DOMA, Gay Rights, and Anti-Marriage Stance — 5 Comments

  1. I was uncertain how to react to the recent decision in NY to allow same-sex marriage. I guess i was leery of being the scrooge again… That’s why i was particularly excited when i read Kathrine Franke’s op-ed piece “Marriage is a Mixed Blessing.” It includes gems like these:

    While many in our community have worked hard to secure the right of same-sex couples to marry, others of us have been working equally hard to develop alternatives to marriage. For us, domestic partnerships and civil unions aren’t a consolation prize made available to lesbian and gay couples because we are barred from legally marrying. Rather, they have offered us an opportunity to order our lives in ways that have given us greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.
    Of course, lots of same-sex couples will want to marry as soon as they are allowed to, and we will congratulate them when they do even if we ourselves choose not to. But we shouldn’t be forced to marry to keep the benefits we now have, to earn and keep the respect of our friends and family, and to be seen as good citizens.

    So, i guess another assumption is that all same-sex couples want to marry, actually that all singles want to marry!

    (Hat tip to Bella DePaulo)

  2. I’m not sure that being against marriage, straight or gay, would lead someone to conclude that a person is against gay rights. It would seem to me that someone who is not in favor of marriage would probably have a more radical view, and thus would probably be more accepting of gay rights. Though given that the gay community is pushing hard for marriage, I can see how opposing marital status discrimination can be seen as opposing gay rights.

    Not really surprised at a conservative strain in the gay community, as I’ve encountered that before. When I objected to an anti-single argument during the Prop 8 court fight at a prominent gay site, 3 of the 4 following comments were negative about singles. The funny thing is, I could see some of those same comments directed at gays as well as singles…

  3. Hi Rachel, nicely written! On 1), I don’t assume that someone who is anti-marriage is anti-same-sex-rights, at all. I do think that responding to victories in the gay marriage struggle with disparaging comments about marriage is disempowering and also has the effect of stealing the limelight from one struggle onto a different one. On 2), I don’t see where that assumption comes from, whether talking about straight or gay people. And on 3), where does that come from? The fact that one sees something as important is a mile away from seeing it as the most important. And concluding that gay people should repurpose their energies toward fighting for universal health care is a hard leap for this relatively straight man to make.

    • Bud: My main point is that the struggle for same-sex marriage is only one small part of the struggles that gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgender folks have been and are fighting. My “disparaging comments about marriage” honor those struggles because they are not about marriage, they are about equal rights – and respect and dignity even for those who live differently than “normal.” And i believe that there are not two struggles but one – unless we’re fighting for moving the bright red dividing line because that fight leaves out tons of people. I am fighting for more inclusive rights.

      The second assumptions comes from ignoring the bigger issues. If we focus on marriage, we miss that not all people want to get married (or that they cannot get married because they don’t have partners!). That does not mean that excluding people from the institution of marriage isn’t wrong – it is discrimination.

      The third assumption comes from an analysis of where the money and energy within the main LGBT organizations is being spent on. I am by far the only one calling those orgs out on this focus (Mecca and Warner are two other examples). They are angry about that focus because people who could use our help are not being helped.

      Finally, i find it a bit offensive to be accused of “disempowering” and “stealing the limelight.” First, “outdated” is not disparaging. Then, i don’t see how asking that “equality for all” truly includes everybody not just those who want to be coupled (another example where assumption 2 is coming from) is disempowering. And, then, again, the limelight is only stolen if you define the struggle so narrowly that you pit coupled people against singles. Lastly, you are ignoring a big swath of the struggle: The swath i am trying to bring out – the struggles that are being fought by people who are too hungry to begin to think about marrying someone. The struggles that Mecca is documenting in his book. I invite you to read the last few pages of Mecca’s intro to the book he edited. This whole thing isn’t my idea. And it’s not about “singles rights.” It’s about everyone’s rights.

    • Reading Bella DePaulo’s column about singlism and the birthers this morning, i realized that there seems to be another troubling assumption lurking in your “stealing the limelight” comment: There are different struggles and we cannot use one to illuminate the other. In Bella’s case, she examines racism to help us understand singlism. In my case, i examined homophobia and heteronormativity to better understand singlism and couplemania. All of these are based on stereotypes and are oppressive. And as Bella put it:

      The psychology, though, is likely much the same. Those who are motivated to maintain a disparaging belief about another person or group (whether it is racism or sexism or singlism or heterosexism or ageism or any of the other isms), and who have found a like-minded community of believers, will continue to issue the demand, “Prove it.”

      By slicing and dicing, we end up with ideas that passing same-sex marriage will help all people when in fact, it only creates new privileges rather than dismantling all privilege.

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