Yesterday, thanks to California’s legalizaton of gay marriage, a Mountian View couple used Bush’s economic stimulus check to pay for their wedding. You see, Bush believes in ‘the sanctity of marriage,’ (code for “I am a homophobic,” “I want your homophobic votes,” or, “I am gay and don’t want you to think I am gay”) so it is wonderfully ironic that the anti-gay marriage Bush helped to pay for a gay wedding. I hope it was camp as hell.
While I am somewhat of a sucker for weddings and romance (there is that female social conditioning kicking in again), I have never bought into the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. As a child, I vowed I would never marry. (This then changed into “I won’t get married and have kids until I am really old” – by the way, I defined “really old” as 30 at the time.) In high school I recall many arguments with my mom where my constant refrain was “a marriage license is just a piece of paper.” I do understand marriage brings all sorts of privileges, but I don’t agree with marriage privilege anymore than I agree with white privilege. If you want to get married, fine. But, it shouldn’t include over a thousand legal privileges (for a great series of posts on marriage privileges, see Fannie’s Room.) Nevertheless, I can see why people in love (regardless of their genitals and what they like to do with them) want to get married. For this reason and others (such as equal access to institutions, flawed though they may be) we should celebrate today’s decision. If we are going to keep this defective institution, we need to give everyone the opportunity to take their flawed part in it! However, that doesn’t mean we can’t keep questioning the validity of the institution itself.
Yesterday’s ruling made me think of the classic 1996 essay by Ian Barnard, “Fuck Community, or Why I Support Gay Bashing.” In the piece, Barnard questions the ways in which the notion of a ‘gay community’ has rendered those who do not fit ‘gay norms’ invisible. Barnard, noting how ‘gay’ has come to be represented by middle-to-upper class white (and usually male) homosexuals, argues this idea of a monolithic gay community needs ‘bashing’ as it goes against queer theory’s destabilizing of heteronormativity. In a sense, this ‘gay community’ is homonormative – ie, you need such and such an identity to fit into the LGBTQ club. Yet, this homogenizing of LGBTQ culture and identity goes against so much of what LGBTQ stands and fights for.
Angry Brown Butch wrote a great post yesterday speaking to this normalizing of queer identity. In “Why this queer isn’t celebrating” she writes:
…the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community.
Her post also refererneces a piece by Toby Beauchamp, Steven Blevins, Abigail Boggs, Cynthia Degnan, Benjamin D’Harlingue, Cathy Hannabach, Christopher Jee, Tristan Josephson, Liz Montegary, and Kara Thompson that reads “While legal marriage benefits some, this ruling does not grant full equality for all LGBT people.” As their op-ed makes so many excellent points, I want to include an excerpt of it (but please see the full piece at Angry Brown Butch here):
We are also concerned with the state’s use of marriage as a coercive tool. For example, the current U.S. welfare program provides economic incentives to promote marriage, in some cases offering extra benefits to single mothers who marry their child’s biological father, even if this relationship isn’t desired or beneficial. Welfare benefits that limit parenting and relationship choices demonstrate that for many people – regardless of sexual orientation – marriage is not the key to social justice. While some LGBT people celebrate state-recognized relationships, many of us are wary of increased state control over our sexual lives.
We support the personal and spiritual meaning that marriage has for many, but question whether fighting for marriage as a state-run institution is the best strategy for queer liberation more broadly. We urge the networks formed through the same-sex marriage struggle to continue working in the service of all marginalized communities. Following the work of projects like Queers for Economic Justice and beyondmarriage.org, and scholars and activists such as Lisa Duggan, Richard Kim and Nancy Polikoff, we advocate the following: Instead of linking state benefits like healthcare, housing and welfare to marital privilege, they should be detached from marriage and available to all, regardless of marital or citizenship status. Rather than furthering the norm of two partners acting as a single economic childrearing unit, we argue for a movement that embraces multiple meanings of family, and recognizes that marriage and domestic partnership are not always optimal or desired choices. Finally, we believe we can better serve marginalized communities by fighting against all state regulation of sexual and gender choices, identities and expressions.
As the writers above argue, marriage should not be a “coercive tool.” It should not privilege some at the expense of others. Marriage should not be about “state control” and gender/sexuality/relationships should not be the purview of “state regulation.”
Thus, while the legalization of same sex marriage is a victory of sorts, it should also give us pause. As we are celebrating the marriages of couples who have been waiting over half a century for the legal right to marry, we should also remember those people who are not ‘homonormative’ enough to be poster-people for the ‘gay community’ and same-sex marriage. Here’s hoping that some men in bridal gowns, some transgender queers, and a variety of other ‘non-normative’ LGBTQ people that choose to wed use Bush’s economic stimulus check to say “F you” to the ‘sanctity’ of marriage.
In celebratory honor of yesterday’s ruling, I will include the oft circulated but still very funny 10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong List:
1 Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
2 Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
3 Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
4 Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
5 Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
6 Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.
7 Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
8 Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
9 Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
10 Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.
Happy marriage to those of you who choose it, and happy non-marriage to those of you who do not!