In an NY Times op-ed published online today, David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values formally announced that he has changed his mind (sort of) about same-sex marriage. I recommend everyone interested in this issue (and civil rights generally) read his essay. We can summarize his reasoning as follows.
- Marriage is supposed to be and has been X, but it’s become Y.
- Because of this change fewer and fewer heterosexuals see the need to marry.
- If we hope to preserve some semblance of marriage as X, we need to embrace marriage as Y, so that proponents of this new form of marriage will become fellow defenders of all types of marriage.
X = “Marriage is the planet’s only institution whose core purpose is to unite the biological, social and legal components of parenthood into one lasting bond. Marriage says to a child: The man and the woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. In this sense, marriage is a gift that society bestows on its children.”
Y = “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.”
The reasoning is a somewhat tortured way of Blankenhorn announcing that he’s a pragmatist not a purist where marriage is concerned. A compromise that allows same-sex couples to wed is better than the alternative future in which declining marriage rates culminate in neither opposite- or same-sex couples wedding.
The more important motivation comes in the final paragraphs where Blankenhorn acknowledges that the hatred spewed by fellow proponents of so-called traditional marriage has spurred his change of heart (or mind). While he believes marriage is about children, recent events have made all the more evident that many SSM opponents care less about children and more about how disgusting they think gays and lesbians are as human beings.
In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. 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.
He makes the remark in passing, but it harkens back to the question he posed to Maggie Gallagher and John Corvino on June 7th and that I previously wrote about. Hopefully something positive comes of the new coalition he hopes to build.