Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why Gay Marriage Should Not Be at the Top of the Gay Rights Agenda

Why am I ambivalent about this new ostensible victory in California, where one of the two groups aiming to put an anti-equal-marriage initiative on the 2006 ballot in California has abandoned the effort?

I include a very short essay below about why I don't think marriage should be at the top of the gay rights agenda. In a nutshell, I think we should be fighting for health care and other rights for all individuals no matter what their lifestyles are, rather than privileging married folks above all others.

After the jump, a one-page pamphlet I wrote for a group called Queer Fist a year and a half ago.

The Identical Goals of All Major Gay Rights Organizations

“The Human Rights Campaign and the Log Cabin Republicans are allied organizations that are working side by side in the fight for equality. As such, we undertake many joint projects, such as anti-Federal Marriage Amendment media campaigns, that are jointly funded and directed.”

J. Smith
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
Senior Communications Manager

“First, the Log Cabin Republicans and the Human Rights Campaign have worked side by side in a bipartisan campaign to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, through joint sponsorship of print ads. Second, we have co-sponsored their national dinner and they have co-sponsored our national convention.”

Christopher R. Barron
Log Cabin Republicans (LCR)
Political Director

Are you surprised that the HRC describes itself as an “allied organization” of the LCR? What is most surprising is that other gay rights organizations are not as forthright about the fundamental goals and assumptions they share with the right-wing LCR.

In the spectrum of the national gay rights groups, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) is generally considered progressive, the HRC centrist, and the LCR right wing. Yet, in important ways, all of them share the same values. These and other groups fight for gay assimilation into institutions like marriage and the military, even though many people of various political persuasions have deep problems with such institutions. These groups each place a glittery pink smiley face onto assimilationist politics.

The latest war-cry of the HRC concerns the unfairness of the fact that “more than 1,100 federal benefits and protections of marriage” are extended to straight couples but not to gay couples. This complaint ignores the fact that everyone deserves those rights. It ignores the fundamental unfairness and inequality of the way marriage is privileged in the U.S. over all other lifestyle choices (including singledom, queer unions of various levels of exclusivity, and various informal arrangements not sanctioned by the state, many of which are most common in communities of color).

Queers have an opportunity to champion fundamentally new lifestyle possibilities that could set new standards of fairness and equality. These queer lifestyles could avoid and challenge the deep-rooted problems of institutions like marriage. Some queers, in groups or as individuals, do fight for these radical ways of living. Yet every single one of the major gay rights organizations advocates for our assimilation into preexisting institutions rife with problems that they ignore and accept.

It is fitting that the HRC describes itself as allied with the LCR, since their visions for a better world are fundamentally identical and fundamentally flawed.

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  • At 5:02 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    If I'm sick in the hospital, I don't want everyone having equal rights to visit me. If I am incapacitated, I don't want everyone having equal rights over whether or not to pull the plug. If I die, I don't want everyone having equal rights to care for the kids I won't ever fucking have.

    I get that these privileges should perhaps be extended to a wider variety of groupings than couples, but in terms of utilitarian justice you can do a lot of good for a lot of people by at least extending them to all couples.

  • At 5:10 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Oh, that's funny. When I just copied this essay to LB, I decided to add the sentence "This complaint ignores the fact that everyone deserves those rights," which was not in the original pamphlet. I figured it was more rhetorically effective, but instead you zoomed in on it as the major weakness of the argument. Heh.

    Well, yeah, you're right that a literal reading of everyone would make it nonsensical. It would simply be impossible to exend certain marriage rights to individuals, since an individual can't visit herself in the hospital, etc. In the original pamphlet I was more careful with language (I also didn't equate benefits with rights, since they're two separate ideas).

    Anyhow, when I said everyone, I meant every family unit, however that unit wants to identify itself.

  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    You're right. I should have read more carefully. In my defense, look at the time stamp on my comment. What on earth are we doing up that late?

  • At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Seamus7 said…

    I think it is imperative that gay organizations continue to promote equality. Until we get our equal place at the table, any progressive ideas for society as a whole (like broadening the definition of family 'beyond marriage') will fall on deaf ears.

    To abandon efforts at inclusion and assimilation into society no matter how imperfect that society is would be I think a foolish backwards decision that serves an ideology (no matter how well intentioned) rather than gay people as a whole.

    It's sort of like when the oxygen masks fall from overhead in an airplane, we must put our mask on first to assure our ability to then help others in need. Seeking first to gain for ourselves inclusion through equality under the law will strengthen the power of our political voice so that we might actually be able to make change for others also in need and living on the margins.

  • At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is a poor essay cleverly disguised in verbosity.


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