On Fixing The Institution of (Gay) Marriage

Slate recently paneled a group of writers, editors, and bloggers in response to the institution of marriage and its purported “end.” Their answers called for reforms to financial rights, domestic partnerships, and disbanding marriage altogether. I was surprised to not see a queer perspective on the matter. Gay marriage is the institution through which most gay rights conversations are funneled, and winning the right to marry has become the signature battle in our own civil rights movement. If the media is right and marriage is on its dying breath, where does our battle fit into that conversation? If the institution is in need of an update, is the inclusion of gay marriage enough to jumpstart a healthier version of marriage?

While I’d like to think that queers are always magical creatures that ignite positive social justice and change, marriage is one of those issues where I’ve had a hard time understanding its importance to the gay community. I understand that gay marriage has risen from a time in which the AIDS crisis tested partnerships and families, and denied important rights like visitation and inheritance to these units. I also understand that marriage is important to many queer people, especially those who have lived together for an extended period of time and would like to have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples who are in similar positions. But I’m troubled by a platform of activism where marriage is treated as the end-all-be-all, and other issues of more pressing need are given little to no attention. Seems like our version of marriage needs an update, too.

So, how do we fix gay marriage? Gay marriage isn’t a universal institution, which is one of the reasons it’s not already being brought up as an institution in need of reconsideration or change. And criticism of gay marriage is considered criticism of gayness itself, which means we are continually frustrated by the fact that questioning the importance of gay marriage is often mistaken for homophobia or being a “bad queer.” With the risk of sounding like one of those bad queers, I propose a three step plan to make gay marriage ever so slightly better.

1. Stop making it the platform for gay activism.
Which is more troubling to you: someone who doesn’t believe gays deserve to be married, or someone who doesn’t believe gays deserve to breathe? The problem with placing gay marriage at the center of activism is that it isn’t going to solve most of the problems facing queers. Marriage does not hold up as a foundation for civil rights – it’s too narrow an issue, and it’s too limited. Queers who have been prejudiced against and don’t have access to housing, healthcare, employment, or basic needs have not been blocked out from those things because they don’t have the right to get married. They are blocked out because they are queer, and homophobia will not suddenly go away because they are able to legally fill out a marriage certificate. Will making gay marriage institutionalized  help everyone? The queers who are assaulted, attacked, even murdered, will not be saved by their ability to marry alone. It is much more troubling to me that rich gays and allies with the money to spare are giving that money to gay marriage instead of to the queers who need it. I’m much more worried for the homeless queer youth and transwomen in prison than I am for the middle and upper class gays who haven’t been able to set a date for the ceremony. The ability to get married will not solve our most pressing problems, so it shouldn’t be the foundation for our problem solving techniques.

2. Think beyond traditional notions of marriage.
There is more to coupling than single partner monogamy, and don’t we queers know it? It’s almost sad to see us fighting so hard for the most normative definition of marriage where our lives are all about being non-normative and, you know, queer. Polyamorous partnerships are just as legitimate as their monogamous cousins, as are partnerships that choose to forego marriage or be otherwise legally bound. Having legal rights tied to one form of marriage is limiting to those who do not fit that definition, and if we’re in the process of changing the definition of marriage in this country, why not do some fine-tuning while we’re at it? Including other types of partnerships within those legal rights means that marriage is no longer a requirement for the benefits, and all kinds of people and families can have access to what should be a basic right (financial and legal security, I mean, not marriage itself).

3. Know your enemy.
The conservative asshole who believes that queerness is disgusting and wrong is your enemy, not your queer neighbor who believes that queerness does not align well with marriage. Too often, I see queer dialogues being shut down or turned into bloodbaths because not everyone is on board with the issue of gay marriage. Questioning something for the purpose of trying to make it better and healthier is a legitimate process, and something that will only make gay marriage stronger. No one is saying that we can’t have nice things. What is being said is that there might be a way to make the nice things even nicer, and more inclusive, and better for other issues, too.

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Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 130 articles for us.


  1. I appreciate reading your perspective on this issue.

    I think the reason marriage is the platform for gay rights, though, is because it does, in a sense, get right to the crux of what makes us different in the eyes of society. Queer people are not victimized and marginalized because of skin colour or religion, etc. – but because of who we partner with. Making those partnerships socio-politically “legitimate” sends a powerful message that this thing that makes us different is actually normal and natural.

    On an immediate, incidental basis, no, legalized same-sex marriage isn’t going to help someone keep their job or prevent them from getting beaten up. But I do think that over the course of time, it will help shift attitudes, and that shift, in turn, will reduce other types of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

    • She said this better than I did, but I agree. I totally understand when people want to focus on other issues, but I think especially in regards to point number 1, gay marriage is a way to normalize queerness, and like she said, shifts attitudes towards LGBTQ people. Or that’s the hope.

      • i just…isn’t it sad that we have to “normalize” and legitimize ourselves via a heteronormative standard? like, look guys please respect me and don’t kill me and don’t assault me and don’t treat me like shit because i’m JUST LIKE YOU. because the point is that we are not “just like you,” our difference is our queerness, our queerness is our veering away from the norm and that is what makes us beautiful and legitimate and worth protecting and respecting. it seems ridiculous that we have to jump through the hoops that a hetero cis society sets up for us in order to get them to stop hurting us.

        • But what’s so bad about being “normal?” Wouldn’t it be better to live in a world where everyone can feel free to be an individual and not cling to their race/gender identity/sexuality/etc. as a political “identity?” I think it’s somewhat oppressive to expect that queer/trans* people take their sexuality/gender identity and make it into an external political tool at all times. To me, we need to get to a point where there is nothing inherently special about being straight/cis or queer/non-cis and we can all just be individuals if that makes any sense.

          • Thiiiiiiissssssss. I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s not bad to be “normal”, even though we still experience the world differently. You phrased my feelings very well.

          • What’s bad about being ‘normal’ is that it is normative. ‘Normal’ is a set of parameters directing our actions and behaviors. Being abnormal carries punishments (bullying) to keep us in line, ensure that we conform to the normative rules.

            Normal is de facto morality. How many times have you heard that homosexuality is wrong because it’s “not normal”? Normal is used as a justification to bully, to ridicule, to censure, to kill (hate crimes and honor killing).

            Normal stifles the diversity by presenting a mold for identity that is very difficult to shake. Why do so many lesbians date men (either early on or their whole lives)? Because that’s normal. We unquestioningly follow normal.

            We marry because that’s what normal (straight) people do, have children because that’s what normal (breeder) people do, buy houses and drive cars we can’t afford because that’s what normal (elite) people do, straighten our gorgeous curly hair because that’s how normal (white) people look, go to church because that’s normal, eat meat because that’s normal, and live ‘normal’ suburban lives that check all the boxes of cultural expectation not because that’s who we are or what we want, but because this system of Normal is telling us to!

            Anyway, queer and normal are antithetical. Period.

          • I completely disagree with this, and actually found some of this to be really offensive. We’re bullied for not being normal which is WRONG because we are normal. And wow, calling couples that have children “breeders” is incredibly offensive. Some heterosexual people don’t want kids; some homosexual people do. Nothing is abnormal about either of those sentences.

          • So what do you think is ‘normal’? I understand the ideal of stating everything is normal, but that contradicts both the meaning and the function of ‘normal’ in society.

            Normal literally, etymologically means to conform to a norm, a received (and arbitrary) standard. The original ‘norm’ in Latin is a unit of measurement, and normal is anything fitting that measurement. Measurements are arbitrary and prescriptive, which is how we get ‘normative’.

            Idealistically, I would love to say that capitalism is equal and just distribution of resources amongst all people. My saying it doesn’t make it true. Normal is normative, and no amount of asserting that expressions outside that standard are ‘normal’ will make it so.

            As for ‘breeders’. People who reproduce are breeding. We can euphemistically say that they are ‘starting a family’ or ‘raising the next generation’, but that doesn’t hide the fact that they are breeding human children. Heterosexuals who don’t want kids are not breeders, homosexuals who reproduce are breeding, and my statement that people who have children are breeders still stands.

          • If by “normal” you mean “there is nothing inherently wrong with” then yes. that’s the problem. “Normal” and “inherently alright” are deeply conflated. The concept of normativity works to privilege behavior associated with straight, white nuclear families.

            And guess what?

            A lot of us are NOT straight, white, monogamously partnered, gender role conforming folks. I think it’s telling that people who are at the least risk for physical and systemic violence get all up in arms when it’s pointed out that some of us are not normal or normative and don’t want to be, and that maybe we don’t feel like the struggle for marriage equality should be representative of us as an entire diverse community who deals with issues like homelessness/poverty, racism, and medical discrimination because getting married is the least of these problems… and that maybe those of us who aren’t on the receiving end ought to STEP BACK.

          • Okay, let’s go with difficiledame’s statement here: “If by “normal” you mean “there is nothing inherently wrong with” then yes. that’s the problem”

            Just because I’m queer, that doesn’t make me a deviant, that doesn’t make me abnormal, which is what is implied when people say I’m NOT normal. And yes, the etymology of “normal” says one thing, along with what “deviant” and “abnormal” mean, but in society, to be branded abnormal and deviant is a negative title I do not wish to claim just because I’m queer. All the power for those who don’t want to be normative or “conforming”, but I shouldn’t feel like I’m not queer enough or that I’m buying into a bullshit patriarchal system just because I don’t see anything wrong with being normal.

          • I shouldn’t feel like I’m not progressive enough or that I’m buying into a bullshit capitalist system just because I don’t see anything wrong with class inequality.

            I shouldn’t feel like I’m not open-minded enough or that I’m buying into a bullshit racist system just because I don’t see anything wrong with segregation.

            I shouldn’t feel like I’m not feminist enough or that I’m buying into a bullshit patriarchal system just because I don’t see anything wrong with restrictive gender roles.

            Uh huh.

          • Normal = enforcing the dominant paradigm
            Queer = challenging the dominant paradigm

            No, you cannot both support and oppose the norm.

            Keep insisting on your internally inconsistent hypocrisy though, that’s cool.

          • …Most pro-marriage queer people I know want to get married because they love their partner and would like to have a nice ceremony in front of their friends and family to officially proclaim and celebrate that love. Not because “it’s what straight people do”.

          • “To me, we need to get to a point where there is nothing inherently special about being straight/cis or queer/non-cis and we can all just be individuals if that makes any sense.”

            Except that moving to a place where “there is nothing inherently special about being straight/cis or queer/non-cis” always involves those on the marginalized side taking on aspects of the non-marginalized and never the reverse, as dictated by supremacist society. So really it’s not that people become blind to difference, it’s that the difference is erased when folks act more like the dominating group. I don’t want to act more straight or cis to gain legitimacy and my white, middle class experiences shouldn’t be centered as a gauge of what is a “real problem” within my community. It shouldn’t be that we have to be as straight, white, and cis acting as possible to get what we need.

          • And just to be clear, people do have the right to not politicize their identities. I don’t entirely blame you for not wanting to fight about it all the time. I get really tired of having every time I talk about my identity be A Thing myself. But you’re actively suppressing folks when you act like fitting normative standards is more important than making room for individuals who don’t meet them.


            That was really not well phrased. I’ve been working crazy days in isolation rooms with a highly virulent disease. I probably could do better but I’ve really been losing my words. Probably none of you will read this so it’s irrelevant but I realized after writing it that I kind of offended myself SO.

            anyway yes I absolutely think there are bigger issues. I just have no idea as to how to get those issues across with the idea that we just want to be treated like people IF we also don’t have access to the protections of marriage? Does that make sense?

            I just hope the rising tide of support for same-sex marriage creates a domino effect where people realize that queer people are PEOPLE and require protection under the law. I think it might be the easiest way to convince people of the other thing we want by working within the bounds of the society that currently exists, instead of trying to rebuild from the ground up–which would be ideal but impossible.

        • Yes, it is sad and it is ridiculous. But it is, unfortunately, human nature to fear/hate what is different from us. I’m not saying marriage SHOULD be the platform for gay rights, just offering a reason for why it IS. I think you have made a lot of good points about why we should look at this issue from a different perspective – but I also do understand why a lot of people have chosen it as the centerpiece for our fight.

    • I’m not entirely sure that homophobia is about who we partner with. I think it mostly derives from ideas about what a “real man” or “real woman” is. The most virulent homophobia often targets people who are gender non-conforming, such as butch lesbians and gay men who are read as “effeminate”–and trans women (and men), who are often hit with homophobic as well as transphobic slurs. I’m not sure legalizing gay marriage will by itself change that, because marriage as it is now has a strong tendency to reinforce gender norms (watch any kind of “bridezilla” reality show for confirmation). “Real” men and women are supposed to get married and have kids, reinforcing their legitimacy in society’s eyes.

      Partly because of this, marriage is a powerful symbol in our society, and legitimizing gay marriage can lend a measure of legitimacy to those relationships in the eyes of those who value marriage. However, I think we need to be honest with ourselves about marriage as a whole, not just its positive ramifications; marriage has also historically been a symbol of marginalization and oppression, heavily intertwined in the denial of rights for women and people of color. It does–as it stands now–reinforce gender norms, which are in turn used as weapons against certain queers.

      I see that aspect of marriage changing some, as more queer couples and more of those rare straight but feminist couples get married, but I don’t know if we queers will change marriage as an institution overnight. That’s the thing about institutions–they don’t change easily, and even if we change them, the culture doesn’t catch up right away. Brown vs. Board of Education eliminated legal school segregation over fifty years ago, but American schools are more segregated now than they were in the 60’s.

      All this is a long way of saying: I don’t know if having gay marriage will reduce violence and discrimination against queer people. I hope it will. But what I know right now is in my home state, getting married to someone of the same sex isn’t legal. Being targeted or kicked out or fired for being gay or trans* is. Changing the former might change some attitudes towards some of us queers, but changing the latter can save lives.

      • “But what I know right now is in my home state, getting married to someone of the same sex isn’t legal. Being targeted or kicked out or fired for being gay or trans* is. Changing the former might change some attitudes towards some of us queers, but changing the latter can save lives.”

        YES. this worries me so much more than “taking steps towards acceptance” through gay marriage. changing views by conforming to heteronormative standards will not fix homophobia overnight, but fixing legal issues that directly discriminate queers in such a way that it PREVENTS direct access to BASIC NEEDS is something that should be done as soon as possible!

        • Passing gay marriage is just one way to fix legal issues that directly discriminate queers in a way that PREVENTS direct access to basic needs such as health care and housing and benefits when someone dies.

          And, most importantly, the passage of gay marriage is being done on a individual by individual campaign that lays the foundation for the passage of so many other laws to protect and respect LGBT. The fight for gay marriage goes door to door and says “recognize me and my wife as human.”

          And the relationships and understanding forged in the fight for gay marriage by going door to door will provide the foundation to pass laws and legislation to protect LGBT people in so many ways.

          I guess my point is that you cannot fix the legal issues that directly discriminate queers in such a way that prevents direct access to basic needs without first humanizing queers – without first building relationships with those that fear us, without first getting those to fear us to realize we are human. Deserving of the same rights and marriage equality is one way to lay that foundation.

          • Remember thought that marriage equality does not protect the rights of all queers, but rather the rights of monogamously partnered, elite queers.

            Marriage in general trends on class lines: the wealthy marry, the poor do not. It makes sense – the wealthy are more concerned with protecting their assets and securing the largest possible tax benefits. They have healthcare to share and excess for heirs to inherit.

            Marriage is a 1% issue.

          • Can you please support all these claims you’re making about marriage being a rich-only issue while poor people do not marry? This is being repeated in this comment section, and there is absolutely nothing backing up this claim (which I disbelieve).

          • The research you cite s true, but it doesn’t mean that only upper middle class queers are the ones wanting and fighting fr marriage equality – you should have seen the coalition fr phone banking in MD – nor does it demonstrate that the impact go marriage equality would have on all queers regardless if they ever marry.

            As I stated above, I think gay marriage lens so many doors for protecting rights of queers in so many other ways that are too abstract for many in the straight majority to understand right now.

    • You made some very relevant points. However, I think there are some very important issues that people are overlooking.

      #1: GAY MARRIAGE IS A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE: Whether or not you want to get married (and there are even plenty of straight people who do not), the crux of the problem with gay marriage is that our government is (some would say legally) systematically denying the rights of gay people to even make that choice and going as far as to try to AMEND OUR CONSTITUTION to strengthen there ability to continue to deny us equal rights. THAT IS WHAT IS SCARY!!! As a queer who is also a biracial person of color, I can see the implications of using the Constitution to define a group of citizens as second class. This is very symbolic, just as it is me having the right to chose to marry a person outside of my race (which was also once illegal); just as it is for me to have the right to go to an integrated school OR go to an all Black college; just as it is for me to have the right to vote OR opt out of voting because I do not believe in the two party system that has been corrupted by corporate finance. The fight for marriage equality is not an attempt to delegitimatize polyamory or does not have to be done separate from fighting for other human rights (although, amending our Constitution to deny us this right is one step towards denying us other rights).

      #2: Gay marriage can help keep some of us OUT of poverty. My friends Gary and Tony were followed by CNN in their journey to adopt a child. The amount of money that they have to shell out to lawyers to ensure that their family’s rights and property are protected the same way a straight married couple is protected is unbelievable (http://www.glaad.org/2010/06/17/in-america-gary-tony-have-a-baby-ny-screening-and-panel). You may ask why un-married couples in general do not have these protections. But, it is not so simple. How does one determine how things get divided (property, child custody, etc.) in relationships that are not protected by contract? I’ve known gay couples who have been together for over a decade decide to split and not have the same access to their children or assets. Some of them ended up destitute and having to rebuild everything.

      I mean, I could really go on and on, but the bottom line is that one can redefine marriage (just as Loving opened the door to interracial marriage) while still fighting against a Constitutional amendment that could really set the tone and groundwork for further prejudice against us.

  2. Oh I love this.

    I think gay marriage would make queers whiter and heteronormative full stop. I say this as an understanding that being “gay/lesbian” is a western notion of identity and a male one too. The limitations of gay marriage portrayed in the media we mostly see white (male) faces. I fear in our quest of equality we narrow definition of “fighting for gay rights/human rights=gay marriage” we are leaving out heaps of other intersectional communities.

    Cynically, I feel at times this fight is really for the most privileged group of the LBGT who will most benefit from gay marriage legalization out of the expense of other minorities. I would liken this feeling to a dinner party and there’s the main table with all the delicious food and the kids table were you are patronized. However at the kids table, for a while you were happy to be around the “adults” those with more societal power/privilege over you but you realize that the people at the table should make space for you. There is a chair open (gay marriage) but you only see 2 people from the kids table sit at the table. You are still at the kids table frustrated, and look at the window and see people waiting outside, hell you see people not even allowed on the property.

    Depending on whatever privileges and marginalized identities that intersect, no one with have the same experience but I think awareness is important. For me although I am a gay woman of color, I have no personal issues of these identities and I accept/heart them. It’s the world or whatever “unhappening” space I might go into that problems will exist. If you have the privilege to get married, I will not be upset or want to intrude ( I really don’t care) but in the larger picture I see this is just ONE step, not the end all. I know too many who feel once gay marriage is legal the fight is over, I feel we have just begun.

    In short, I wish people didn’t act like gay marriage (which to me is an exclusive term so yeah same-sex marriage) is THE ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. It’s not Lord of the Rings, although it feels like it is because of the fantastical fanatical shit that comes out of people mouths.

    I want everyone to have all the human rights <3333

    The End.

    • I have a lot of feelings about your seamless incorporation of a LOTR reference into a discussion on marriage equality (please note these feelings are all positive and identify as Elvish)

  3. I agree in theory with all of your points, Kade, but I feel like we still need to focus on the attainable while we’re still living in a society where a lot of people think we need to be “fixed”. It’s an incredibly shitty viewpoint that we have to ‘fit’ into a heteronormative society just because it’s the majority, but I feel like if we’re going to be breaking down barriers for social acceptance, we have to be aware of how the majority view us. Maybe normalizing isn’t the best option, but it’s a way for us to be viewed as equal citizens instead of drastically altering the definition of an institution that so many already see as being attacked just by us being included.

    Baby steps. We’re still fighting for feminist goals and racist attitudes, so attacking the foundation before a wall can be torn down is probably going to backfire on us.

    (And Christ, if people are legitimately threatening to cede from the United States because a President doesn’t think we’re perverts, I think going for the throat of Marriage is incredibly dangerous.)

    • I understand baby steps but I just wish we can find a alternative (heh) way into acceptance than normalization because what I think is “normal” in US western society IS racist/sexist/heterosexist at it’s foundation. Like our society is founded on the racism/sexism/heterosexism that we queers have to navigate at varying levels of hostility (biphobia as an example) and oppression (all this shit). I would really hate for it to be something similar to, “queers in class A can be included but not queers in B class B”

      But I get it though because I can theorize all I want into some over-educated mental masturbation but how could I put this into practice? Maybe it is practical to go about it the way we do but I guess I just want people to be aware of the limits and use their beautiful minds to break those limits.

      • Exactly, I completely agree that we have a really fucking awful system to work within, but the theoretical merits of “Marriage is terrible as it currently works” don’t translate to a society that holds it as THE tantamount relationship.

        It’ll be interesting to see in a couple generations if we can completely dismantle the institution of marriage into something that’s better for everyone, but if we’re still fighting to recognize other two-partner relationships as being worthy, we’ve got a long way to go to break away from that concept.

        • I remember taking to my brother about same-sex marriage and he said, “yeah that would be nice but people STILL can’t wrap their minds on female president *pats me on the back* GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, SON!”

          That was one of his, “oh god my feminist rantings are making sense to him!!!” lol.

          We should make cookies and rage in our respective life/career decisions.

          Rage and bake, Huzzah!

          • You’re one of my favourite commenters.

            This is totally irrelevant, but things like this remind me why.

          • Omg you are too!

            Autostraddle: A place where online friends can just platonically internet leg-hug while expressing feelings about baking and intersectional politics (and other cool shit too).

            I’m pretty sure that’s the mission statement but my sister says it’s “news, entertainment and girl-on-girl culture.”

            <3 <3 <3

          • I didn’t even know that ‘rage and bake’ was my life’s motto until you put it into words. I feel like I just found my label.

          • This is so BRUTAL! I can’t believe they made baking metal. I can’t believe two of my favorite things are now combined in one glorious video.

          • It never once occurred to me that I could watch a vegan metal chef guesstimate the amount of egg replacer used for a Christmas cake. In the metal voice.

            That was one of the most strangely compelling things I’ve ever seen.

    • Only from a privileged position can one see ‘what is attainable’ as enough.

      Baby steps suffice until you actually have to get somewhere.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been feeling a lot of this lately, especially with regards to number 1, but I never knew how to articulate it properly.

    I feel like gay marriage is the forefront argument because, among other reasons, it’s tangible. We can see people getting married, we can look at statistics of how many married people are in same-sex marriages, we can understand what marriage means and how it affects people (especially when a lot of our entertainment industry shows marriage as an end goal). It’s hard to have a tangible “less bullying in schools” or “more comfortable with myself”.

    That being said, gay marriage definitely isn’t the “last leg of the civil rights movement”. Maybe I’m just not at the right place in my life, but right now I’m more worried about things like how my upbringing was responsible for some self-hatred that hasn’t quite gone away, and whether my parents will kick me out, and educating people in schools so that they’ll stop attacking the kids who are perceived gay, and education for everyone so maybe so many people won’t get kicked out and end up on the streets. A gay person who isn’t partnered still isn’t equal in the eyes of society.

    Kade you really do write all the best things. No matter whether someone agrees or disagrees, this makes for great discussion.

  5. These are basically the reasons I have an issue with it too. I feel like we’ve put all our eggs in the one basket and once we have marriage equality the wind is going to be sucked out of the sails. We’ve failed to connect the fact that we’re human beings who should have rights with marriage equality. Appealing to the whole “love and commitment” side of things is probably more effective at getting marriage equality through but when we then try and work on other things people are going to have no idea why they’re such an issue. Things like bullied teens and trans* rights (which get basically no airing anywhere) because they haven’t made the connection that we’re people who deserve to be treated like people.

    As you said, marriage equality affects middle and upper class queers to a greater extent. The fact that the focus on it is so large is because that’s where the money comes from. And it’s really fucking tragic because in order to make it to the point of being able to get married you need to not commit suicide due to bullying and you probably can’t get turfed out by your parents either (it would arguably have a pretty big effect on your earning capacity).

    I clearly have a lot of ~feelings~ about this, but I’m very much also in the camp of “you should accept me for who I am, not because I can blend in with your conventions”. I can accept that some people want to get married, and if you do, sure, go for it, have fun. But for me marriage is too broken as a concept for me to want to get married.

    • I just have to ask, how do we know that only middle and upper class people care about marriage? I keep seeing this assumption, but it just seems like this assumption that we all agree on yet may not be true. Plenty of working class people I know care about and/or are married.

  6. To me, marriage is a symbol. It is the most symbolic thing that we can achieve to show people that we are normal and deserving of their respect.

    Anti-discrimination laws are great, but they do not go a long way towards changing attitudes that are already deeply rooted. People just discriminate anyway and then the law is either not enforced at all, or if it is enforced, makes people bitter and angry that they are getting in trouble for something they don’t believe in.

    It takes a long time for an entire nation/planet to change it’s overall attitude towards a minority group. There are still millions of instances of racial and gender discrimination. It happens all the time. There are laws in place that are supposed to protect people, but they don’t always do much good.

    What I’m trying to say, not very eloquently, is that marriage is important to me personally, and to a lot of other people symbolically. We can change the world and queer the entire institution of marriage after we earn the basic right to have it. We can and should fight for other causes, but none of them will hold the symbolic weight that marriage does. That is why people fight for it so hard.

    • “It is the most symbolic thing that we can achieve to show people that we are normal and deserving of their respect.”

      Actually, I’m pretty much sure the fact that we’re people means we’re deserving of respect. Marriage only carries so much weight because we live in a massively patriarchal society. We shouldn’t be getting married just to fit in. We should be getting married because we genuinely want to.

      • I agree with this, but in order to get married because we genuinely want to, we need to have the legal right to get married. Marriage equality isn’t the be-all-end-all of the gay rights movement, but it’s an important step in gaining equal rights and in changing “mainstream” society’s view of queer people. The more visible we are, and the more people can see that we aren’t some sort of scary social deviants out to corrupt their innocent children, the closer we’ll get to ending discrimination against us.

  7. Woah, Kate, I’m really glad you wrote this and that it’s now alongside all the other marriage stuff on this site. <3 As one of those "bad queers" who feels a real uneasiness with the institution of marriage that is hard to articulate, I'm so impressed with your very thoughtful way of opening up the discussion.

  8. Thank you for writing this. That gay couples who want to marry should have the same rights and protections as straight couples is a no brainer, but I can’t really abide with how this issue dominates the activism in our community and I can’t freaking stand how people talk about it. I don’t need to meet anyone’s bloody standards of normality, I am a human being and have a birth right to my human rights of freedom and equality. I have no desire whatsoever to prove to the conservative assholes of the world that I’m “just like them”, they can go fuck themselves.

    If you want to marry, that’s fine, but your relationship isn’t more valuable than a committed polyamorous relationship or a cohabitation relationship. I don’t see how anyone could seriously argue that this all-eclipsing focus on marriage isn’t a way of pleading for acceptance from shitheads whose opinions shouldn’t matter and invalidating non-conventional relationships. All this from a community which should be championing diversity rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet.

  9. I have such mixed feelings about this.

    One the one hand, the marriage movement has done a really great job at teaching people that the queer community isn’t just a group of diseased perverts, I think it’s probably done more to change people’s attitudes than any other approach I could thinks of. I don’t see how any of the more desperate problems like violence and homelessness could be addressed in an environment where the majority opinion is that the queers aren’t worth saving – those problems are vast and complex enough without a whole other layer of bigotry, hatred and institutionalised discrimination to contend with.

    On the other hand, I also don’t feel like we need to prove how ‘normal’ we are. I got gay-married and we proudly did it on our own terms in our own queer way… I want the same rights as everyone else, but I don’t want to have to trade my identity and community for it.

    I guess I get on board with the marriage equality movement because I see it as one of the this generation’s FIRST steps, not the last.

    • YES. This. Because it really has done more than most other things to change hearts and minds in big ways. You guys, just three years ago, Maine decided they weren’t down with gay people getting married. And so they changed the conversation and made it relatable to straight people and got really deep into the hearts of voters and talked about why people get married – because they love each other and want to spend their lives together. And three years later, enough Mainers changed their minds and decided that gays should deserve that right, too.

      We work with what we’ve got, and this is what we’ve got. I don’t want to be “normalized,” but I don’t want to be treated like a second-class citizen, either. The legal rights that come with state recognition of marriage? It may not be radical or queer, but it matters, too.

      Also? I’m all for queering the institution of marriage. I think the institutional history is super fucked up and needs at least a little bit of a radically queer touch. But I also don’t think that we can queer the institution until we have access to it in some way. The master’s tools may not be able to dismantle the master’s house, but you also can’t dismantle the master’s house until you get close enough to it to take a hammer (or, for the craftier queers, a hot glue gun) to that shit.

    • “I don’t see how any of the more desperate problems like violence and homelessness could be addressed in an environment where the majority opinion is that the queers aren’t worth saving…”

      I don’t know how to address these problems either, but I think money, time and visibility would go a long way towards helping. The issue to me is that gay marriage dominates in all of those metrics. It’s not just a question of whether or not gay marriage is good (like Kate and many of the other commentators, I think marriage is awfully heteronormative, but hey, you do you!), it’s a question of what we *choose* to emphasize. How many of your straight friends are passionate about gay marriage? How many of them are passionate about ENDA? All of the money and energy directed towards gay marriage could conceivably be directed towards getting ENDA passed, which would benefit not just queers who are in monogamous partnerships or whatever, but queers who are visibly non-gender conforming, who are poor, etc. Maybe I’ll want to get married at some point, who knows, but I will definitely want a job from which I cannot be fired by virtue of my sexuality. You know?

      TL;DR: I think what gets lost in these discussions is that time and money are involved. It’s not just a question in the abstract of whether gay marriage is desirable, but an actual issue where privileging gay marriage eclipses other struggles. And that, to me, is detrimental no matter your feelings on gay marriage.

  10. While I appreciate and even partially agree that marriage isn’t all that important in lots of instances, I’m getting tired of hearing that my need to declare my American spouse as family is ‘privilege’. It isn’t. It is a fairly dramatic obstacle in our life that we are essentially exiled from the US, that she has to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and climate and leave everything familiar behind. I think that calling marriage rights a thing for rich white people is an all-out lie, because they don’t need it. It’s the rest of us who stand to gain, and for some of us the denial of this right impacts our entire life.

    Something everyone should have access to but do not is not a privilege for those who have access, it is an injustice to those who don’t. So let’s please be clear on that.

    Marriage isn’t an end point of the queer rights movement. It is a starting point. It finally secures another portion of our legal rights. We will continue working on other legal rights, and even more so on social issues. But legal equality must be a starting point to that.

    • Yeah, I agree. Even as a queer person not that interested in marriage, I sometimes get frustrated when people who are also disinterested imply there’s something wrong with people who are interested. Not that I think that’s what this article is doing, mind you. But I don’t think that just because you’re attracted to the same gender that you have to live a life outside the mainstream, and that it’s wrong to desire “mainstream” relationship models like marriage.

      That being said, I don’t agree that marriage equality should be the main cause of the LGBT rights movement because, for one, it affects a lot less people than non-discrimination laws. For example, as a 22-year-old bi woman who sees herself remaining single (at least in terms of not-married, not necessarily not-in-a-relationship) for the forseeable future, being able to be open about my relationships on a job without getting fired is more important than getting married. Marriage equality affects a certain segment of the LGBT population, but anti-job-discrimination, anti-housing-discrimination, anti-hate-crimes legislation affect just about everyone.

    • and also, I don’t know if I agree that stuff like job discrimination is going to be more difficult for non-LGBT people to understand than marriage equality. The ability to be who I am on the job and not risk my position is a lot more fundamental and makes sense to a lot more people, from what I’ve seen.

    • THANK YOU. My experience accessing marriage did not ring of privilege and I am tired of commenters implying that it is a white, upper class institution and not one that can be inherently radicalized by being extended to the diversity of queer people.

      I am no longer “middle or upper class” although I was raised that way, and my partner spent her entire life below the poverty line, save the last few years. Marriage for the price of a marriage license would have saved us hundreds in lawyer fees which we felt it absolutely necessary to pay in order to draw up some documents resembling protection (wills, power of attorney, etc.), just so we could visit each other in the hospital (God forbid) in the red state where we live.

      Also, to respond to a commenter upthread….marriage does not have to “whiten” GLBT struggle…it certainly didn’t whiten my partner. Just checked, and she’s still Black. In fact, we find marriage a somewhat radical act, especially considering how our respective Jewish, Black, and interracially coupled ancestors were denied the right at various times. We queer and multiculturalize the shit out of marriage every day, but we’d be damn thankful for some legal protections to back us up.

      • “Marriage for the price of a marriage license would have saved us hundreds in lawyer fees which we felt it absolutely necessary to pay in order to draw up some documents resembling protection (wills, power of attorney, etc.), just so we could visit each other in the hospital (God forbid) in the red state where we live.”

        THIS. I live in NY, and am lucky enough to have been able to legally marry my wife just a couple weeks ago. (We didn’t rush to do it as soon as it became legal last year, as we wanted to plan a small ceremony.)

        However, our daughter was born in 2009, before we were able to be legally married. We also paid hundreds in legal fees to get what protections we could for ourselves and our child via wills, power of attorney, medical proxy, etc. Then after she was born (my wife is her birth mom), we spent over a year going through the process of second-parent adoption so I would also be legally her parent. We had to have a social worker come into our home and deem me fit to be a parent to my own child. I understand that that’s just part of the process but it still felt unfair and invasive. Now my wife is pregnant with our second child, and even though we’re legally married in our state now, I will still go through the costly and time-consuming process of second-parent adoption for this one as well. Because while my status as my child’s mother would be recognized in my home state, and the handful of other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, it’s not recognized everywhere and my legal rights to my child is not something I want to risk.

        Anyway, this got long and kind of rant-y, but legalizing same-sex marriage is not just about a symbol of “normalcy” to the straight-dominated world (although it is that, and that’s important too). It has very real legal ramifications for the growing number of children being raised by same-sex parents. Marriage was something I could give or take for myself, I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me I’m committed to my wife. I did it more for the legal protections it provides for my family and my children.

        • thanks for commenting about your personal experiences, y’all. that actually gave me food for thought about my opinions on gay marriage…for me marriage is not an immediate personal need, not as much as transition-related health needs, safety, etc, so I guess I can forget that there are those very real legal ramifications of marriage. that’s not on my own radar.

          …which probably explains why a lot of straight, non-ally-type folks are all baffled by marriage equality activism. like “huh? why are the gays so upset about marriage? why would you want the right to get a ball & chain, hur hur”. the rights that come along with marriage are not on their radar, because they (often) take that for granted.

          sometimes I just fucking wish we didn’t have to fight for all this basic shit. y’know, like your wife’s child being *your* child and health care and being able to walk down a street or sit in a classroom and not be attacked or threatened.

    • Eva, I appreciate your frustration, but find it misdirected. The problem is not lack of access to marriage, but rather, exclusionary immigration policies.

      Marriage or recognition thereof was never an issue in my transnational relationship, because we both had privileged passports and backgrounds that made it easy for us to secure the appropriate work and study visas to be in either country, or a third that welcomed rich westerners with open arms. It’s all about intersectional privilege, folks!

      Right to remain in a country should not be dependent on privilege. Marriage only perpetuates the unjust system of immigration in North America and Europe. Marriage as a means to immigration excludes equally worthy potential immigrants on the basis of their relationship status.

      Queers are supposed to oppose discrimination on the basis of who one does or does not love. Why should people be discriminated against in the immigration process because they do not love someone with the right passport? Or do not love any one particular person?

      What makes my wealthy, white, able-bodied, employed, PhD-holding, well-connected, US-citizen girlfriend more deserving of immigration rights than, say, a Ugandan asylum seeker whose life is in danger if she cannot get away before the kill-the-gays bill is signed into law, purely because Dr Privilege is in a relationship with me?

  11. I agree that marriage equality can’t solve all of our problems however we are normal always have been always will be

  12. I agree that marriage equality can’t solve a lot of our problems it might help. In the eyes of the (Aussie) government we are different we aren’t we are normal if marriage equality gets through the parliament and becomes law then people will realise we aren’t threatening they’re marriage then public perception will slowly but surely change for the better and if one teenager somewhere out there realises that hey aren’t some freak show that deserves to die then everything we’ve done has been worth it if there is one less scar on one less wrist them everything we’ve done has been worth it if one family stays a family then everything we’ve done has been worth it (no matter what kind of family just to be clear I’m referencing parents not disowning their kid)

  13. GUYS. Guys.

    I love that we are having a totally constructive and thoughtful debate in the comments with out any ad hominem attacks or other immature bullshit that sometimes happens on the internet. This is one reason why I love this site.

    Just wanted to call attention to how awesome everyone is.


    So much of the marriage equality movement is centered around the norms and ideas of white middle-class folk – already within my very varied social circles I know of at least 5 different cultural interpretations of marriage! Why is one more privileged over the other?

    Marriage became a big matter for me when the Australian government kept fucking over my permanent residency application and strongly hinted that I try another route. I applied on General Skills Migration, and apparently I am not correctly-skilled-enough for them and may not meet their quota. But getting married and having a partner visa and putting both of us through highly invasive scrutiny? No quota!

    Why am I more value to a country as someone’s spouse than just as me?

    Why do I have to be someone’s spouse to be able to live, get Government support, get hospital care, get inheritance? Why can’t I nominate family members or friends as Person To Call In Case of Emergency? Why is one sort of relationship (especially in the Western world where you only marry the person you fuck best, because the idea of non-sexual life companionship is verboten) privileged over the other?

    As it is I highly doubt the Western White Gay Industrial Complex will recognise my cultural ideas and values around love and marriage, because we’re all third world backwards brown people amirite.

    • “As it is I highly doubt the Western White Gay Industrial Complex will recognise my cultural ideas and values around love and marriage, because we’re all third world backwards brown people amirite.”

      Unless they find some of it adorably “third-world chic” and appropriate it!

      But seriously, THIS.

  15. Wow! So many points of view… I do think that marriage is a super-important thing for GLBT couples. Not because of the need to have some sort of dual-bridezilla spectacle; I don’t think the ceremony itself is what’s at stake. I see a lot of older couples where I work (a large teaching hospital), and they have enough to worry about without having to worry that the hospital may try to keep them from their loved ones or withhold information because they don’t consider the partner a relative. Another major concern for GLBT couples is end-of-life issues; a partner will lose a massive chunk of any estate and probably survivor benefits to a pension because the government says that your partner isn’t _really_ a spouse, and you have no right to those things. If you’ve spent everything on hospital bills at that point, you may be left with nothing. If you’re too old/infirm to go to work, what happens then?
    I’ve also spent time in the military, and I think it’s really difficult to deal with being the partner of a GLBT soldier or sailor. Partners can’t even walk or drive onto the base where their significant other is posted; the military person isn’t able to have the benefits accorded to married person. (And the Army isn’t mostly white; this affects a lot of people of color.) The military also doesn’t treat a partner as family in the event of the military member, either… If you and your partner had children, you’re all on your own. So to me, marriage is a battle worth fighting for.
    I agree that the passage of ENDA isn’t getting the press or the support that it could use from the GLBT community and straight allies. I think it’s vital legislation, and I’m sickened (though not surprised) that Republicans continue to block it. It’s an issue that deserves more attention from our community.

  16. I think that when it comes down to it, whether you’re talking about marriage equality or housing discrimination, it’s a matter of legal rights and protections. Marriage at its basest level is a contract- an agreement that one enters into that results in a set of legal rights/obligations. The difference is that marriage is also wrapped up in a lot of cultural and historical baggage. This makes it a particularly important tool for both sides, because it creates leverage for an appeal to emotions. It’s easier to phrase a pro-equality argument in terms of joining in a culturally normative celebration than it is to make an appeal to people based on the concept of marriage as a contract- not because you can’t do it, but because emotional appeals will reach more people.

    The problem, I think, (and which other commenters have mentioned) is that when you use marriage equality as your platform for winning rights, it /does/ cut out a large segment of the queer population who just aren’t at that point in their lives, or whose lives don’t match that mold. It’s not that I don’t think that marriage is important, but I do think that at the end of the day it’s just a set of legal privileges like any other.
    I don’t want to have rights because I’m “normal” or like everyone else. I want my rights because I’m a HUMAN BEING. When you say “I deserve rights and respect because I’m just like you.” What you’re constructively also saying is that “People who aren’t like you don’t deserve your respect or the rights you have,” and THAT is not only contrary to the respect for diversity we’re theoretically trying to achieve in this queer community, but also contributes to the further marginalization of those who are already marginalized.

  17. In my view personally, (which may sound crass)the importance of legalizing same-sex marriage lies in the tangible, as opposed to symbolic benefits that adhere to the institution. Any lgbt person who wants those tangible benefits (tax breaks,spousal insurance benefits, legal recognition of same-sex families in a multitude of forums, etc.)should be able to get them. The fact that many lgbt people don’t want these tangible rights right now, or do not want a heteronormative marriage in general, shouldn’t dampen our resolve to pursue equal rights in the arena of marriage, which is an institution central to our society. As an attorney who as done lgbt family law work, I can tell you first hand that the legal minefield lgbt couples must navigate if they want to have a family is mind blowing. Until we achieve marriage equality, many of the basic civil rights we think we enjoy in one state are vulnerable to dismantling in another. That’s a big deal. And though the institution of marriage is not perfect in many respects, I think our time would be better spent pursuing getting the basic right to marry, rather than pursuing an expansion/upheaval of the existing institution by recognizing, say, polyamory, which has been a losing battle long before people even breathed the words “gay marriage.”

    • And to add a final point, I think marriage equality is a fundamental starting point in the fight for lgbt rights/acceptance in general. The Civil Rights movement did not eradicate rascism, but it illegitimized it. As long as lgbt people lack the same basic rights as heterosexual people in the institution of marriage, which as I already argued is the institution upon which our society is currently structured, people who think lgbt people shouldn’t have the right to breathe will feel more justified in this belief.


    Also, you may appreciate this Australian debate on same-sex marriage from a while back: http://www.iq2oz.com/events/event-details/2012-series-sydney/may.php. Super rad queer theorist Annamarie Jagose makes a great case *against* same-sex marriage, stating, among other things, that:

    “Presenting itself as a magical solution, while only distracting us from the real and unaddressed conditions of social inequity, marriage is a red herring for the 21st century pursuit of social justice.”

    For anyone interested, her opening statement is at 20:30. I highly recommend it.

  19. Polyamory all the way.
    Even though I’ll probably be single forever, lol. But I find polyamory to be a superior relationship model to marriage.
    I keep a really ridiculously long journal which I give to friends when I come out to them. I wrote a bit about polyamory in it and realized it was relevant to this article, so I figured: why not post it? Note that it was written for straight/cis people, so it may seem pretty basic to you. Oh, well, lol. Here it is:
    As far as “love” is concerned, I’d like to just love everyone. I reject the dogma of one only being allowed to love one person; one can love an infinite number of people in an infinite number of ways and to an infinite number of degrees. Do I think I’ll ever have a “partner” of sorts? I have no idea; I’ll just take everything as it comes. :)
    This also means I am comfortable being intimate with fully androgenized people. Not sexually (ew), but emotionally? Sure, why not? :)
    Polyamory > Biamory
    I feel like illustrating this further. Your closest friend whom you’ve known all your life? You probably love hirm. Not in a sexual way, but it is a very tight emotional bond sort of way, right? That’s one sort of love. Everyone you know is to you somewhere on a spectrum of several different things we call “love”. It’s not just that biamory as a model, especially with our obsession with “one person only, forever and ever”, fails half the time; it’s that it completely ignores all the other sorts of relationships that we can have with people ~ biamory is simply not an all-encompassing model of relationships, and is therefore inherently flawed. Also, you don’t really have cheating in polyamory because there’s nothing to get pissed off or annoyed about when your partner suddenly finds hirmself desiring close bonds with multiple people. Of course, we as a species are still apt to get jealous, but as far as I know, that could just be a societal trait; I find that a lot of times, I don’t get jealous, but rather I wonder whether I should be because I believe it’s what society expects of me in certain situations. That might just be me, though.
    Now, single sexual partner with polyamory? That’s not so bad. Why? STD’s. More interestingly, though, is how sperm has evolved. Human sperm doesn’t just swim toward the egg; it acts like a team of warriors trying to fight off enemy sperm; we (or at least straight people) evolved under the pretense of multiple partners. However, we also evolved under the pretense of one main sexual partner; we know that after being away from his loved one for a time, a man’s sperm count can shoot up some 300%. A lot of people who practice sexual polyamory have only one person with whom they are fluid bonded. So they have sex (keep in mind that I define sex oddly and perhaps not in the best way, but what I will call sex is basically the lesbian definition over the straight definition ~ kinda weird, I know) with many people, but only swap body fluids (apart from saliva) with one person. A good strategy; fluid-bonding with multiple people is a really bad idea. Say you and your partner are each fluid-bonded with two people (including each other). If any one of you has an STD, all of you now have it. Yeah. Not good.
    Unlike sexual love, though, non-sexual love has no constraints but time and society. Throw in priti, and there are no limits; priti (Sanskrit for “unconditional love”; I like having a single word for this concept, so I borrowed Sanskrit’s) is naturally a universal sort of love.
    One final thing I’d like to mention is that polyamory is not polygamy; polyamory is a decentralized web of everyone you know, whereas polygamy is generally a centralized web of monogamous women and a single polygamous man (polyandry is the term for a pride of men married to a woman) (also realize that the centre of a polygamous relationship can be a woman, and the centre of a polyandrous relationship can be a man). Also realize that the terms polygamy and polyandry are inherently gender-binaried and therefore flawed in that way. Now, if one were to seek to preserve marriage but in a decentralized web of people irrespective of gender, we might call this “panamby” (note that I may have derived that word incorrectly), it would still not be preferable to polyamory; although it accepts that one can love an infinite number of people, it ignores that one can love to an infinite number of degrees and deemphasizes that one can love in an infinite number of ways.
    Oh, and in polyamorous relationships, there tends to be less having one person be dominant over the other, and we end up with a lot more equality in relationships ~ this is great for everyone. Also, the notion of someone having to wear the pants in a relationship is actually a mixture of several nurture aspects: Being raised in a monogamous/biamorous society with a gender binary that until recently required loving only people of the opposite gender role. There does not however need to be anyone in the relationship who “wears the pants”; partners can be equal, people.
    Lastly, you also get a lot of really cool relationship dynamics in polyamory that you just plain don’t get in the simpler monogamy/biamory model. Hooray for more edumacational life experiences! :D You also are more likely to get a group of people who grow really really close to each other than you are in monogamy/biamory. It also won’t be familial wars, but rather different groups of people whose relationships are built of love and trust rather than biological connections, and these groups are inherently more likely to get beyond their differences than the family unit. Children also will grow up more open-minded and having known many loving parents and have many ways to escape abusive family members. The only thing I can’t currently think of what to do about is what happens when two people have children but then grow apart after doing so? I suppose it could be handled like a divorce. Luckily for those children, they will have lots of contact with both their parents’ lives all the time; since their biological parents were in a polyamorous relationship, they were probably in others, and they probably shared some. Even if they didn’t share any, these kids will have huge networks of support and experience that they wouldn’t have been able to have in a family unit. It’s also more like how things happened way back when in evolution: the village helped to raise children. The gender binary is also easier to break down in a polyamourous society, meaning we can further ourselves to gender and sexual equality. Yay, us! :)
    Oh, and this is just a reminder that gay, straight, and bi are all misnomers of the gender binary, or rather are only relevant within it. Hopefully someday, we can all just be people who like people.
    That is all. :)
    Yeah, like I said: you probably already knew all that. I felt like posting it anyway though because, well, why not? :)
    I’m really quite exhausted right now, so I’m going to sleep. Ciao!

  20. I totally agree with the gist of what you’re saying; marriage isn’t super important to me and there are a lot more important issues, but I think people are making a big deal about marriage because it is kind of a big deal, and it’s easy. Queers are second-class citizens, our government (I’m speaking from the standpoint of a U.S. citizen, but many other countries are similar, if not worse) expressly states that in its laws. We don’t need to government to tell us that, we experience it in our everyday lives. This still doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Not only is it mind-bogglingly ridiculous that a government would deliberately put one class of people over another, but it legitimizes the unofficial second-class treatment we receive. Sure this isn’t the only discriminatory law, but it’s one of the easiest. It would take almost nothing from a legislative and infrastructural standpoint to make marriage equality. How do you legislate the end of the AIDS? It’s going to take a lot of time, money, and work in many seemingly disconnected areas. Homeless LGBT youth is a big deal, and I can think of a lot of ways we can improve our dealing with the problem, but we can’t just sign a law that gets rid of the root of the problem, we have to change attitudes. I know this sounds like some bullshit Reagonomics argument, but maybe some sort of authority saying that queers are people and totally chill and not abominations will maybe change some perceptions and make life less shitty for some people. I know you’ve been saying all along that queers aren’t abominations, but people that deserve rights, but who the fuck are you? You’re just some abomination, they don’t listen to abominations, they only respect the opinions of fine, upstanding peeps. This whole movement was born out of legitimizing our very existence. Legitimizing your existence doesn’t mean being just like everyone else, it means not being beaten to death or having people acknowledge that a large part of your identity exists, which is a big deal to a lot of people. Besides, what is normal? Take a bunch of generic middle-aged, suburban, white dudes and you’ll find a ton of ways they’re different. Just because we’re doing one thing that’s a traditional straight thing doesn’t make us straight. Besides, I personally think you can dismantle the master’s house with his tools, and I haven’t seen anyone making any sweet new tools recently.

    You’re not the only one afraid that the gay rights movement will start to fall apart as soon as the marriage thing is over. But I feel that no matter what the issue is, when it gets passed there are going to be people in the oppressed group who think they’ve won and people in the other group who think everything is fixed. Feminism didn’t win in 1919, racism didn’t end with the Civil Rights Act, and those movements are still going. After marriage the big issue will probably be discrimination laws, and when that gets fixed a bunch of queers are going to leave the movement and straight people are going to fight us on the next thing saying that they’ve already done enough, but it’s going to be like that for every issue with every marginalized group, you just have to make your peers realize the fight isn’t over. But the fact is not everyone has the time and ability to solve every social ill, and they’re probably going to work on the ones they feel most strongly about. If some older rich gay dude wants to spend money to run ads to convince people that queers are a-OK and it means I’m less likely the get the shit kicked out of me, I’m okay with that, even if he’s only doing it because he’s afraid he won’t be able to stay at his husband’s deathbed. I’d love it if he helped out the trans community, but I’ll take what I can get.

    Also, can we stop talking about how marriage is by and for upper-class white people? A lot of poor and non-white people get married too. I know this is purely anecdotal evidence on my part but it seems it would be similar for the whole, but every person I know who has gotten married for the benefits as opposed to the “real reason” like true love or whatever, hasn’t been rich. They’re the ones who could really use that tax benefit. They’re the ones more likely to die because they aren’t included on their partner’s employee health plan. They’re the ones who really have no place to fall back on when they’re deported. Also, some old people get seriously fucked over when their spouse dies and they aren’t legally recognized as a spouse.

    This probably would be better (and shorter) if I didn’t write this at 5AM after hours of paper writing frying my brain, but whatevs. Fun fact, it only takes about a few weeks of driving with a spare toilet in the bed of a truck to completely smash it into a fine powder.

    • “Besides, what is normal? Take a bunch of generic middle-aged, suburban, white dudes and you’ll find a ton of ways they’re different. Just because we’re doing one thing that’s a traditional straight thing doesn’t make us straight. Besides, I personally think you can dismantle the master’s house with his tools, and I haven’t seen anyone making any sweet new tools recently.”

      Yes yes yes yes yes, oh god, all of this, yes, and everything else you wrote, yes more doubleplusgood yes.

  21. I think a lot of interesting things have been said on this thread about how people should be able to get married for the sake of the tangible benefits thereof, and I do agree with this. Those tangible benefits are important, and as long as the government has those benefits tied to marriage, those benefits (and therefore civil marriage), should be available to everyone. However, as a queer who is deeply religious, those tangible benefits to marriage are less important to me, and marriage in the eyes of my government is far less important to me, than the religious sanctity provided by marriage in the eyes of my church. To me, marriage is not a set of rights and responsibilities. Marriage (the act of getting married, and the act of remaining in the marriage relationship) is a way for me to consecrate my life to this person as well as to God, and to publicly proclaim that our lives are consecrated to one another. I am committing myself to this person, this one person, for life, before God, and I am saying that with the help of God, I will love her the best I can (which is to say, I will strive to make my love for her as close as I can to the love which Christ has for her). I am personally, therefore, more interested in reforming the global Church’s definition of marriage than the American government’s.

    I do not think my view should be the governmental standard, however. My view of marriage has nothing to do with the government, and I think other people should also be free to form their own definitions and views of what marriage means to them (if anything). I personally think that in an ideal world the government has no business getting involved in the definition of marriage, because with something so personal, no definition that is capable of being accepted by the mainstream could possibly fit everyone.

  22. I’m definitely down with the second two points; however, I disagree with the first.

    The first subsection is premised on combating homophobia–that it is the key to securing the more basic needs (safety, housing, health, employment, etc) than marriage. I agree with this premise. However, I believe that gay marriage is currently the most viable vehicle for achieving that.

    Marriage has become a central rallying point that has united the broadest coalition of LGBT folks and their allies–behind a single cause–that the movement for LGBT rights has ever seen. It’s become far and away the most visible, prominant, and successful campaign to put an LGBT issue at the forefront of the American consciousness that the movement has ever seen–and it’s winning.

    They key to this success in re marriage is identical to the very premise the first subjection accuses the movement of lacking, i.e. the marriage movement is at its root based on combating homophobia–changing hearts and minds to acknowledge that LGBT people are not so bad and perhaps even desire to be treated like straight people sometimes.

    For that reason, those who are concerned with more tangible LGBT rights (safety, housing, health, employment) should jump behind the marriage movement whole heartedly. Even though marriage itself is a questionable institution, etc., it’s become a winner with the straight public. And if that’s how breeders like their anti-homophobia medicine packaged, so be it.

    The ultimate result is the same–straight folks recognizing that LGBT folks (in one way or another) are real people *just like them*. If straight people start believing that, then we’ve already won.

    • Our job of dismantling all that marriage baggage will be all the harder once we’ve reinforced marriage as an institution.

      Marriage equality doesn’t queer marriage, is marries queers, with the end sum being a giant leap down the spectrum towards conservative heteronormativism.

  23. I’m back with a note of relevance that I don’t think anyone has pointed out yet:

    The marriage equality battle has oftentimes been brought on by the religious right, NOT by queers. There are 30 states that have passed amendments banning same sex marriage. Who put those amendments on the ballot? Not the gays, for sure. Minnesota put it on the ballot this year and it FAILED (awesome!) but it failed because the gay community came back and tried to educate people on the issue and yes, spent a lot of money (mostly NOM and the Catholic church spent money for the amendment. Vomit).

    And when something like this is on the ballot, the public at large gets to vote on it! Not just politicians who write and pass laws, but every voter in that particular state. I think this is one of the really major differences between other queer issues and marriage. This is one of the publicly visible ones and if we get people to change their minds on it, the rest may follow.

    For everyone who’s said that we shouldn’t have to convince anyone that we’re people, I totally agree. We shouldn’t have to. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to, unfortunately. If you just tell maybe a typical person who doesn’t understand gay issues (let’s say straight, white, cis, Christian, middle-aged, doesn’t know/thinks they don’t know anyone who is gay) that “you should respect us because we’re people!” when their church is telling them differently, I don’t think that’s much of a persuasive argument at all. It clearly should be enough, but it’s not when their whole lives they’ve been told something different. I don’t really want to be patient/kind/loving with people that have offensive viewpoints either but we don’t have another option. We’re the ones with the ability to change minds and hearts. We just have to figure out how to best do that within a framework that people understand.

  24. are we making our relationships heteronormative or are we queering an institution?

    If two women in a lesbian marriage are sharing all of the duties and responsibilities of a long term commited relationship what does that mean for women in heterosexual marriages? and of course the same goes for men. Legalizing gay marriage is a culturally significant way to legitimize these paradigmatic shifts in gender roles. It says “in the eyes of the law women (or men) are capable of creating and fufilling their own expectations for their relationships”. Marriage is an antiquated system, founded upon principles that disempowered women, symbolically (or literally) selling them through a transaction from father to husband. feminists have been queering marriage for a decades, pushing against the boundaries of social expectation as they held jobs, spoke their minds, and refused to defer to their husbands simple by virtue of their gender. Gay marriage is just another step in a long queering of the institution of marriage. My parents queered marriage in the 70’s when they made the choice to conceive a child out of wedlock. queered it further by forgoing religion and just registering at city hall. My great uncle queered marriage when he married a black woman in the 1950’s, and was rejected by members of his family for doing so. My grandmother queered marriage when she didn’t end her career when she had kids. To say that it is a waste of time to fight for gay marriage, to act as though we are losing our queerness, or our radical edge, or are giving in to the white middle class “american dream” is to deny the legacy of all of those who came before us, who faced ostracism from family and community, who stood up for their rights as individuals within an institution that had so long served only to funnel people in to strict roles without regard for personal liberty. Now it is our turn.

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