you’re following the trial of California’s Proposition 8 (“Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry”) which was enacted via referendum in 2008, heres the summary of what’s happened in the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals:
By Scottie Thomaston
The judges sitting in the Ninth Circuit have issued a new order in the Perry v. Brown case today. The full panel of Ninth Circuit judges have decided that en banc rehearing of the three-judge panel’s decision will not be granted. This comes after a months-long wait: the proponents of Proposition 8 announced their intention to seek en banc review of the Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel decision on February 21 of this year. As we noted yesterday, the decision to deny rehearing of the case with a new, randomly-selected eleven judge panel means that Judge Reinhardt’s opinion, which was joined by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins and garnered a dissent by Judge N. Randy Smith, either way, will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court where the proponents will now likely file a petition for certiorari, asking them to review and possibly overturn Judge Reinhardt’s opinion for the Ninth Circuit’s panel of three judges.
An en banc rehearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is much different from other circuits. Generally, en banc means that the entire court will rehear the case, with all judges in the circuit participating. But the Ninth Circuit has an inordinately large number of judges, so they have a procedure wherein they have an ‘en banc panel’ consisting of eleven judges: ten randomly-chosen judges plus the Chief Judge (at the Ninth Circuit that is Alex Kozinski) presiding. If rehearing had been granted, the randomly selected panel could have heard arguments and issued new briefing in the case or they could have decided to forgo that and issue a new decision without it.
Now that en banc rehearing was denied, the proponents have 90 days to file a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, seeking review of the decision striking down Proposition 8. It’s likely that Justices at the Supreme Court would have their conference to take up the petition and decide whether to grant review or not sometime after their summer break in October. Oral argument would follow a few months later, and then a final decision would be issued by June or July 2013.
Judge O’Scannlain has filed a dissent from the denial of en banc rehearing joined by Judges Bybee and Bea, and in it he discusses his belief that Judge Smith’s dissent was correct. He says that “we have now declared that animus must have been the only conceivable motivation for a sovereign State to have remained committed to a definition of marriage that has existed for millennia.”
No one is certain if the Supreme Court would grant review of the case as it currently stands. Judge Reinhardt’s opinion for the three-judge Ninth Circuit panel is very narrow and the holding is specific to California’s unique legal circumstances. A denial of rehearing in this case leaves the decision California-specific and there may not be four Justices – the number needed to grantcertiorari – who want to visit an issue that’s so limited in scope. On the other hand, the panel’s decision did strike down an amendment to a constitution of an enormous state involving a contentious issue. And allowing gay couples to marry in California would nearly double the amount of people in the United States who live in an area that allows same-sex marriage.
This process has gone on for so long. The complaint was initially filed on May 22, 2009 and the trial began on January 11, 2010. Judge Walker didn’t issue a decision in the case until August 4, 2010. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling came much later, with the three-judge panel issuing its ruling on February 7 of this year. Now the Perry case is entering its final phase.
Now that the Ninth Circuit has denied en banc rehearing of the three-judge panel’s decision, the case will face its final test soon, at the Supreme Court, as the proponents are widely expected to seek review of the three-judge panel’s decision. If the proponents do file a petition for certiorari the Justices will look at the petition in a conference later this year where the final decision will be made: review the case or let the Ninth Circuit’s decision be the final word in this long journey to decide the fate of the odious Proposition 8. It promises to be an exciting year.