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David Blankenhorn, the head of the Institute for American Values and a former opponent of same-sex marriage. His group issued "A Call for a New Conversation on Marriage," renouncing the culture war against gay marriage that he was once part of. (CHESTER HIGGINS JR/NYT)
David Blankenhorn, the head of the Institute for American Values and a former opponent of same-sex marriage. His group issued "A Call for a New Conversation on Marriage," renouncing the culture war against gay marriage that he was once part of. (CHESTER HIGGINS JR/NYT)

Globe editorial

Gay marriage becomes an American value Add to ...

David Blankenhorn was an important person in the fight against gay marriage. When the State of California fought to ban gay marriage, he was the sole expert called to support the state’s case that gay marriage would have 23 harmful consequences on society, especially on the institution of marriage.

David Blankenhorn has changed his mind. He no longer sees gay marriage as a threat to marriage. Far from it. He sees it as a hope for saving marriage from widespread abandonment in what he calls “middle America.”

Gay marriage just became a conservative cause in the United States. Mr. Blankenhorn is the president of a group with the patriotic-sounding name, the Institute for American Values. (It supports fatherhood and opposes people having children outside of marriage.)

The institute is spearheading what Mr. Blankenhorn hopes will be a coalition of supporters across the political spectrum who believe in marriage, heterosexual or gay. On Wednesday, it published a “Call for a New Conversation on Marriage,” signed by 74 “American leaders,” including the academic and author Francis Fukuyama, and Canada’s own Michael Ignatieff.

There are no signs, Mr. Blankenhorn says, that fighting gay marriage has made marriage stronger. In the United States, 44 per cent of children born to women who have a high-school diploma but no four-year college degree were born outside marriage. “Marriage is fracturing in America,” says the call for a new conversation. It’s still strong among “college-educated elites,” but “much larger numbers of Americans, particularly in middle- and working-class America, are abandoning the institution entirely.” This hurts children and contributes to the growth of inequality, the institute says.

Mr. Blankenhorn didn’t get very far in a California district court on the 23 harmful consequences. “Suffice it to say that he provided no credible evidence to support any of the claimed adverse effects proponents promised to demonstrate,” Justice Vaughn Walker wrote in 2010, in a case now headed for the United States Supreme Court.

To his credit, Mr. Blankenhorn examined the evidence and decided that gay marriage fits with American values. It is a brave step that portends wider change.

 

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