Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prop8 on trial: the defense rests

The final witness for the Prop8 defenders was David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. Compared to the discussion with the academics (even the ill-prepared Dr Miller), who attempted to review scholarly studies and opinions, Blankenhorn made sweeping statements that essentially say, "I believe it, that ends it". He is not an academic, and has no academic credentials in this area. His thesis is that the "deinstitutionalization" of marriage, which has occurred as it focuses more on adult desires, is bad for children: marriage's proper purpose is for licit sex and procreation. And, since gays can't procreate, same sex marriage is therefore going to "deinstitutionalize" straight marriage. (Never mind that straight marriage is doing fine, indeed better than elsewhere, in places like Massachusetts that have marriage equality. Why let data interfere with your argument?)

Now, I have debunked the procreation argument numerous times on my blog; it boils down to (1) there is no requirement for fecundity for straight people to marry (e.g., elderly, infertile, those who don't want kids can all tie the knot), so that can't be the purpose of legal marriage, and (2) GLBT families have kids, either their own from previous relationships, various assisted methods, or adopted, and without marriage, those kids are disadvantaged. Let's leave that for a minute.

Instead, let's focus on the statements made by this witness in response to the aggressive cross-examination by the expert David Boies. And these statements, remember, are made by a witness for the DEFENSE, who is trying to prove a legitimate state interest in denying marriage to GLBT people. From the AFER transcript, and the brilliant liveblogging at Prop8TrialTracker and FireDogLake:

Blankenhorn: The parenting process in the -- this loadstar notion that animates the marital institution is not the same that is operative in the domestic partnership institution......It is discriminatory and un- -- and morally wrong in my view, morally wrong to refuse to call two things that are the same by the same name.

Blakenhorn: insofar as we are a nation founded on this principle, we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.
Q. Are you aware of any studies showing that children raised from birth by a gay or lesbian couple have worse outcomes than children raised from birth by two biological parents?
Blankenhorn. No, sir.
Blankenhorn: I believe that adopting same-sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children.
Q: First point you agreed with that ss marriage would improve the happiness of many G&L individuals, couples, and gay community members. Then you agreed that it would extend the benefits of marriage to couples and their children. Then you agreed that a higher proportion of ss couples would enter into committed relationships. Then you agreed that more would enter into long term relationships. Then you agreed that lesbians and (especially) gay men would be less promiscuous. Then you agreed that gay marriage would be a victory for the worthy ideal of tolerance. It would increase the number of those ‘accepted’ and would be a key expansion of the American idea.
Is that right?

Blankenhorn: Yes
Blankenhorn: CU and DP are comparable to marriage, they might blur the distinction [between marriage and marriage-like entities]
Here's one of the more surreal moments, in which Blankenhorn argues that polygamy does not violate the "rule of two"people in a marriage, as long as the marriages are performed sequentially.
Q: I want to pursue whether polygamous marriages are consistent with your so-called rule of two .... IF a man has five wives –
Blankenhorn: No he has five marriages, each is one man one woman

HIs other rules? Must be opposite sex (though he admits in some cultures same sex marrages have occurred) and must always involve sex (which left him a little flummoxed considering incarcerated prisoners who are denied conjugal rights).

The concluding cross:

Q: Marriage is always changing?
blankenhorn: I wrote those words
Q marriage has no single definition?
Blankhorn: I wrote those words too

Remember, this guy is on the side of the defense.

From here, the judge takes a week to review the case, the voluminous documents, videos, and transcripts. Then the attorneys come back for the closing statements.

As Ted Olson, one of our lead attorneys, said,
This is the game that they’re playing. They define marriage as a man and a woman. They call that the institution of marriage. So if you let a man marry a man and a woman marry a woman, it would de-institutionalize marriage. That is the same as saying you are deinstitutionalizing the right to vote when you let women have it. It’s a game. It’s a tautology. They’re saying, ‘this is the definition. You’re going to change the definition by allowing people access that don’t have it now, and that would change it so that people who currently have access won’t want it any more because it’s changed.’ This is all nonsense. They are not proving that. This is a syllogism that falls apart. The major premise, minor premise and conclusion are empty.

And all they have left is bias, ignorance, fear, and occasional hatred. As I've said before: show me one straight marriage harmed by my marriage to my wife. One family harmed by the protections we now also enjoy. One couple whose commitment to each other evaporated because of my vows to my wife.

So here's a deeper reflection. I think that while many Prop8 supporters are ignorant and fearful, the leadership is not. They are playing a longer game for which marriage equality is just one part. Spin aside, can they honestly look at the testimony from their side, the witnesses tied in knots, their awkward attorneys, and the smoking gun of the religious motivations, and truly believe they are right? Or (rather more frightening concept), do they not take it seriously because it doesn't matter, because they know, no matter how wrong they are, how unjust and unfair they are, they have it in the bag already?


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I think they think they have it in the bag already because they can't imagine not having it in the bag. Their position is self-evident, it goes without saying, it has always been so/'twill ever be.

They don't have facts & reason on their side, but have never needed it. It baffles them that they are being required to defend their bedrock nonsense.

IT said...

The question is whether they still have the power behind their bigotry.