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Tuesday Recap Federal Prop 8 Trial


Testimony in the federal Proposition 8 trial will conclude Wednesday, with attorneys for two gay couples rigorously attacking defense expert witnesses' assertions on the purported harms of marriage equality. Among them: that gay marriage will lead to higher divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births for heterosexuals.

However, Prop. 8 proponents on Tuesday appeared to bolster what plaintiffs in the case have argued all along: that there is no credible evidence pointing to any negative effects on opposite-sex couples and their families if gays were allowed to marry. In fact, for the third time in the trial, defense expert witness testimony corroborated plaintiffs' argument that same-sex marriage can only serve to strengthen gay couples' relationships and lead to a stronger familial foundation for their children.

Following the conclusion of testimony, Judge Vaughn Walker is expected to review evidence and schedule closing arguments in the coming weeks.

Defense witness and Institute for American Values president David Blankenhorn told the court Tuesday afternoon that the core purpose of marriage is to fulfill a child's need "to be emotionally, morally, practically, and legally affiliated with the woman and the man whose sexual union brought the child into the world."

"That is not all that marriage is or does," Blankenhorn said. "But nearly everywhere on the planet, that is fundamentally what marriage is."

In a lengthy cross-examination by plaintiffs' attorney David Boies, Blankenhorn struggled to offer empirical data showing gay marriage's corrosive societal effects (his testimony continues on Wednesday). During a heated back-and-forth that lasted nearly an hour, Boies repeatedly asked Blankenhorn whether any scholars he referenced had concluded in their research that gay marriage would likely harm opposite-sex married couples.

"I'm not asking you to try to probe their minds," an exasperated Boies said. "I'm simply asking you what they said. Do any scholars assert that permitting same-sex marriage would result in a lower rate of heterosexual marriage? Yes? No? Or I don't know?"

"I cannot answer you accurately if the only answers can be yes or no," Blankenhorn said with a raised voice." Turning to Judge Walker, he complained, "[Boies] is only permitting me to give a yes or no."

"I believe there is a third option: I don't know," Walker said to courtroom laughter.

"But I do know," Blankenhorn replied.

"Well, then the answer is yes or no," Walker said. "Counsel is entitled to an answer to his question. That's how this process works."

Blankenhorn remained defiant: "I know exactly my answer to this question. I cannot give an accurate answer if my only options are yes or no."

Blankenhorn was also unable to back up his assertions that children who grow up in a household with both biological parents were more likely to contribute positively to society.

As with a previous anti-gay marriage witness in the trial, Blankenhorn said he supported domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians, calling them a "humane compromise." But he then also admitted under cross-exam that they were inherently discriminatory.

When cornered, Blakenhorn often retreated from his role as a defense expert in the trial to that of a concerned citizen. "I may sound simplistic," he said, "but I believe we lose something precious if ... traditional marriage is lost." will be tweeting the final day of testimony at @TheAdvocateMag.

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