With this ring…I cut off any other possibilities.

I’m married and in exile in Canada with my Zimbabwean partner but am perpetually frustrated by the focus on ‘marriage’ in the States.  It’s true that with marriage we get all of the rights we are denied in the States and elsewhere. But I suspect we’re really damaging our cause by making ‘marriage’ the sole goal.


Since 1993, the whole queer civil rights movement has been hijacked by the marriage issue thanks to the huge non-grassroots HRC and GLTF, etc.  And the right wing. Both of these parties have played on the enormous emotional investment individuals on both sides have in the word ‘Marriage’. Consequently, the large queer orgs and the Republicaans tend to suck all of the energy and resources out of smaller issues and use our lives as wedges. Republican strategists, such as Newt “Contract on America” Gingrich and Karl “Just get me a f**king faith-based thing. Got it?” Rove, figured this out a long time ago.  Focusing on marriage was a strategic move by these people in response to Hawaii and DOMA.  Not in response to a need in queer communities. The longer marriage and all of its horror and delight can stay on the front pages, the more everybody benefits – except gay people.

So, no employment protections, no immigration rights, no hate crime legislation – nope just marriage.  Depressing.  And I love my husband!!!  Queers were successful in Canada bec’ here, they took on smaller things like employment, housing rights, partner benefits AND worked very hard (a la Harvey Milk) to build allies (esp. labor).

And we miss the many opportunities to build alliances around these issues, such as LGBTQ partner immigration rights, when we can’t see past our navels and realize that un-married straight couples are in the same boat as we are.  It’s true they, at least, have the option of marriage – but why should anyone be coerced into marriage just to arrange her private domestic life?

~ by Thom on March 17, 2009.

6 Responses to “With this ring…I cut off any other possibilities.”

  1. Check out the articles on http://www.squarewondotorg.wordpress.com. There is a three article series on Prop 8. Part II is at http://squarewondotorg.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/prop-8-and-circular-reasoning%E2%80%94part-ii-defining-the-%E2%80%9Cright%E2%80%9D-in-question/

    Part I is about natural law, Part II about legal defenses, and Part III, coming tomorrow, addresses the public benefits of traditional marriage which the state can promote.

    • We’re on VERY different pages about these issues. That said, thanks for your comments.

      ‘Natural’ law is interpreted by people, i.e. there is no such thing as ‘natural’. I’m not going to waste my time defusing the Nature argument since this is 2009; we’re all wearing eyeglasses, driving cars, enjoying air conditioning and doing invasive and unnatural healing practices. Surely, it must be time to retire this straw man argument. In terms of ‘legal’ defense, it comes down to whether or not the civil rights of citizens ought to be extended by ballot. They should not. The State ought to defend our civil rights (which is granted in a civil law context). Lastly, there is no such thing as ‘traditional’ marriage. Marriage has been a civil &/or religious contract entered into over the last several hundred years – that hardly makes it ‘traditional’, “ancient” or any of the other adjectives which scholarly work on marriage easily refutes. The people who continue to trot out arguments based on semantics (‘natural’, ‘traditional’, etc.) are those who do not want to answer the substantive question which is: on what grounds does the State have a vested interest in removing civil rights from a class of citizens?

  2. Glad to read that we can dialogue. Thanks for allowing the post and for the comments. But regarding your comments, you assume, very conclusorily, that this was a civil right to which citizens were entitled to begin with. You don’t offer any argument for that. You also fail to make the important distinction of private vs. public goods, thereby convoluting enforcement of a private desire (same-sex marriage) with state sanction of a public good (traditional marriage). Read Part III tomorrow. In fact, your points about tradition are not backed by reason, but by what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”–the idea that because something is traditional then it is automatically defunct. Offer reasons for why same-sex marriage should be adopted. It’s not clear that it has already “existed.” Prove that by argument, not by assuming you are already correct.

    • We can dialogue – but no name-calling. Just like I’m not buying semantic-based arguments, I don’t go in for being called a snob. I could offer millions of reasons why s/s marriage should be adopted – but I’m not the one who wants to deny the access to civil law. The burden is on those who want to discriminate and exclude to defend their position. Not me, for mine. Second, and unfortunately, you’ve taken my post as a defense of gay marriage which it presumes is valid.

      But let’s park that a second: blacks were denied voting, property ownership and so on because people didn’t think that they deserved to partake in the laws of a civil society. You’re absolutely right. We have to agree that each of us can partake of the obligations and benefits of the civil legal structures (of which civil marriage is one) which govern our communities. This seems to be rather obvious and the burden would (again) be on the parties who say our right to partake in the benefits ought to be denied.

      Back to your frustration with my unwillingness to defend my inalienable rights: in terms of private/public good, I presume you are referring to the Good (not goods and services). The Good is constantly in debate but certainly the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the United Nations Bill of Rights, the US Bill of Rights, the US Constitution would have made a good enough case for why equal access is a public Good by now. If not, then there’s probably not much more I can say. You could try Cass Sunstein’s articles – amazing scholar around these issues.

      Further, I don’t provide reasons for our marriages because I do not intend to argue the marriage issue. That’s your burden. I’ll never convince you as you’ve already made up your mind. Chronology may be snobbery but it certainly is the way most of our culture agrees what is ‘tradition’ or ‘ancient’. I am going to open a can of worms but John Boswell has done enormously fine work on s/s Christian marriages from the 1st-3rd centuries (e.g. “Same-Sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe”). Since you note historical trends, you may be interested in reading up on some of that research. It’s fascinating and certainly opened my eyes.

      As I said in my post, this marriage thing doesn’t interest me. What interests me is how the whole queer movement has been hijacked by semantics and how we allowed the Right to dictate it. Using, might I say, much the same strategy that you’ve attempted with me: “Offer reasons why same-sex marriage should be adopted.” Then it’s up to me to defend a position that you assert on my behalf! If I had my way, we’d probably bag the whole civil marriage system.

      But your argument is not your fault, the Limbaughs, Coulters and so on of the world have ruined public discourse. With all due respect, laws emerge from the governance of the intersection of private desire and the public Good. Hobbes is a good place to start; so is Arendt. Trust me, whether you think the State should sanction our relationships or not (and believe me, I wish the State would intervene and un-sanction a whole lot of hetero relationships!), there are a whole heck of a lot of benefits that we’d prefer to have instead of marriage.

  3. I spoke with a hard core Catholic lady friend. The reason why they are so against gay marriage, is that they see it as a direct assault against the power structures that be. They are scared it’s gonna be a slippery slope to armageddon.

    • Hi there,
      Yes, everything is a slippery slope to something hateful if that’s the way we want to see things. Faith is, though, a pretty lame rationale for ruining a bunch of people’s lives and families. Jesus hardly ran around endorsing the power structures that be – if anyone wants to study Him. Thanks for writing!

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