Former Opponent Invites Gays to the Wedding Party

Question: How do you know when the fight for marriage equality for gays and lesbians is about to be won?

Answer: When one of your former foes invites you to the table to discuss the future of marriage.

That’s what David Blankenhorn is doing. You remember Blankenhorn—he was one of the star witnesses defending Proposition 8 in California. In the trial, he argued that marriage should be between a man and a woman. His argument, he said, was not based in religion, but in anthropology. He also brought out the old saw that marriage was primarily for procreation.

He angered the anti-marriage equality camp when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times reversing his opinion.

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.

It may be beside the point, but I’d like to point out, as an aside, that no two relationships, despite the gender mix, are ever really the same. We all conduct our relationships according to the unique personalities of those involved, so mileage may vary in every dyad.

As part of Blankenhorn’s evolution on the question of marriage equality, his research group, the Institute for American Values, has launched “A Call for a New Marriage Conversation.” The project begins with the declaration that “marriage is fracturing America.” Not just because of the fight over including gays and lesbians but because

“marriage is rapidly dividing along class lines, splitting the country that it used to unite. While marriage is stable or strengthening among our college-educated elites, much larger numbers of Americans, particularly in middle and working-class America, are abandoning the institution entirely, with harmful social and personal consequences.”

Blankenhorn sees this disparity leading to further inequality, a weakened middle class and children in danger.

His proposal is to bring together everyone who is concerned with strengthening marriage, including gays and lesbians.

The new conversation does not presuppose or require agreement on gay marriage, but it does ask a new question. The current question is, Should gays marry? The new question is, Who among us, gay or straight, wants to strengthen marriage?

Gays and lesbians have argued all along that their goal isn’t to destroy marriage, but to strengthen it—to rehab it from the ghetto Blankenhorn points out that it has become. Not everyone is convinced, of course, and while opponents usually couch their objections in religious terms, anti-marriage equality leaders like NOM’s Maggie Gallagher go for the pocketbook, saying Blankenhorn’s position will cost him funding.

That has been the case, but with former funders like Sean Fieler, the president of New York hedge fund company Equinox Partners, Blankenhorn doesn’t really need enemies. “The problem with gay marriage and the position David has taken,” Mr. Fieler said, “is it promotes a very harmful myth about the gay lifestyle. It suggests that gay relationships lend themselves to monogamy, stability, health and parenting in the same way heterosexual relationships do. That’s not true.”

Actually, there is study after study that proves Fieler’s assertions wrong. Gays and lesbians form strong, monogamous unions all the time, and have been shown to be fine, upstanding, even outstanding parents.

It’s refreshing to finally see someone of Blankenhorn’s stature recognizing the true agenda of the marriage equality movement—to strengthen marriage, not destroy it. It’s also refreshing to see a new project that leaves religion out of the equation and brings forward the issues of economics and equality in the marriage debate. LGBT organizations should take Blankenhorn up on his invitation to the table and take the lead in revitalizing the institution of marriage. Here’s hoping they’ll also bring some money to help cover the tab for a project that could help us all.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)