Let’s Get Gay Married!

May 6, 2009  |  essays

postcard-m

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the changes in gay marriage legistlation that have been happening in the US lately. I’ve even started drafting some notes. But by time I get back to writing it, I find that yet another state has put something new into law.

Suddenly, it’s like a domino effect: Yesterday, the Maine House of Representatives voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and now Maine; DC also passed legistlation to recognize gay marriages performed in other states (something New York and New Jersey also do).

postcard-mPlus, there’s Massachusetts, which was the first state to let gay couples marry in 2004, who is I’m sure just sittin’ back going, “Whut? What’s the big deal? Oh, gay marriage? Yeah, we did that like five years ago. You guys haven’t done that yet?” (Apparently Massachusetts speaks in a lot of slang.)

Oh, and Connecticut, which began performaing gay marriages last fall.

Not only that, but Nate Silver, genius statistician behind FiveThirtyEight (which kept me sane during the 2008 election, along with Dr. Maddow), developed a model to estimate when other states will follow suit and pass gay marriage rights: “The model predicts that by 2012, almost half of the 50 states would vote against a marriage ban, including several states that had previously voted to ban it.” He recognizes that there could be a backlash, or a paradigmatic shift in favor of permitting gay marriage, and these could be completely off, but it seems quite possible that they are at least going to be partly accurate. And seeing it all in print like that is just … thrilling.

Sugarbutch is definitely not a news source, really, but as long as we’re making some serious headway, I think it deserves mentioning.

Wait, what? Sorry, what did I just say? THE number one gay civil rights issue is … succeeding? I feel like I’m in a cartoon where I have to shake my head and it gets all blurry. Really?

postcard-mSo now we’re equal, right? We’re the same, we’re going to be treated with respect, 11-year-old kids aren’t going to committ suicide because they are being bullied, taunted about their sexuality? Harassment is over, workplace discrimination is over – oh yeah, nobody can get fired for being gay anymore, right?

And don’t even get me started with the transphobia and genderphobia – where genderqueer folks are getting murdered through blatant hate crimes. At least “surprise” is less of a defense these days.

I have issues with the marriage focus of the gay rights movement. I understand that marriage is pretty much the ultimate symbol of a legitimate relationship (in this culture & society), so I understand why it’s important to work for, and I understand that perhaps for many people, it will be an important symbol in the step toward acknowledging the legitimacy of homosexual relationships.

(I could go on here about other legitimate forms of relationships that also deserve governmental tax breaks, the normalizing and construction of monogamy, the question of where is the separation of church and state in this issue, the belief that marriage is the ceremony and civil union should be the legal part, that marriage is also a class and privilege issue … lots of people are having this conversation lately, it’s all been said before.)

postcard-mBUT: gay marriage is not THE END of the gay rights movements. It really hurts to read that gay advocacy groups are closing their doors because hey, we can get married now! There’s nothing else to fight for, is there?

Look, don’t get me wrong, I am SO GLAD that we’re gaining movement with the gay marriage issue. Thank heavens. Maybe we can now move on to some of the OTHER issues of the movement, like, oh, I don’t know, PEOPLE DYING.

Part of me wants to be snarky and say, “So you think this makes up for all that discrimination? Huh? Huh?” But hey, you’ve come around now, and that’s what matters. So: thanks, Maine. And thanks, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, DC, and all the other states who are helping make history, create change, support equality, justice, and validate all kinds of love.

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6 Comments


  1. Fantastic post, I love it when you get all activisty!

  2. In Holland (where I grew up), when gay marriage became legal (I was 16 at the time), it did really feel like something that was supposed to happen – if there was any weird right-winged backlash, I honestly can't remember. I can't wait to see all of the US and Britain (where I live now) follow suit!

  3. ugh, only sometimes, but sometimes it makes me sick to be southern. not to mention that 12 of the bottom 13 (hi, neighbors) on fivethirtyeight's list would have to *overturn* a previous vote, which will take a lot longer. it may well have hit the federal level by then, though.

    but i very, very much agree with you about getting our gay priorities straight.

    (p.s. equality is surely a better thing, but does that really make conformity a bad thing?)

  4. I live in the UK, and my patner and i tied the kow 4 weeks ago in a Civil Partnership – marriage in everything but the technical term I guess. The most wonderful part of the day was gathering with friends and family from 8 to 85 in a legal setting and entering into a legally binding commitment of our love.

    We have a phenomenally long way to go worldwide in addressing queer issues, but it is one giant step forward. It makes me want to push forward rather than sit on my laurels and think all is good in the equality rose garden.

    I hope the rest of your states follow suit soon.

  5. for the record, massachusetts talks with a WICKED lot of slang.

    and yeah, there's tons of work still to be done. MassEquality is a good example of a gay-marriage-focused group that managed to retrench and change focus when equal marriage was recognized here in MA; now they work on advocacy in general for the LGBTQI etc. community at large, and they lend their organizing capacity to other groups as well. we should not let these groups die — perhaps one of the things we can do is expand the reach to include other marginalized communities, whose needs and populations often overlap with ours — immigrants, communities of color, educational advocacy groups…

  6. I think it’s fine for Connecticut’s marriage equality group to disband. We don’t need to splinter the queer movement any more than it’s already splintered, and there’s a place in any movement for single-issue organizations (and no need to pay for the overhead of keeping them running once that issue is dealt with). I would hope, of course, that the people who were working on marriage equality in CT would just move on to work on more/different issue.

    I’m reminded in all this of the importance of BOTH the people who make queers look normal and respectable – Lt. Daniel Choi on Rachel Maddow, the plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases – and the sex/gender radicals. We need to comprehensively rethink family, gender, and sexuality, but we also need the people who stand one tiny step outside the mainstream. It’d be nice to have a movement where those people can be allies. I’m afraid it’s often hard for the people near the mainstream to recognize what they owe to radicals and rioters, though, because it threatens their own position to draw those alliances.

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