By David N. Bass on 6.26.12 @ 4:17PM
Maggie Gallagher has a thoughtful response to David Blankenhorn’s piece in The New York Times revising his past views on same-sex marriage. Blankenhorn is founder and president of the excellent Institute for American Values, a group that offers some of the most valuable research around on the breakdown of the traditional American family and strategies for reversing the trend.
I have long been an admirer of IAV generally and Mr. Blakenhorn in particular. That’s why I was so saddened to see his reversal.
As Jim Antle has already noted, Blankenhorn now supports same-sex marriage. Maggie gently takes issue with that in her rebuttal, pointing out that her former colleague never took a viewpoint shared by most cultural conservatives — that male-female relationships are God’s standard for a healthy society, and homosexual relationships are not on par with them.
In essence, Blankenhorn views traditional marriage and homosexual relationships as two competing goods. “In David’s mind, gay marriage represents not a case of good versus evil, but a conflict of goods,” Maggie writes. “He has not stopped believing that marriage is the union of male and female, he has simply lost hope he can help strengthen marriage as a social institution by opposing gay marriage.”
Blankenhorn’s view is a common line of reasoning, but a faulty one in my estimation. The drive to grant homosexual relationships the same status as traditional marriages is not the only threat faced by the institution of marriage, but it is certainly a threat. When conservatives say that we should focus on reducing unwed motherhood, cohabitation, and divorce as social ills, they are absolutely correct. But why must we focus on these facets to the exclusion of the same-sex marriage agenda, which seeks to fundamentally alter what marriage means from a civic standpoint?
All of the factors I list above — including same-sex marriage — are contributors to the disastrous decline of the traditional family in the United States. As a cultural conservative, I’m concerned about all of these factors. Declaring certain parts of the battle “off limits,” though, doesn’t help anything, particularly when it’s done under the duress of political bullying.
Later in Maggie’s piece, she writes that the chief lesson for the Left from Blankenhorn’s conversion is that “stigma and hatred directed at people who disagree with them work.” Blankenhorn testified during the court proceedings for California’s marriage amendment, Proposition 8. He was roundly villified for doing so.
Maggie goes on to quote from Mark Oppenheimer, the NYT Belief columnist, who wrote a transcript of a documentary on Blankenhorn’s conversion, released the same day as Blankenhorn’s op-ed:
“After the [Proposition 8] trial, something changed in Blankenhorn,” according to Oppenheimer, “He does not entirely know how to describe what happened. Maybe it was some cocktail of the fame, the public abuse, or just getting older. Maybe it’s that he began to fear for his legacy, for how the world would remember him. He definitely saw that gay marriage was happening, and it was likely to spread and wasn’t going away. There was no turning back the clock. Is it too cynical to say that nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history? Maybe that’s not a fair way to put it.”
But David switched sides. Above all, Oppenheimer says, “David Blankenhorn has decided to stop fighting. He is fifty-seven years old, and he says he still ‘has a little gas left in the tank.’ In the years he has left, he wants to forge alliances with all people interested in building stronger families, whether those people are gay or straight.”
In the realm of public policy, compromises have to be made in order to forge alliances and achieve the greater good. Defending the true identity of marriage does not fall into the “compromise” category.
Maggie concludes her piece this way:
Here’s what I want to say to David and to you: a comity that is bought by surrendering principle is submission, not comity at all. The truth about something as important as marriage cannot be the price we pay to live with each other.
The challenge of our time—and it is a deep challenge, not an easy one—is to find new ways to combine truth and love. Giving up marriage is too high a price to pay. And it is not the last good we will be asked to surrender, unless we find the courage to stand.
David N. Bass is a journalist who writes from the Old North State. Follow him on Twitter.
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