Several weeks ago, the anti-gay organization Family Policy Institute of Washington got firmly behind the “Family Second Chances” bill (SB 5614) introduced into the Washington state legislature. The bill is intended to reduce divorce rates by extending the mandatory waiting period from 90 days to one year, and would require those seeking a divorce to read a government-produced handbook containing information on “the benefits of avoiding divorce, and resources to assist in reconciliation.”
The bill suffered from bipartisan opposition and died in committee last week, but the fate of the bill is not the interesting part. What is interesting here is that Family Policy Institute of Washington, an ardent opponent of marriage equality, still feels that civil marriage is worth fighting for, even with same-sex couples now on the marriage rolls.
Last November, Washington voters, along with voters in Maine and Maryland, approved freedom to marry laws by voter referendum. Prior to that election, Mr. Backholm, FPIW and others insisted that marriage equality would undermine the very foundations of civilization.
Apparently there was little genuine belief behind that claim, because just a few months later FPIW featured the “second chances” bill on their bill tracker web page, blogged in favor of it and promoted it on their weekly legislative update calls. FPIW’s executive director, Joseph Backholm, even testified in favor of the bill before the Senate Law & Justice committee, where he emphasized a “best interest of the children” rationale for reconciliation by those contemplating divorce.
Just months ago, Mr. Backholm was insisting that children would suffer if same-sex parents could get married. Now he wants those parents to stay married.
A prototype of the “second chances” bill is being pushed nationwide by David Blankenhorn’s Institute for American Values. Mr. Blankenhorn is a social conservative who has come to terms with the existence of marriage equality and who rejects the use of gays as a scapegoat for the decreasing rate of participation of heterosexuals in marriage
During his testimony in California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 case, Mr. Blankenhorn stated that “I believe that adopting same-sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children”. In an op-ed in the New York Times last year, Mr. Blankenhorn spoke of “the equal dignity of homosexual love” and stated that “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.”
This is part of the philosophy behind the “second chances” bill that FPIW and Mr. Backholm chose to back.
If FPIW and Mr. Backholm can switch gears so completely from virulent opposition to the freedom to marry law to an effort to better preserve all civil marriages in Washington state, it’s a tacit admission by them that the sky hasn’t fallen with the advent of marriage equality.
And it has.