If you followed the blow-by-blow of the Prop 8 trials, then the name David Blankenhorn might be familiar to you. He was one of the witnesses for Protect Marriage, and testified as a questionably-certified sociological researcher who was DEFINITELY not homophobic, and had really nothing but good things to say about gay people EXCEPT that because gay families will never ever be as good for children as hetero biological ones and somehow, because of that, marriage equality would cause significant damage to the social institution of marriage.
How did Blankenhorn’s opinions and the “research” they were based on hold up in court? Well, this is what Judge Vaughn Walker said about him in his final decision on the case:
Based on his testimony, David Blankenhorn is the kind of guy you might expect to insist he “has a lot of gay friends.” And based on this article in Business Weekly, it would appear that that is true. David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch, a gay man, have written together about their “unusual friendship” — the married, gay man and his married, straight friend who believes that his friend’s marriage endangers the fabric of society. They’ve been discussing the subject since at least 2009, when they wrote an op-ed for the New York Times called “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage.”
What could they possibly have in common? A few things, according to Rauch and Blankenhorn:
+ “Prejudice” is bad, and “affirming the equal dignity of homosexual people” is good.
+ Getting married before having children is important, and something “society as a whole should do more to embrace.”
+ “The growing phenomenon of ‘single parents by choice,’ whatever its meaning or value in particular situations, is a harmful social trend.”
+ “…practices and policies need to be rethought when they deliberately and inherently deny children born through artificial reproductive technology the right to know and be known by their biological parents.”
+ Religious institutions deserve more privileges when it comes to gay marriage — like being guaranteed that they won’t have to perform it.
+ Both straight and gay couples should be able to adopt, but preference in both cases should be given to married couples.
+ “…both of us worry when we hear stories of employees being fired for opposing gay marriage in their personal lives.”
On the whole, these are some pretty general socially conservative ideas to agree on. Maybe this article could be framed differently; it’s not entirely the shock value of a personal relationship with a opponent of gay marriage, but also about the experience of being an out gay person who holds some pretty conservative and traditionalist ideas about families. Many members of the community probably have at least a few relationships with people who don’t fully support gay rights; that doesn’t necessarily preclude our caring about them, or their caring about us. For some of us, that relationship defines our entire family dynamic, for instance. But you’d be hard pressed to find many gay people who announce that they think single parenting is a “harmful social trend;” as someone who’s personally extremely grateful to have been raised by a singe parent, that was the part of this article that practically made me do a spit-take. Socially conservative gay people don’t get a lot of time in the public eye, but of course they exist — isn’t that really what this “unusual friendship” is based on?
What’s more interesting to me than the fact that Blankenhorn and Rauch both think that married couples are better at raising kids (and that Blankenhorn still does not seem to have reconciled his ideas that married families are better off but that marriage for gay people is simultaneously harmful) is their shared phrasing that really, the conversation should be about “what seems most important as the shouting stops.” Blankenhorn feels that as “the shouting stops,” the most important thing is “conciliation,” and Rauch decides it’s “getting marriage right, for all people.” Sure, those sound like nice things. But who said “the shouting” is stopping anytime soon?
Rauch and Blankenhorn seem to agree that America is headed towards some kind of better future with regards to marriage equality, and in the long-term picture, the news about DOMA seems to support that idea. But does that mean anyone is done shouting? The premise of Blankenhorn and Rauch’s article seems to be that the way forward on marriage equality, regardless of what side you’re on, calls for settling down and talking through this coolly and calmly. Does that make sense? Marriage equality is an important issue for families across the nation, but it’s also important on principle. It’s about our right to enjoy full citizenship rights in our own country. If that’s not worth shouting about, what is? Maybe more so than ever before in recent years, we’ve become comfortable using our outside voices to ask for change. We’re realizing that speaking quietly isn’t working, and that some things can only be achieved by shouting into the night. America doesn’t have a strong tradition of important social change coming out of sober, well-reasoned conversation and collective compromise; instead, we have a strong tradition of people who have grown tired of being told they need to compromise and shouting in the streets until they are heard. Compromise has proven to be a good tool for quieting conflict, but is that always a good thing? Blankenhorn and Rauch are making the case that “conciliation” is possible, but have they made a case that it should be our goal?