Just as I am sick of Tony Perkins and the bile of the Family Research Council that he runs, I am sick of the people on my side of the aisle who castigate the GLBT folks who have been working to win the right to get married because they see it as too normative.
Feministing highlighted an article off of Alternet by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore that just succeeded in irritating the hell out of me. I’m just going to paste the quotes in and dissect as we go. Have fun! If you get bored, check out this week’s Savage Love, in which Dan Savage reams some straight people who plan on getting married but are relationship idiots because Tony Perkins tormented him. (That’s all Perkins knows how to do.) Or you could watch Stephen Colbert undercut Perkins on The Colbert Report from last night. So those are your other options. On to me tormenting fellow lefties!
Sycamore begins by saying that she flat out doesn’t support gay marriage and, to illustrate why, says:
Gay marriage does nothing to address fundamental problems of inequality. What is needed is universal access to basic necessities like housing, health care, food, and the benefits now obtained through citizenship (like the right to stay in this country)…
Nope. It sure doesn’t address those things. When you start with sweeping expectations like that in an essay, it’s pretty impossible to argue. And yet…I continue.
Legalized gay marriage means only that certain people in a specific type of long-term, monogamous relationship sanctioned by a state contract might be able to access benefits. While marriage could confer inclusion under a spouse’s health-care policy, it does nothing to provide such a policy. Marriage might ensure hospital visitation rights, but not for anyone without a spouse. Marriage may allow for inheritance rights between spouses, but what if there is nothing to inherit?
Now, I hate to be nitpicky (no I don’t), but you don’t actually have to be monogamous–straight or gay–to get married. You just have to pick someone as primary partner. Other than that, there’s nothing Sycamore says here that is inherently wrong, but the inverse argument doesn’t really help. I mean, what if there is something to inherit? What if there is a health policy that can be provided? An argument that bases itself on absence isn’t very meaningful.
For a long time, queers have married straight friends for citizenship or health care, but this has never been enshrined as “progress.” The majority of queers — single or coupled (but not desiring marriage), monogamous or polyamorous, jobless or marginally employed — would remain excluded from the much-touted benefits of legalized gay marriage.
Dude. Marrying straight friends has been what is known as “working the system.” Of course it isn’t progress. It reaffirms the double standard of what relationships are worth. As for the “majority of queers” remaining excluded from marriage benefits…how is she coming up with what constitutes a majority? Who does she consider queer? I’m in no way saying that marriage is a saving grace for the queer community, but let’s stop throwing around vague quantitative terms. Give me numbers, even rounded ones. I’d also argue that jobless and marginally employed folks wouldn’t necessarily not benefit–especially if their spouses were employed…
And let’s not forget the history of marriage as a legal method for keeping property within specific dynasties (property that originally included women and slaves). In fact, marriage still exists as a central venue for spousal and child abuse — there’s a reason divorce is so popular, and suicide attempts among queer teens so prevalent.
Marriage=venue for abuse=queer teen suicide. The leaps in logic here, ignoring the complete lack of data correlating these things…just, wow. Queer teens are harassed, are a part of society where queer relationships are denigrated, and are made to feel alienated by the larger culture. This happens with/without married parents. Show me data that says that queer teen suicide is predominantly taking place in households with married parents and I’ll eat my words. But right now…dumping bad things into a paragraph together doesn’t make an argument.
Also? Bringing up the history of marriage? The Family Research Council does that too. Moving on.
In fact, the push for gay marriage has shifted advocacy away from essential services like HIV education, AIDS health care, drug treatment, domestic violence prevention, and homeless care — all crucial needs for far more queers than marriage could ever be.
Agree/disagree. In the absence of the push for gay marriage, would these things be getting addressed better? I’m not entirely sure I buy that argument.
You know, I have a number of friends who have worked hard over the course of years and years to deal with domestic/sexual violence and the only constant I’ve seen in terms of funding is eternal crisis. There is never enough money, they are always overworked, severely underpaid, and stressed to an extraordinary point. Also, a lot of these things rely on grants in addition to private donation. Grants aren’t on the menu for marriage advocates, so that money isn’t even in the picture.
I can’t say for sure that resources aren’t being diverted, but I question whether a=b.
The spectacle around gay marriage draws attention away from critical issues — like ending U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, and challenging the never-ending assault on anyone living outside of conventional norms.
True that. But I’m afraid that arguing that we’re doing ourselves a disservice by drawing attention to ourselves is defeatist. There will always be more “pressing” issues (homelessness, war, etc.) than exclusively queer rights. And I’m talking about more than marriage here. Someone will always be able to argue that something like war trumps civil rights. But just because you can make the argument doesn’t mean it’s a good one.
While many straight people are reaping the benefits of gay liberation and discovering new ways of loving, lusting for and caring for one another, the gay marriage movement is busy fighting for a 1950s model of white-picket fence “we’re just like you” normalcy. And that’s no reason to celebrate.
Oh, come on! That’s how it ends? The trite “if you want something they have, you’re vanilla and boring and not one of us” line? Ugh.
Look, whether or not marriage is personally something I want or not, I think it’s terribly presumptuous to ask queer/GLBT people to identify as transgressive. There’s nothing wrong with monogamy, there’s nothing wrong with having a primary partner if you sleep with more than one person, and there’s nothing wrong with consenting adults figuring out their relationships however they’d like. My problem is with any of us forcing our values on the others.
Marriage is not the solution, but in a society where the very question of whether or not GLBT people should be allowed into the club sends our entire society into a manic episode, it’s not something to be so easily dismissed.
Back when I had a customer service job and had to interact with random people when I was younger, I found that a fake wedding ring made my life a million times easier. If some idiot hit on me and I said I had a boyfriend, it didn’t even dent his game–if I said I was married, it was usually over. Despite the problems marriage has in our society, it still carries with it a level of respect for the relationship that you just don’t get otherwise. It’s a big deal, culturally, and to pretend that it and all the privilege it gets you are some minor irrelevancy in the face of Big Problems like homelessness, war, etc…well, that’s just naive. Or willfully ignorant.