Opponents of same-sex marriage in California rolled out their star witness Tuesday, an author and advocate who, at first, predicted that allowing gays and lesbians to wed would discourage heterosexual marriage and might lead to legalized polygamy, but then seemed to contradict his entire position.
The final defense witness in the legal challenge of California’s Proposition 8, David Blankenhorn of the conservative think tank Institute for American Values, began his testimony asserting that the best environment for children is a marriage between a man and a woman.
Blankenhorn said he believes “leading scholars” share his view that same-sex marriage would erode traditional marriage, causing heterosexual couples to abandon marriage, to divorce, have children out of wedlock and lead to calls for other forms of marriage, such as polygamy.
The bottom line for Blankenhorn: reproduction is a “primary purpose” of marriage, he insisted.
David Boies, the attorney for gay couples challenging the voter-approved ban on gay marriage, argued that Blankenhorn was not qualified as an expert in the meaning of marriage and parenthood.
Boies established under questioning that Blankenhorn had a master’s degree in history and had never taken a university class in family structure or taught a college course in the subject.
Asked Boies, “And you have no degree in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, anthropology.…”
“No,” interrupted Blankenhorn.
“And in preparation for this testimony, did you undertake any scientific study of what effects permitting same-sex marriages have been in any jurisdiction where same-sex marriages have been permitted?” continued Boies.
Again, Blankenhorn responded, “No.”
Judge Vaughn Walker allowed the testimony, saying that it would be a “close” call if this were a jury trial rather than a trial by judge given judicial guidelines for expert witnesses.
As cross-examination by Boies got underway, Blankenhorn was unable to cite any supporting statements or evidence for that conclusion from the scholars he relied on for his earlier testimony, though he said he was sure some of them would agree with him.
In fact, Boies pointed to a passage in Blankenhorn’s 2007 book, “The Future of Marriage,” that appeared to contradict his previous two hours of testimony of the threat to traditional marriage posed by gay marriage.
“We would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before,” Blankenhorn wrote.
Not only did Blankenhorn concede that he still believes those words, he admitted he knew of no study showing that children reared from birth by same-sex couples fared worse than those raised by biological parents.
And in more surprise testimony from the defense witness, Blankenhorn said that legalizing same-sex matrimony would “improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children.”
Blankenhorn offered no explanation for his seemingly divergent views.
The trial wrapped up for the day — Blankenhorn will be back on the stand tomorrow, still under cross-examination, followed by redirect from the defense, who will be looking to salvage the seemingly damaging testimony of their second, and final witness.
Earlier in the day, before Blankenhorn took the stand, Boise concluded his cross-examination of Monday’s defense witness, Claremont McKenna College professor Kenneth P. Miller.
Boies put Miller on the spot, citing the fact that the two largest churches in the state, by far (Roman Catholic and evangelical Christians), not only supported a ban on same-sex marriage, but were leading movers in the Proposition 8 campaign. Boies also noted the crucial role of the Mormon church.
Overall, Boies asked Miller, didn’t religious organizations support Proposition 8 in a way that dwarfed the role of churches that sided with the No on Proposition 8 campaign? Weren’t religious attitudes “critical” in the push to pass Proposition 8?
Miller tepidly conceded each point, calling religious attitudes a “factor” in the vote.