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Spencer Perry and David Blankenhorn
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/08/12
Last updated on: 02/09/12
 
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Perry Spencer speaks at the press conference following the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling against Proposition 8.

One of the most moving moments at the February 7, 2012 press conference held by the American Foundation for Equal Rights after the release of the decision in the Proposition 8 case, Perry v. Brown, came when Spencer Perry took the podium. One of the teenaged twins of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, two of the plaintiffs in the case, Spencer Perry spoke of how his family had been affected by Proposition 8. Rather surprisingly, the articulate young man cited David Blankenhorn in his conclusion.

"I'm Kris and Sandy's son. The fight that my parents have pursued is a fight that gay people everywhere are fighting. They are being discriminated against just for being who they are and loving who they love. Marriage equality is the next step to finally showing California that my parents are equal, that our family is equal," Spencer said.

"I'm very fortunate to live in a home with a lot of love," he continued. "Not a day goes by that my brothers and myself don't consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have grown up with such outstanding parents. But Proposition 8 has done a really, really good job of trying to tear that love apart. When Proposition 8 doesn't allow parents like mine to marry, it isn't just defining their love as taboo or wrong. It says that my family--that my brothers, that my mothers shouldn't belong and we don't get to be the same as my friends' families."

"What Proposition 8 means is that I know that the government that I trust to protect me--the government that has fought for civil rights for other families--is the same government that turns a blind eye to the violence and the persecution that the gay community suffers. A government that has taken action specifically saying 'This minority does not have the rights of the majority.'"

"But," Spencer concluded, "there's hope. With anything, with this case, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. All of the rallies, the marches, the speeches, have pushed us to a more equal society and soon to be a more equal United States. In the words of David Blankenhorn, 'We'll be more American.'"

David Blankenhorn, of course, was the star witness of the proponents of Proposition 8, who inadvertently helped make the case for marriage equality when attorney David Boies quoted a passage from one of his publications in which he had written that the day same-sex marriage becomes legal in the United States, "We'll be more American."

Spencer Perry's quotation of David Blankenhorn is evidence that the young man paid close attention to the trial and that he has a fine appreciation of irony.

Interestingly, even as Perry was citing Blankenhorn as an unintended enabler of marriage equality, Blankenhorn himself was attempting to rewrite his own history as a cultural warrior.

As glbtq.com contributor Anonymous pointed out in his scathing account of "The Sad Case of David Blankenhorn" in his Confessions of a Blog Addict, Blankenhorn had attempted to carve out a distinctive niche as a campaigner against same-sex marriage who professed to have no animus against homosexuals.

As Anonymous wrote, "It must have seemed like a no-brainer career move for Blankenhorn to enter the fray as an activist against marriage equality. After all, at the time he embarked on his crusade, the polls were overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage. The debate would provide an opportunity to raise his profile, promote his institute, sell some books, and pocket lucrative speaking fees."

However, notwithstanding the fact that he likely was paid a great deal for his testimony as an "expert witness" in the Prop 8 trial, Blankenhorn soon discovered that were downsides to the exposure he so eagerly sought and received.

His prominence in the fight against marriage equality led to his credentials coming under scrutiny, particularly the fact that despite touting himself as a nationally recognized expert on marriage, he has no Ph.D. in a relevant field and has published only a single peer-reviewed scholarly article, and that article had nothing to do with marriage.

Most damagingly for his reputation as an expert, he was cross-examined by skilled attorney David Boies, who sliced-and-diced his testimony to a fare-thee-well. Despite having asserted over and over again in various speeches and publications that allowing gay men and lesbians to marry would damage the institution of marriage, under oath a tongue-tied Blankenhorn could not articulate what this damage would be. And, indeed, he was forced to affirm that the day same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S. "We'll be more American."

So meager is Blankenhorn's expertise that in his decision Judge Walker described his testimony as "inadmissible opinion . . . that should be given essentially no weight." He remarked that "None of Blankenhorn's opinions is reliable" or supported by evidence or methodology.

In addition, Blankenhorn's activism against same-sex marriage attracted the attention of critics such as Frank Rich, as well as many gay bloggers, who ridiculed his ineffectual testimony.

In his New York Times column, Rich not only pointed out that the Institute of American Values is financed by ultra right-wing foundations and that Blankenhorn and his wife receive handsome compensation from these sources, but also associated him with anti-gay bigots like George Rekers, who also testified against gay rights for large fees but who was exposed as a hypocrite and fraud for hiring a "luggage handler" from Rentboy.com.

Most memorably, Rich speculated that the proponents of Prop 8 employed Blankenhorn "as their star witness [only because] no actual experts could be found (or rented) to match his disparagement of gay parents."

Soon Blankenhorn was whining that he was being treated unfairly. He marshaled a group of his associates, including Maggie Gallagher, to solemnly testify that he was no bigot. [As Anonymous wrote, "Having Maggie Gallagher swear that you are not a bigot is like asking Bernie Madoff to certify that you are not a crook."]

He complained to Duncan Osborne of Gay City News "I'm losing friends, being told I'm on the wrong side of history, I'm like Bull Connor," he said, adding "This is the single worst experience I have had in my public life."

He also made the preposterous claim that he had resisted getting involved in the campaign against same-sex marriage: "I feel like the issue hunted me down," he said.

More recently, he seems to be intent on completely rewriting the history of his involvement in the fight against marriage equality. In a February 6, 2012 discussion at his FamilyScolars.org blog, Blankenhorn astoundingly denies that he is part of the anti-same-sex marriage movement.

"You say that I am part of a particular 'movement.'," he told a commenter. "I've never thought of it that way. To the best of my knowledge, I've never been to a meeting that was organized to develop strategies, raise funds, etc, on this issue. I've never joined a group or signed a petition on the issue; I've never donated money; I've never tried to intervene in elections with respect to this issue. . . . I wrote a book on the subject; I've written some articles; I testified as an expert witness; I've given some speeches and had some debates--but in each of these cases I have represented no one but myself, and have always tried to make that clear; and I have frequently found myself intellectually essentially to be a party of one, when it comes to this topic."

This is a remarkable statement not simply because it alters the historical record, but it makes one wonder whether this man of monumental ego has any real understanding of himself and his role in the world.

Blankenhorn's record of participation in the anti-same-sex marriage movement is voluminous. His "intervention" in the election in which Proposition 8 was passed is easily documented, as well as his frequent appearances at gatherings sponsored by intensely homophobic groups.

On September 2008, on the eve of the vote on Proposition 8, he wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times entitled "Protecting Marriage to Protect Children" that began, "I am a liberal democrat. And I do not favor same-sex marriage."

The title of this odious op-ed fed into Prop 8's fear-mongering campaign strategy to depict gay people as dangerous to children. Indeed, the title echoes the name of Anita Bryant's organization of the 1970s, "Protect America's Children," which implied that gay men were child molesters intent on "recruiting" America's children.

By presenting himself as an anti-homophobic opponent of same-sex marriage, Blankenhorn helped craft the message that one could oppose same-sex marriage without being a bigot even as he helped stoke fears that gay people are dangerous to children, one of the bigoted messages skillfully disseminated by the Prop 8 campaign.

For all his belated attempts to distance himself from his history as a cultural warrior, the record is clear. He seems to know that he cast his lot with the wrong side in the civil rights struggle of his time and wants to salve his reputation, but he cannot deny his role in depriving people of equal rights.

Blankenhorn is exceedingly self-absorbed and very interested in having others think well of him. As Anonymous wrote in "Confessions of a Blog Addict," so many of the opponents of equal rights not only want to deprive us of fundamental rights, but they also want us to think well of them. When we don't, they see themselves as victims. While they possess enormous reservoirs of self-pity, they seem unable to empathize with gay people or to acknowledge the harm they do to others.

Blankenhorn clearly fits within that rubric. He curtly dismisses commenters at FamilyScholars.org, especially a persistent gay man named "Christopher," who call attention to the difficulties they face as a result of their inability to marry. Blankenhorn seems constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the pain he has caused to others even as he seems hypersensitive to the fact that he is widely regarded as a bigot.

Rather than attempting to rewrite his history of activism against equal rights, Blankenhorn would do better to pay attention to the testimony of Spencer Perry about how Proposition 8 affected his family.

Spencer Perry's powerful statement is captured in the video posted below.

 
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