I can only imagine the agita that Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage must be having right now. The only major witness for the Proposition 8 proponents in the Perry v. Brown trial brought by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), David Blankenhorn, the founder of the Institute for American Values has come out for marriage equality in a piece in the New York Times:

I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.

I had also hoped that debating gay marriage might help to lead heterosexual America to a broader and more positive recommitment to marriage as an institution. But it hasn’t happened. With each passing year, we see higher and higher levels of unwed childbearing, nonmarital cohabitation and family fragmentation among heterosexuals. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the reconceptualization of marriage as a private ordering that is so central to the idea of gay marriage. But either way, if fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage overall, I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now.

So my intention is to try something new. Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.

He tiptoed toward this view when he spoke out strongly against NC’s Amendment One in N&O op-ed in April, citing its extremity in preventing any legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

For one thing, it means that North Carolina could not, now or ever, take any step or devise any policy to extend legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples. No domestic partnership laws. No civil unions. Nothing.

That’s mighty cold. If you disdain gay and lesbian persons, and don’t care whether they and their families remain permanently outside of the protection of our laws, such a policy might be your cup of tea. But it’s not our view, and we doubt that it’s the view of most North Carolinians.

Thank you, David Blankenhorn, for crossing the bridge over to full equality.

Human Rights Campaign‘s President Chad Griffin:

“David Blankenhorn’s evolution on marriage equality is emblematic of the paradigm shift we are experiencing as a country on this issue. Loving gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to make the same lifelong commitment as everyone else and Blankenhorn’s agreement with that proposition puts him in the mainstream of American opinion.“What David Blankenhorn has shown the world is that through careful deliberation and a deepening understanding of LGBT people, one can only draw the conclusion that the answer is full equality. While it can be difficult as a public figure to change course, I applaud him for taking a courageous and principled stand. His experience wrestling with the issue of marriage equality and coming out on the right side of history will be an inspiration to millions of fair-minded Americans who are in the same place.”