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Gay marriage could lead to fewer heterosexual marriages, witness says

January 26, 2010 |  5:14 pm

The head of a think tank on marriage and family testified at the Proposition 8 federal trial today that same-sex marriage would weaken marriage and possibly lead to fewer heterosexual marriages, more divorces and "more public consideration of polygamy."

But under cross examination, David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, acknowledged that he wrote in a book in 2007 that the U.S. would be "more American on the day we permit same-sex marriage than we were on the day before."

Blankenhorn was called as an expert witness by lawyers defending Proposition 8 against a constitutional challenge by two same-sex couples. He is an author and researcher who is not associated with any university. He earned a master's degree in history in England, where he studied the history of labor unions.

Blankenhorn testified that he later worked as a community activist in low-income neighborhoods in Massachusetts and Virginia, where he became interested in the impact of fatherless families on children.

After testifying that marriage was designed for two opposite-sex parents to bear and raise children, Blankenhorn said he decided during the last two years to support domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians as a "humane compromise."

He said he previously had feared domestic partnerships would both undermine marriage and discriminate against gays, but concluded that they were more legal arrangements than marriage.

Under cross examination by David Boies, an attorney for challengers of the ballot measure, Blankenhorn admitted he knew of no study showing that children reared from birth by same-sex couples fared worse than those raised by biological parents.

Blankenhorn also conceded that same-sex marriage would probably "improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children."

A spokeswoman for proponents of Proposition 8 said she did not know the context of Blankenhorn's statement that the country would be "more American" with same-sex marriage. Blankenhorn testified that he still holds that view.

Cross-examination and redirect are scheduled for Wednesday morning.

-- Maura Dolan in the San Francisco federal courthouse