Category Archives: same-sex marriage

Fighting to Gain Equal Access to Problematic Institutions

I’ve been encouraged by the recent outpouring of feeling and response from politicians, community leaders, and “regular people” regarding queer teen suicide.  Of course, part of me thinks “wow, what a big fucking case of too little, too late” and another part can’t help but notice that none of the trans or intersex teen suicides seem to be making the headlines.   But I think it’s important that we recognize that every day, the basic rights of queer people are violated.  For years, the most important “gay issues” to me have been suicide, hate crimes, and discrimination.  But those haven’t been the “sexy issues,” and they don’t get talked about.

I seem to spend half my time in queer activist circles ranting about marriage and the military, but in reality, the problem I have with privileging those two issues goes beyond the issues themselves.  Whenever any group is working for equal rights, there comes the question of what people in that group want equal rights to. When the answer is access to an institution, the equality fight can be problematic if the institution itself is problematic.

I personally have big issues with both marriage and the military as a radical, a pacifist, a feminist, and someone who believes in community action and organizing but can be suspicious of state involvement in private lives.  The US military is an imperialist machine, while marriage is a patriarchal institution that grants the state control over interpersonal relationships and gender relations.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with an individual wanting to marry, or to join the military.  It falls along the same lines of being pro-sex workers, but anti-exploitation.  Of course, equal access means equal access to our society’s most problematic institutions, as well as those we most fervently believe in.

From an organizing perspective, this means that there are going to be some challenges.  My response is to privately support queer people who want to join the military or marry, while avoiding those issues professionally and choosing queer rights issues that I can wholeheartedly get behind.  At the same time, part of my response is to be an activist against patriarchy and imperialism, for feminism and racial equality and peace.  Part of that is creating options that accommodate people who do want to join the military or marry, for example by coming up with creative solutions for state recognition of a greater diversity of relationships or by creating opportunities for young people to make a living and attend college that don’t require unjustified violence against people of color.

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Why Is Same-Sex Marriage a Priority?

I know I’ve mentioned here before that I get frustrated by the emphasis on marriage and the military in the gay rights movement, two issues that don’t really matter to me personally and in some ways seem less important than other issues (like decriminalization of sodomy around the world, like HIV prevention, like hate crimes prevention, like non-discrimination laws). But aside from that, I was just wondering, why marriage? Obviously it’s an important institution in our society, but I find it interesting that it happens to be the marker of how the gay rights movement is progressing around the world. A lot of countries in Latin America, for example, have really impressive laws about hate crimes and non-discrimination, but that doesn’t get emphasized in the news at all, while a new country getting same-sex marriage is automatically a big deal.

Prop 8 Overturned, Sort Of

Your blogger’s inner cynicism rears its ugly head, I’m afraid.  I haven’t had time to read the decision or anything else, so I’m operating on what I know from the news, which is that a California District Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds and that a stay has been issued, though it’s not a very long one and so it’ll expire before an appeal and another stay will have to be issued.

Assuming that’s correct, this is definitely something of a victory, but it doesn’t mean people can get married again, and it doesn’t mean that Prop 8 was really “overturned,” at least, in the sense I use the word.  I sort of feel like you can’t overturn something if the next guy can turn it right back.  But despite that, I’ll feel some cautious sense of victory, and eagerly anticipate the result of the appeals process.

Breaking News for Marriage Equality!

Maryland Attorney General opinion means that MD will recognize out-of-state same sex marriages. Heh, maybe I should’ve gotten married when I was in Iowa before moving to Maryland.

Why Marry?

With all the talk that’s been going around about gay marriage and the benefits of marriage (and in some academic circles, the idea of abolishing marriage or using alternatives to marriage), I thought I’d try just for fun to brainstorm a list of reasons why people marry.  I’m not pro- or anti-marriage; I actually think that everyone, gay and straight, should have the option to marry but should also have another option that allows for certain benefits and obligations without the label or the full legal package of marriage.  This is just sort of an interesting thought experiment.  Feel free to add your own in the comments!

  1. Economic/social status conferred by marrying a particular person.  This might take the form of a bump up in an individual’s class in some societies, money or property passing through the marital relationship (whether by virtue of laws that dictate how property can be owned by a married person or through a gift like a dowry), social connections based on the spouse’s personal and business relationships, family connections that lead to a step up in business or otherwise, etc.  Also falling under this category would be unique benefits that come from the spouse’s abilities: example, marrying a woman who’s great at hosting parties gives a man a business advantage.
  2. Economic/social status conferred by virtue of the institution of marriage.  These are benefits that accrue by virtue of simply being married, regardless of the individual spouse.  Being married in some societies is/was a symbol of adulthood.  There might be tax benefits due to marriage, or other tangible economic benefits.  In the modern U.S., for example, there are plenty of people who marry because of health insurance benefits or tax situation.
  3. Legitimacy of/benefits for children.  In many societies, marriage was/is the only acceptable environment for child-rearing, so getting married would benefit the child as well as the parents.  If divorce is acceptable, this is also a common reason not to get a divorce.  Benefits range from economic incentives to avoiding social stigma for the child.
  4. Legitimating sex.  Marriage is often the only social acceptable relationship in which sex can take place, and also once a couple is married, they tend to escape sexual scrutiny.  Whatever your kinky sexual preferences, the law and society are likely to ignore them within the “sanctity” of the marital bed.  
  5. Avoiding suspicion.  A related reason to marry is that a particular culture may look at young single individuals with suspicion.  If marriage is the social norm, then there is a lot of pressure to marry, and to do what’s expected.  This may include family pressure, peer pressure, etc.  I’m also thinking of those who do have something to hide, like gay men and lesbians who would marry one another in the 1950s and continue to have sex with other people, or gay individuals throughout history who married someone of the opposite sex in order to keep others’ eyes away from their sexual encounters with the same sex. 
  6. Love/companionship.  Especially in modern times, it seems like love is a big reason to get married.  Society tells us that once you find that “one true person,” the logical next step is to propose.  It makes sense to mark companionship with a legal relationship, and this also ties in with some of the benefits – for example, if you love someone you may want to be sure they are taken care of when you die through the inheritance laws.  Marriage also shows others that you’re serious, and serves as a sign of long-term commitment.  

Others?  I’m sure there must be many more; this is just off the top of my head.

Iowans are good folks

I’m surprised and encouraged by the positive response I received when phone banking for One Iowa today.  Along with those supportive of same sex marriage, I also got a number of people opposed or unsure, but who were opposed to changing the constitution and willing to call their representatives to tell them that.  I also talked to several people who actually wanted to discuss the issue and know my opinion.  And as a bonus, I learned that we have an awesome LGBT resource center I knew nothing about.  I’m going to a potluck tomorrow and an art show on Friday there.

In other news, please remember that some of us have to pay for each and every text message we send or receive.  I get so tired of people who text me four or five times in quick succession either in response to my dialing a wrong # or when they have the wrong #.  If someone texts you something that doesn’t require a response, remember that sending “ok” in reply may be costing them money!

Holy Mackerel!

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Yay! Contracts!

Some preliminary thoughts on the Varnum opinion

At the moment, I’m in a fabulous and fascinating conference on CRT and ignoring it because I’m so excited about this opinion.  More thoughts to come, but I wanted to post a few initial observations.

1) The opinion was unanimous, and they applied intermediate scrutiny (not dismissing strict, but not reaching it because of the result under intermediate).

2) The language is absolutely beautiful.  Let me share my favourite quote: “Our responsibility… is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”  YES!  The whole history/tradition thing was a big deal in oral arguments, and I’m so glad that the Court continues to embrace an evolving notion of equal protection under the Iowa Constitution.  Iowa has an amazing history when it comes to equal protection, and this is just another example.

3) I loved their basically saying that it’s absolutely ridiculous to argue that there’s no classification being made here because gay people can marry someone of the opposite sex just like straight people.  Thank you!

4) They also did a great job on the procreation/child-rearing arguments, which were a big focus of this case.  Dennis Johnson gets big credit for the way he argued this point, and the Court bought it.

Finally, if you’d like a step-by-step breakdown summary of the ruling, you can read my article:

iowa supreme court mandates same-sex marriage

Excuse me a minute while I squeal…

IOWA HAS GAY MARRIAGE!!!!!!

Heads up on an interesting discussion on gay marriage

If you haven’t yet seen it, Jon Stewart makes some really thoughtful arguments in a discussion with Mike Huckabee about gay marriage.  One of my favourite points: “Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality.”  You can get it online at thedailyshow.com, just click full episodes and select Tuesday’s night’s show. The discussion is right after the last little black commercial break bar at the bottom of your screen.