Queer and Opposed to Marriage Equality

Today is a hard day to rain on people’s marriage parades. I’m doing it anyway because my stomach is turning to lead and my heart wants to throw up and silence will make it worse. This issue is far from over and my silence, I feel, is the problem to begin with.

I’ll start with an introduction: I am — first and foremost — a queer activist for economic justice. I support a radical redistribution of wealth, and I stand against capitalism and what it does to people’s bodies. As for marriage equality, I am not just unenthusiastic or reserved about this as a goal for the LGBT rights movement — I actively boycott it, and would like to see it abolished as soon as possible.

In my work, I have three priorities for queer economic justice: Prison and the criminal justice system, physical safety (health care, freedom from violence), and poverty (housing/homelessness, income/wages, etc.). Perhaps it doesn’t go without saying that queer and trans people are disproportionately impacted by these issues, particularly trans people and/or people of color, and also that my work in these areas is not limited to the impact on queer and trans people. And it definitely doesn’t go without saying that I think marriage is a totally inappropriate way to deal with any of these issues.

With that, I have two main problems with the marriage equality movement: 1. That its operation takes a tremendous amount of money, energy, and attention away from far more pressing issues. (Sometimes this is clear and direct, such as California spending $43 million on Prop 8 while $85 million was being cut from HIV/AIDS services. Sometimes this is more subtle, the successes of which can be measured when every single straight person I know uses their approval for same-sex marriage to demonstrate their allyship to me.) 2. That its strategies actively work against movements for queer economic justice, by removing capitalism, meaningful immigration reform, and gender/sexual deviance from the discussion entirely.

Let’s strip away the sentimentality for a moment and consider that legal marriage is intended as a site for hoarding your wealth. In fact this is one of its primary historical purposes. This is why in modern times you get rewarded with tax breaks and shared benefits (or stand to lose them if you’re very poor) and, regardless of income, you are encouraged by our government (and society in general) to lock down into a nuclear family unit and not share any of your shit with people you don’t like. (No really, I mean it — stop thinking about love for a second and think about that.)

It’s true that the promises of marriage are very, very real — especially for people who are just barely hanging onto the next highest class rung. Of course it can help some of them keep their hold on it — it is designed to do that. I will never deny that marriage can provide concrete, material benefits to some poor, working class, and lower-middle class people, and I’m not passing judgment on individual choices about whether to take advantage of those benefits when your life would kind of suck otherwise. I am generally in favor of people having shit they need, and of short-term solutions for short-term problems.

The problem is that the marriage equality movement, which is the real subject here, is not about individuals and it is not interested in other solutions. The marriage equality movement, like the institution of marriage itself, is a major distraction from the fact that our government refuses to sustain social services and public benefits in the first place — a process the marriage equality movement is now mimicking by stealing all the money. This is where I find myself so frustrated with the majority of Democrats/liberals/progressives on this issue, who claim we are walking in the same direction with different steps. Just because some people will get more money from something does not mean that a national fight for that thing is an economic justice project. It’s a trap of linear logic that so many have fallen into, and following it is like building condos in the middle of a housing crisis — as it turns out, most things have more than one opposite, and the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

It is not a coincidence that the rhetoric, imagery, and marketing of the marriage equality movement is so utterly assimilationist, and this is where my problems extend to issues of personal safety. This movement intentionally and maliciously erases and excludes so many queer people and cultures, particularly trans and gender non-conforming people, poor queer people, and queer people in non-traditional families. This movement whitewashes, breeder-izes, and cis-sexxifies the criteria for acceptance and civil rights, ignoring the most extreme threat to queer and trans people’s civil liberties: That if we cannot pass for straight and cissexual, we are deemed worthy of violence, detention, and death. In recent (and predictable) developments, conservatives who have joined the same-sex marriage bandwagon are using it as a wedge against single parents, immigrant families, and others. (Sometimes, the enemy of your new friend… is the person you should actually be friends with.)

So, to recap why I’m against it: Marriage promotes hoarding in a time of class war; marriage thinks non-married people are deviant and not truly deserving of civil rights; marriage doesn’t even know that 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated.

Last, I’d like to respond to the common statement that marriage is an important vehicle for raising awareness of all kinds of other LGBT issues, promoting acceptance of LGBT people, getting all LGBT people a pony and an espresso machine, etc.

For one thing, it’s really not. This movement targets a ton of queer and trans people for exclusion when it markets such narrow inclusion, and there is no inherent connection between “I think those two dudes who look like Anders should be able to get gay married” and “I think that chronically homeless trans woman should be given $2000 so she can come live next door to me.” In fact, I would argue that acceptance of the former strengthens rejection of the latter.

For another, the promise to “come back for” queer economic justice issues after marriage is squared away is pretty insulting to those of us already working in those movements, or to people in dire straits whom marriage cannot help. It’s also a pretty little lie, because it will absolutely never be convenient for people with class privilege to prioritize poverty issues. And, as it turns out, the powers of gentrification only grow stronger when your white picket fence is legally installed. If your excuse is that you’ve just got a few other things on your list right now, at the very least I would like you to acknowledge that we are not on the same page at all. Honestly. The most disappointing aspect of this divide for me, on days like today, is that marriage equality people don’t seem to see that there is one. This is far more troubling to me, and much harder to interrupt. It is more than a question of political projects, it is also a question of philosophy and analysis, without which political projects are irrelevant at best.

I’d say that I’m open to talking about this with people who support marriage equality, and of course in the end I will. But “open” is the wrong word today. I feel resigned to this conversation, and rather cheerless about its prospects. But I suppose, being the truth, it’s as good a beginning as any.

55 thoughts on “Queer and Opposed to Marriage Equality

  1. Interesting POV, but I think your title’s misleading. You seems to be against marriage and against the economic and energetic focus on the issue in favor of other issues you consider more important. “Why I Oppose Marriage Equality” should either be changed to “Why I Oppose the Marriage Equality Movement” or “Why I Oppose Marriage”.

    • This post was intended for others within the LGBT community and LGBT rights movement, and who know me as a queer activist. I am opposed to both marriage as an institution and equality as a political framework, favoring the framework of restorative justice instead. I can see how it would be misleading if you didn’t know that — I really did not expect such wide readership of this post or I might have planned that differently.

    • This post was intended for others within the LGBT community and LGBT rights movement, and who know me as a queer activist. I am opposed to both marriage as an institution and equality as a political framework, favoring the framework of restorative justice instead. I can see how it would be misleading if you didn’t know that — I really did not expect such wide readership of this post or I might have planned that differently.

  2. Do you have any data to back up your claim that married couples “hoard their wealth”? It’s my understanding that from what I’ve read that it’s the opposite of what you’re saying, that even with their tax breaks they are assuming more debt(in effect spending more) than their unmarried peers but if you have data to prove me otherwise I would love to read it.

    • I was referring to the structures that support nuclear, married households in general, not a study of married people keeping more wealth than single people, so unfortunately I don’t think I have the data you’re looking for.

      I meant that marriage has historically been the only place where people are expected to share their wealth, subject only to taxes which sometimes (but not always) shelter you for owning property or being married — and taxes which increasingly do not take care of the basic needs of poor people who cannot access their basic needs by marrying someone who has those things.

      • I think if you read about the history of the Soviet Union. One of their first aims was to weaken marriages importance to increase the role the state played in everyday life. From all accounts this resulted in a failure, which they soon backtracked from. Weakening marriage only made the increase in orphans from civil war worse. Marriage does contribute to inefficiencies you listed, like the mortgage crisis and such but it also helps create efficiencies. If gay marriage becomes a common practice in the united states, just by shear volume that’s a dramatic increase in the number of adopters of orphans. That’s a net positive for society. So it’s a complex issue. I think as sui iuris marriage becomes more common, maybe that will help reduce the problems you speak of.

  3. It is frustrating to have an idea of what the future could be – but to see only the baby steps and mis-steps we make from day to day.

  4. Reblogged this on . . . Or Does It Explode? and commented:
    beacuase im tired of talking about these damn equal signs:

    “I have two main problems with the marriage equality movement: 1. That its operation takes a tremendous amount of money, energy, and attention away from far more pressing issues. (Sometimes this is clear and direct, such as California spending $43 million on Prop 8 while $85 million was being cut from HIV/AIDS services…2. That its strategies actively work against movements for queer economic justice, by removing capitalism, meaningful immigration reform, and gender/sexual deviance from the discussion entirely.”

  5. Thank you for sharing, I wish more queers who thought this way would speak out. It is hard though, because we always get silenced by our peers.

  6. This frustrates me. I’m not as well-read on this issue as I should be, and I am definitely not for silencing any dissenters and believe that provocation is needed to get the conversation going on this topic. But I have yet to hear a completely compelling case against marriage equality. The writer cites three main issues with marriage equality: capitalism, criminal justice system, and personal safety. Capitalism is a valid claim for dissent, although fighting against marriage equality as a fight against capitalism seems, to me, like barking up the wrong tree (although it’s definitely a very inflammatory tree, which is probably why it’s used in the first place). The writer then cites the fact that marriage equality is a distraction from other movements/issues (ie criminal justice). While this is a legitimate con, is this a direct argument against marriage equality, or a by-product of it? To me it seems the latter, which I think is a discernible difference. It also brings up the issue of prioritization, which is an ugly concept but a reality within our political climate. Who gets to chose where our energy should go to and why? Why isn’t the writer arguing our energy should go to both? To me that’s a more compelling and less cynical argument than one against marriage equality. Aren’t those arguing against marriage equality prioritizing in similar ways as those arguing for it? Lastly, the writer argues against personal safety. I have seen valid arguments for marriage equality as an act of assimilation and can see how it does so, but I have a really hard time believing that marriage equality won’t in some way ameliorate the cause under the greater umbrella of queer. Of course these are distinct issues, but within dialogue for many outside the movement, they aren’t. If people associates gay with trans, and gay becomes institutionally legal won’t trans become (albeit at this moment uninsitutionally) more acceptable as well? The writer describes there being no inherent connection between the two, and while the writer may be empirically right, this is not the way many people think. They think of gay in associative terms. Finally, the writer brings up “coming back” as a problem, which again I agree is not a solution. However, this again goes to my point that the writer should be arguing for both, instead of just one. They shouldn’t come back, but the answer is not throwing marriage equality to the way side (because, as the writer acknowledges, it will do a whole lot of good for some people). To me, the thinking against marriage equality is the same sort of “linear logic” the writer derails.

    I would love criticism/disagreement, because I have much more to learn on this subject. But these are my initial reactions.

  7. I guess I just feel like the slogan “against marriage equality” is vilifying and dilutes the issue into more more simple, black/white terms than it is. Which is maybe the point. But I find it short-sighted.

  8. Gay-marriage benefits everyone in the LGBTQ community. This argument seems pedantic, what specifically are you arguing for? Banishment of DOMA means that all non-nuclear family sorts can enter into federally ordained partnerships. It is a financial issue, but it represents a broader agenda, which is: the acceptance of all people however they live their lives, as opposed to discrimination based on cultural biases. It seems like you have a problem with the system at large and you are attacking the gay-marriage initiative because it doesn’t agree with the idealistic conceptualizations of a perfect society that you have concocted and because you’re a contrarian who thinks vocalizing ideas that do not comply with contemporary beliefs makes you above them. If you believe in rights for all the sub-communities and the plain vanilla gays themselves then you should understand that this is a stepping stone. A thing isn’t wrong because it deals with reality; It would be impossible to pass an act that does away with Capitalism and tosses on gay marriage as pork. So rather than dwelling on imperfections, try and find the good in these things, it will change your life, if nothing else.

  9. Thank you for a well-reasoned response. I am what I would call a straight ally of queer/trans people, and thoroughly support equal rights for all. But I, too, smelled a rat in this latter-day emphasis on same-sex marriage; I kept wondering why liberals were so vocally coming out in favor or what is essentially a conservative (and as you point out, capitalist/property-accumulating) institution. I wondered why the government should even be involved in such definitions, which are more religious and personal than they are legally necessary (and should be covered by laws on cohabitation, common property, and other extensions of legal unions, rather than by “marriage”). I suddenly felt like we were all being taken for a ride.

    That’s when I raised a similar question in my well populated Facebook ecosystem, and the chorus came in: many stating the same justifications you’ve stated above, usually in the vein of “Hey, it’s one step in the right direction!” Only a few of my friends and followers seemed to understand that our lopsided attention on same-sex marriage might also be distracting us from paying attention to more important, more urgent issues…or worse, that it might even make truly progressive options (such as civil unions, straight or gay; property rights; civil liberties; and a whole host of other issues) even harder to achieve. Few agreed with me, but a handful saw the light (or had already considered similar ideas).

    That’s when I sought kindred spirits, and found the following (in case you hadn’t):
    • Yasmin Nair (http://www.yasminnair.net/content/gay-marriage-conservative-cause)
    • Norman Pollack (http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/26/gay-marriage-a-contrarians-view/)

    Your mileage may vary, but I thank you profusely for stating your case so eloquently. I suspect I shall refer to your piece in the future, as my own thoughts coalesce further. I only wish you had provided us with three (or however many) bullet points to summarize the piece overall (as you did in your outline of three priorities for justice). That might make it easier for us to translate/share your general (and quite astute) analysis with others who need to hear it.

    • I love Yasmin Nair, but did not know Norman Pollack. Thanks for the suggestions. I totally support you speaking out for economic justice as a queer issue with diverse strategies that do not need to include fighting for access to the institution of marriage!

  10. The whole premise of this blog post is that you owe money you EARN to other people/citizens of your society/country. What the hell is wrong with wanting to lock down your money? It’s /your/ goddamn money.

    Can you leftists get more moochier? Earn your own shit, man. JESUS.

    • “The whole premise of this blog post is that you owe money you EARN to other people/citizens of your society/country.” Yes.
      “What the hell is wrong with wanting to lock down your money?” It’s mean and selfish and hurts people.
      “It’s /your/ goddamn money.” Legally maybe, but not institutionally or historically. Economies include everyone; injustice is born when profits and goods do not include everyone.
      “Can you leftists get more moochier?” Yes.
      “Earn your own shit, man.” I’m trying as best I can, man.
      “JESUS.” Agreed – and a great example of a Good Sharer.

    • AC – Thanks for bringing that up. That was one story I felt really good about reading yesterday, especially when friends re-posted it saying things like “Immigration is a queer issue.” My response, in the context of my original post, is that access to citizenship is another of the very real, very important benefits which some people can gain through marriage — but that using marriage as the vehicle for immigration reforms leaves out too many people, including couples (of any orientation) where both people are immigrants. I absolutely believe racial justice has to cross state borders. I guess my question in response would be, Is immigration reform only for married people?

      • As someone who is personally affected by the immigration ramifications of yesterday’s decision, it was really hard not to leave a knee-jerk angry post. After reading this comment I feel that I can agree with you a little more, but I disagree that the gay marriage debate has pulled resources away from immigration reform – that very issue is being approached in Congress right now, though to what degree reform will actually happen is debatable. Yes, I agree that immigration has a lot of problems and that it needs to be overhauled, but I disagree that repealing marriage equality would benefit that struggle in any way.

        I respect the degree of conviction you have to a better quality of life for everyone, and I think many people (myself included) should be taking it more to heart as something we personally can do to improve our countries. I feel like I’m being held hostage right now though – that I shouldn’t should be pushing for the entire agenda until all of our demands are met. That I shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate a way that my life has changed for the better until justice has been done for every person on the planet.

        I just don’t think that our country is going to change as radically and as quickly as you want it to. It never has.

      • Thank you! Again so eloquently stated. Is healthcare reform only for married people too?

  11. Pingback: Victory! Victory. Victory? | Gay. Geek. Dad.

  12. First off, I would like to apologize for the more vitriolic portions of my initial response. Ad hominem attacks have not place in reasoned discourse. But I must admit that the influences, which conduct your argument and are the basis for initiating epistemological inquiry towards any object and as well define the internal values that qualify an argument to a subject, are suspect here. Having read the articles you posted elucidated the justifications for your arguments to me, where, prior I could not understand them. Here are some points you made that I would like to discuss.

    1. Gay-marriage is/should be a non-issue because it is a function of a larger economic/political structure which is flawed.

    2. Because it is a non-issue, resources and effort should not be directed towards it.

    3. Applying the rights of LGBTQ to marriage conforms it to the pre-existing conceptions of marriage which effectively cissexifies and breederizes the issue.

    4. Marriage promotes iniquity by creating division among a population.

    Before I get to any of these though, I would like to correct a misnomer in your second point. The pro-gay-marriage argument and its strategies explicitly and effectively improve queer economic justice, but it can be a distraction from total economic justice for all. And it is but not for the reasons you listed. anti-civil rights movements are maintained by the opposition to equality not the proponents. In this case, the reason that there is Conservative resistance to gay marriage is because the ultra-wealthy used similar issues (Civil Rights) to lure Southern Democrats in the 60’s and 70’s to the Republican party. In order for them to keep people voting for policies which do not benefit them they had to focus on the social elements of neo-conservatism (not to be confused with Libertarianism which is a purer conservatism). This, of course, violates the historic alignment that poor (traditionally) southern farmers have had with the Democratic party because it protected them.

    Now to your points:

    1. The fact that marriage is a part of a system that has many flaws and perpetuates far greater injustices does not make marriage undesirable, nor should it be left on the back burner. Those other issues have their proponents as well. In addition, it is practicable, though not necessarily necessary (haha) that more people have access to all their rights before everyone, so that a society can move on. Imagine if I were to suspend your right to property but tell you to fight for a cause that benefited everyone, what impetus would you have for helping other people if you yourself were being actively discriminated against?

    2. Gay-marriage should be a non-issue, all rights should be granted to everyone, but there are tax benefits being withheld as a result of legislation like DOMA. The issue is not being thrust on anyone by the people supporting it. Simply, this is the system that exists and within it these are the tenets of equality, and until recently these tenets were being denied (at least on the federal level). While the larger picture might stipulate something different there is no way to achieve that greater goal unless attention is also paid to the small picture.

    3. It took me awhile to understand exactly what you meant here, I think it could have used some clarification in the text. Basically, if I understand correctly, you are saying here that contemporary paradigm of marriage does not respect the intricacies of LGBTQ people by suggesting that now two people of the opposite sex can be married and that this is the only sort of partnership that can exist and also that the genders are either female or male, not trans or another variety. But to oppose the institution simply because it does not enumerate all the other possibilities is foolish, because it doesn’t need to be stated that queer people of any type now have the right to marriage. Also your corollary to that, that the institutionalization of marriage for gays ignores the connotation that if you are not straight and cissexual, you are wrong. It does exactly the opposite, it confirms that you don’t have to be straight and cissexual.

    4. While this may be true to a very slight extent, you’re trying once again to take up arms against capitalism again, and it isn’t a wholly bad thing, and furthermore the lack of gay marriage would not improve this either. Capitalism functions on the principle that individuality be maintained in order to motivate people to work and move the system forward. As to whether or not this is true or whatever grievance you may have with that, for the sake of my personal life, I’m not going to touch it. The idea here though is that gay marriage or not we are still divided in the system. So your issue is really with Capitalism not gay marriage which is a manifestation of the equality.

    Having said all this your argument is rather axiomatic at points where it really needs explanation. Especially when you said that the government’s endorsement of marriage labels single people as malicious and deserving of ill-will. Here your conjecture on the nature of marriage law assumes that the government makes moral decisions. Marriage promotes social stability, and tests show that children from families with two or more caretakers fare better than those with just one. In fact, earlier in the year when some conservative think-tank did a study to prove that the children of homosexuals do worse in life they chose straight families with two parents and often used homosexual singles for the homosexual statistics. The results in this skewed study showed, inevitably, that having at least two parents or caretakers improves a child’s performance in almost every field of interest. This is but one of many studies that show that single-parents often do worse raising their children than couples. So marriage does have a benefit to society as a whole and that is why it is given special tax and insurance benefits because government has a stake in society.

    The thing that bothers me is that you refute the movement’s importance by saying it is not a necessary good in regard to the more desirable ideal. In this you show a naivete in believing those other causes you have listed can be quickly dealth with, or at all with one fells swoop, rather than taking small steps to the ultimate goal. But also you show a lack of sympathy that someone who is true QSA believer should have, it is the motivating factor for equality. Lack of access to the benefits of marriage is a hindrance in a society where marriage is important to survival and success, the terms of which are irrelevant in the debate over gay marriage. Furthermore the striking down of DOMA serves important psychological victory for the LGBTQ community and moves our nation towards greater egalitarianism. The effect of which should not be treated lightly.

    • The central problem I have with this (and most) arguments in favor of marriage as part of the greater good is with the following idea, which you seem to incorporate throughout your argument: That an opposition to homophobia anywhere is somehow aligned (politically, strategically, financially, personally, historically) with all fights against homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia everywhere.

      I do not believe that what we might generally call “social justice work” exists on a singular trajectory or in a single direction. For example, within the current American climate of trans/homophobia, racism, and classism, when affluent gay men in monogamous relationships win general acceptance for their relationships, that very acceptance can and will be used as greater justification for the invisibility and hatred of (for example) a black transgender woman who is currently homeless and single and trying to raise her kids.

      (Speaking of single parents raising kids, I would submit that if a study finds that the children of single parents have a harder time, that is all the more reason for our economy to take care of its caretakers. It is unfair to the point of ridiculousness to compare a two-parents household’s “outcomes” to that of a single parent’s, when we guarantee no paid maternity/paternity leave, no public preschool, broken and hateful welfare systems, and zero social security benefits for people who spend their “career” years raising the next generation of workers.)

      There may be more things in your response that I didn’t answer, and part of that may be that we’re just working from entirely different frameworks. Much of mine has to do with very big picture strategy, and a disillusionment with the way the marriage equality movement has been mostly run (and mostly invisibly so) by huge, top-down-managed, internally directed “for-our-own-profit” non-profits like the Human Rights Campaign, which only accepts monetary contributions and volunteers who will help get monetary donations. If you’re about to suggest that the means don’t necessarily render the ends unjustified, that would be another place where we part ways. I feel my arguments have already explained very clears ways in which abandoning the bigger picture will result in real harm to communities which should be held in collaboration.

      To summarize my issue with the strategies here, it’s this: That every single “good” thing the marriage equality movement could gain for its narrow group of beneficiaries would be FAR better accomplished by LGBT people allying in much broader coalitions and working on other pressing, political projects such as universal health care (including transition care), a reassessment of U.S. income taxes, more affordable housing, and funding for community based anti-violence work. The fact that the most conservative wing of the LGBT rights movement decided to redirect huge amounts of money and resources towards this goal, duplicating issues only for themselves and abandoning others even within the LGBT umbrella, is just sick and wrong and frankly, I’m done mincing words about that in my community, hence the original post.

      • I still don’t understand how allowing gay marriage will negatively affect the lady you’re speaking of.

  13. Good food for thought. While I don’t necessarily believe that marriage equality and anti-capitalist/pro queer struggles are necessarily in opposition, I do agree that it’s way easier for people to get behind marriage equality and other social issues than to oppose systemic structures that might privilege them.

    There is one main reason for this, I think. It’s easier to get behind something that doesn’t require you to give anything up. True redistribution of wealth, at the end of the day, would mean we would need to share our goodies and be content with less. I think Americans are far less comfortable with that idea than with something that is primarily a moral issue, and one that does not require much alternation of the material conditions of the status quo.

    Keep pushing the argument. Some bodies got too.

    • In partnerships, as in legal marriages people share their income. LGBT want the right to get married so that they can look after their partner in life, or after one has passed away.
      It’s petty to try and find something wrong with it. Sure Jesus shared everything as you said. He turned water into wine, but it was pure fantasy. This is reality, and marriage for many people not just the poorer classes, offers so much more than Just financial security, it is a way to express a deep love and commitment. It’s only natural and fair that LGBT should be able to get married in 2013.

  14. this article presupposes that i want to help make the world a better place and not just look out for my own well-being. unfortunately, that’s not the case, and personally, i have no qualms with my decision to prioritize marrying a rich guy with a huge dick over justice (economic or otherwise) for others.

  15. I’m a gay person who welcomes these latest developments, Anders, but I still find perspectives like yours refreshing. They are also essential points of conversation, particularly as – like you – I value anything that can lead us towards a post-capitalist society. I do, however, disagree with you on some points. At a fundamental level, these regard priorities and perspective, so let me address those.

    First, your contention about distraction from “more pressing issues” is valid, but it’s not as forceful as you might think it is. It requires the presumption that our priorities can be adequately rated and ranked and ordered, and that we can therefore devote our attention and money to appropriately logical degrees. But while we can all agree on a comparison like, “poverty is more important than better TV schedules”, there are clusters of important political and economic issues that can’t be so clearly delineated (one such manifestation of this is the regular problem some people encounter when trying to choose between charities to support with their limited disposable income – a worthy cause is a worthy cause).

    At the same time, the fact that one issue is more important than another does not necessitate that all other activities must be abandoned or ignored until that one is fixed. In a society so well-developed and populated as ours, we have the potential to combat injustice on many fronts. I think, then, that it’s important to consider the struggle for same-sex marriage on its own merits, and although you have some legitimate misgivings about the institution (which I will address in a moment), it does act as a banner for progress in civil rights, freedom, democracy, and health, so I’m not sure it can be considered so unimportant that we can’t give it our attention now.

    On perspective, then, I think it’s to your credit that you have a well-thought critique of marriage as an institution with a view to radical societal and economic change. These are political and philosophical thoughts that ought to be routine amongst us all, but are instead rare. Nevertheless, as coherent and logical and principled as your goal may be, and as much as I agree with it, real-world change is stifled by the problem of implementation, so principles must come tempered by tactics. From your tone, you seem to desire and advocate a campaign for almost instantaneous, radical overhaul. Like me, you may crave a mass flash of insight through education that leads to dramatically improved living standards. However, throughout history, developments like these are rare – indeed, they tend to be accompanied by violent uprisings and overthrows of governments – and I don’t feel that we are well-placed for such a mass movement today with our countries’ current states of education and political awareness.

    At this time, then, I think we have to be prudent enough to realise that the changes we desire will not be achieved in our lifetimes, and we have to instead direct our efforts at laying the groundwork for future generations. On that basis, I see same-sex marriage as a temporary but important compromise. The current construction of the institution is not something that we should revere and grant permanence, but these successes are nonetheless extremely significant steps forward for legal and cultural recognition of equality. Given all this, I think it makes more political and practical sense to first equalise marriage before seeking its dissolution, and there are sure to be many more stages in between before that will eventually come about.

  16. Though I see some interesting points to your argument (marriage equality taking away from other LGBTQ issues) and agree I think you have made some very opinionated statements with no back up. Not to say they are wrong, but it seems like a rant rather than something I would take seriously, which if you want change, you should strongly consider.

    Some things that in my opinion need clarity to back up your strong language are:

    Marriage hoards wealth. Are you talking that married couples tend to save more for retirement than singles? Or singles tend to live more lavish month to month lifestyles? Either way, this could possibly have to do with age rather than marriage itself.

    We are deemed worthy of violence, detention, and death. Where is this coming from? Not to say transfer people are harassed in the least bit, but how in the context of marriage equality are you seen as worthy of death? If gays forty years ago were seen as deviants, without rights, then shouldn’t this be seen as a step for trans safety, that in time people will learn acceptance?

    Marriage doesn’t even know that 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated. True, but isn’t this another topic all together unless you have something actual to tie the two together?

    The marriage equality movement, like the institution of marriage itself, is a major distraction from the fact that our government refuses to sustain social services and public benefits. Hasn’t marriage, the joining if two people been happening long before this government. It’s like saying slaves were getting married to forget the long hours they were working. Married people still take part in political are as, I think it is more of a person to person basis.

    I think your ideas aren’t bad, but get pretty inflammatory and as the role of an activist, it is your duty to do so to stir conversation for change, but to then through in statistics to make those ideas stick is key in the long and short run. The most compelling part is the discrepancy in the prop 8 and HIV funding because there is backing to those words. I would love for there to be justice for all, just give your readers the tools, the knowledge so it doesn’t just sound like a rant, but the words of a knowledgable activist.


  18. I like your article and responses. I think you are very articulate and it made me consider other points of view again or for the first time rather than, “Yay, now we can step further and let poly, queer, trans people marry”.
    But as a queer “breeder”… if you can call me that ( I dunno if you know my story, but I have thought about a consensual knocking up as well if I ever had a life partner or few) …What’s the anti breeder sentiment about for you?
    My opinion starts simply at having children is much harder than most people could imagine and takes the entire village to support, not just financially.

    • When I say that marriage “breederizes” the criteria for acceptance, I’m talking about our government/society’s pressure to keep people in compulsory nuclear families, which have traditionally been white, heterosexual, middle class, non-immigrant families. (Centuries of reproductive policy, including modern policies, have been used by the U.S. government to prevent poor women, women of color, and immigrant women from having children. A great book about that is Ricky Solinger’s Pregnancy And Power.) I completely agree with you that raising children (and generally taking care of people) is extremely expensive and difficult, and our government doesn’t do people many favors. I also realize that marriage benefits can make that easier, and like I said in the original post: I am absolutely not passing judgment on people using access to that institution to make their lives better. While we’re on the subject of queer families, though, and the idea of the entire village supporting parents, one of the problems I have with the marriage equality movement is the way it goes along with the mainstream, hetero idea that the only/best way to raise children is within a single, nuclear, married family. This is not how many queer (and some straight) people are raising children, and those ways should be supported just as much as any other. Again, if the gay rights movement were focused on that, there would be many ways to get support for married and non-traditional families, instead of just the married ones. I think that isn’t a priority for groups like HRC because of their own prejudice against non-traditional families, which in practice is pretty homophobic and hypocritical.

  19. I have three issues with marriage being pushed to the forefront of LGBT activisim:

    1. It has been monopolized by the HRC, an organization with a history of ignoring the needs of Trans*, poly… just about anyone that doesn’t fit the gay Ozzie and Harriet mold.

    2. Marriage is way down the list on Maslow’s Hierarchy. Homeless youth, fear of employment persecution, fear of bullying in school – those seem to be higher up issues that need immediate addressing, since many of them are life-threatening.

    3. It splinters in a way that I don’t like. It splinters forward movement based on class, it privileges those who can afford or even want marriage versus those who don’t.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Translation: your fight is my fight.

    • Thank you for pointing out the history of the HRC driving this as a priority! So few queer people (and even fewer allies) realize that they are the uber-conservative wing of the old gay rights movement, and have so successfully branded LGBT rights/equality and marriage together under their logos/messaging that people think it’s all one in the same. The powerful, expensive machine behind it is almost invisible at this point, which allows them to go around trashing labor rights for the interests of their board members (trans exclusion and ENDA wasn’t the only thing they did wrong — they were real shady about the Employee Free Choice Act, too) and cashing in all the credit for their narrow agenda of victory.

    • Thank you also for framing in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I tend to think of social justice movements (as well as how to plan my day) that way as well.

  20. Good blog, well done overall, but ” to demonstrate their allyship to me.” noooo googoo phrasemongering! #ineedtoretch

    Thanks though otherwise.

  21. This is a beautiful article and I agree with SO MANY of the points that you raised. I think it’s so insulting when people within the queer movement see gay marriage as the end to all LGBTQ struggles.

    The notion that “Oh, we’ve gotten equality for the gays, good. Trans people, we’ll come back for you later” is SO insulting, and it belittles a lot of the work that has been done by activists in this sphere.

  22. You say you want to end violence and poverty for gay people – they are your priorities – yet It seems that your priority here is expressing your ‘Anti-Capitalist’ views.

    Have you actually considered that in order to escape poverty in the West you have to participate in Capitalism? Thus to abolish it would be foolish – nobody would have a clue what to do with themselves.

    Equal marriage will pave the way for an equal society no matter which way you look at it. You’re saying forget about love and compassion. Well, I think thats precisely what the world needs – we need love and compassion to end violence and hatred. Can you not see that?

    Equal marriage will not only break down gender-role stereotypes but will enable gay people to build on their assets with their partners who they love. I don’t understand your link between Marxism and Equal marriage, largely because its unsupported and comes off as speculation, but also because I think you’re deliberately taking a cold view on something quite positive to come off as outrageous or intelligent. I would understand if you opposed marriage all together but to be honest, I cannot help but find the way you have singled out gay people in this way quite uncomfortable and I really don’t understand the crux of your argument. All over the place. Poor article.

  23. I dunno. I’m trying real hard, I swear, to let prejudices fall, to think out of the box. I’m feeling dumb, sometimes, because I simply fail to get what’s obvious to any queer around me. But.

    What is wrong with a society no longer deciding whether I may or not exercise a right depending on my sexual orientation?
    Regardless of whether I might be interested in ever taking advantage of the privileges that right entails me to. Regardless of whether I think those privileges should exist in the first place.
    A law that said I was different says that no more. Does that remove all other discriminations that remain in place? No. But has one been removed? Yeah.

    • I’m not in favor of homophobic policies on the federal level which exclude people on the basis of sexual orientation; generally I’m not in favor of the government having any stance period on sexual orientation*. However — that is totally different from being in favor of spending hundreds of millions of dollars and directing national media attention towards a campaign that puts marriage and access to the U.S. military at the front and center of LGBT civil rights issues. I am asking people to look at this in a very big picture way, and I think a lot of people have a hard time with that. I get that. I still want to push back and ask people to see themselves as agents within multiple movements, needing to make very conscious choices about how and why they support the actual labor/work/efforts/funding/marketing of political projects such as the work for marriage equality.

      *with a conflicted position w/r/t discrimination laws, which are fairly meaningless without putting serious money and political representation behind them, to actively reverse/redistribute the imbalance of power. The politics and strategies of this are well beyond the scope of this discussion.

      • | I’m not in favor of homophobic policies

        Well then titling your post “why I oppose marriage equality” is a bit nonsensical, I think.

        Don’t get me wrong, I get your main two points – that media attention and money have been diverted from other very important issues such as healthcare and welfare, and that only homonormative behaviour has gained acceptance.

        Still, ranting against the removal of one single discrimination because it doesn’t also remove all others that stay in place is, well, poor thinking.

        I also find it contradictory that you can at the same time acknowledge the *humongous* socioeconomic role of marriage in our society, and at the same time think it is an irrelevant (as in, not worth spending all that money) battle to redefine that institution not to exclude some based on their orientation.

        [Please, understand I am *not* a Good Gay Who’s Ready To Put A Ring On One’s Finger. I can’t give a rat’s arse about getting married, and I know how many more important battles are ahead. But one might as well take a second to appreciate winning one.]

      • Anders, Adamant and Red, I really don’t care if 2 people of the same sex want to marry. Solving the marriage issue is simple. Just stick to the dictionary’s definition of the word and leave it at that.

  24. Pingback: A Political Soapbox in Three Parts. (Blame SCOTUS.) | Queer Dads

  25. I definitely agree with your sentiment that the fight for marriage equality takes a significant amount of energy away from many more pressing issues facing the LGBT community, and that the majority of people involved in this debate won’t put their energy into these issues once marriage has been resolved. However, call me cynical, but I also think that these same people that will be ignoring these same issues wouldn’t have fought for them to begin with, regardless of the distraction of the marriage debate. Sadly, I feel like the majority of people (with the obvious exception of true activists) only get involved in causes that they see as directly affecting them. So the stereotypical middle-to-upper class white gay man probably wouldn’t be concerned with trans or immigrant rights either way, with or without the involvement in same-sex marriage rights.

    Also, how do you respond to the other concrete advantages that come with marriage, such as hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and custody rights? Granted, these can all be achieved through civil unions as well, but from what I understand, it is much harder to get these basic rights with a civil union rather than an official marriage. I am sympathetic to the desire for true recognized equality as well, so it seems to me that in order to not support same-sex marriage, one should fight for civil unions for all couples, as opposed to civil unions for gay couples.

    And, call me a reformist, but I do think that small baby steps like this do tend to increase public support of gay rights over time simply through normalization. That argument though, I think is simply a matter of opinion, and I definitely understand not wanting to put one’s energy into this kind of activism as opposed to more dramatic, needed causes. Anyway, I’d like to hear what you think about this, since it’s a debate I’ve had many times with friends, and I don’t see it as a clear-cut issue with one side being right or wrong.

  26. The author is right in recognizing marriage as a legal institution for what it is – it has permitted the government historically to label what families “count” and what families deserve government benefits based on race, gender, gender identity, and intellectual ability/disability. As a domestic violence attorney it is my view that marriage has been a trap in criminal and civil legal matters where non-married couples obtain better redress in the legal system against violence. As a single parent it is apparent that my children and I have been given the shaft in not having the federal and state married benefits that everyone is chasing after. The only just recourse is to de-legalize marriage altogether and resort to easier contractual arrangements (inheritance, custody, property ownership, etc.) for all – marriage as a tradition should be fully respected as a cultural matter for every adult but not as a legal one. Don’t let the government define family for us.

  27. Pingback: The Fight For Gay Marriage: Selling Gay Identities (Part 2)

  28. So following up 2 years later on my last post to a still terrific article…

    Why I will not celebrate Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The Supreme Court minced no words in arguing: “A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life.” Why didn’t the Court just write “bastard” and be done with it? Anyone who dares to presume my children are “lesser” or relegated to an uncertain life because I am a single mother can go to hell. The “progressive” left unashamedly (and unnecessarily) threw single parents and kids under the bus in the name of equal protection. How about that.

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