Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Marriage

Today I got this email from the Obama campaign:

Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer:


I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:

http://my.barackobama.com/Marriage

I’ve always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I’ve talked to friends and family about this. I’ve thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I’ve gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn’t dawn on them that their friends’ parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

If you agree, you can stand up with me here.

Thank you,

Barack

Today I have heard praise, criticism, and cries of “fuck marriage!”  Today I am proud of my country and of my president not because getting married is the right thing to do, or because we have overcome homophobia (we haven’t) but because a liberty, consideration, right or service extended to one citizen should be made available to all citizens.  I understand that this is a complex issue for Americans and for the GLBT community, but personally, I consider this to be a simple and basic extension of tax policy and various other logistical benefits to members of our communities who were not visible 50, or even 5, years ago.  Laws evolve because citizens evolve – if they didn’t I would still be obliged to bring a musket to church when visiting my home state of Massachusetts.

I have heard many an argument against marriage not from the religious right, but from the core of the GLBT community itself.  The argument, it seems, is one against assimilation.  It’s an argument, and a concern, I’ve thought a lot about over the years and I have finally come out on the side of marriage.  Not on the side of forced assimilation, but on the side of the greatest possible range of options for the greatest possible range of people.  Because, ultimately, radical sex does not get my vote by strictly policing the kinds of sex and relationships I can have.  It gets my vote if and only if it opens more avenues of sexual expression than it closes.

Written by kinkinexile

May 10, 2012 at 12:09 am

Posted in politics

3 Responses

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  1. So, radical feminist political critique of marriage as an inherently oppressive patriarchal institution aside, the most solid and widely expressed argument I’ve heard against marriage from inside queer communities isn’t actually an anti-assimilationist one. The argument is simply this:

    Even if marriage equality is a worthy aim (and there are lots of arguments for why it might be), pursuing political goals requires money and our communities have limited resources to fight for change with. Marriage equality is a change that directly impacts only a very small (and, typically — except in some immigration rights cases — the most privileged) subset of the queer community. Meanwhile, scores of queer and trans youth are committing suicide, being incarcerated and dying violently on the streets daily. I agree that “a liberty, consideration, right or service extended to one citizen SHOULD be made available to all citizens.” And sure, anti-assimilationist arguments aside, legalizing marriage equality would be a powerful symbolic move in a positive direction and it would be great if we could do that and everything else too. But, given the fact that we can’t, pursuing the marriage agenda isn’t actually the best use of our finite resources.

    Since we can’t do everything, we have to make a choice about what to prioritize. We could be putting our time, money and energy into forwarding a political agenda that focuses on directly supporting (poor, young, imprisoned, immigrant, gender-nonconforming, of color, etc) queer folks who tend to be in MUCH more vulnerable positions than most of those who are in a position where marriage-equality is a major issue in their lives. The changes that we need to make to create a safer situation for those vulnerable folks would ALSO influence the climate in a positive way for more privileged queers. And fewer kids might die in the meantime.

    In other words, as Dean Spade says, we all pretty much agree that “trickle-down economics” didn’t work. When are we going to realize that “trickle-down social justice” doesn’t work either?

    (If you’re interested, Dean Spade also says a lot of other neat stuff on this topic that you can check out here: http://makezine.enoughenough.org/prop8.html)

    And, FWIW, my own complicated and conflicted thoughts on marriage from a few years back when I went to the wedding of some friends of mine. 😉

    http://thirdxlucky.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/do-you-take/
    http://thirdxlucky.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/what-it-boils-down-to/

    …Incidentally, how often do you typically attend church when visiting your home state of Massachusetts, musket or no musket? 😉

    thirdxlucky

    May 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

  2. I came across a diagram in the booklet “Organizing Cools the Planet” that I think frames the way more and less radical groups work together very well.

    Picture three circles. The first circle is What We Really Need – the full social transformations needed to create a just world. The second circle is Politically Realistic – what the public/political system will accept at a given moment, and which only includes a small portion of the first circle (otherwise we’d have our just world already). However, the boundaries of this circle are constantly shifting in response to lobbying and political and organizing work. The third circle is False Solutions – proposed by powerful groups who are really opposed to what’s in the first circle but want to present a “progressive” image. These also only overlap partially with political realism, e.g., Rick Santorum might want to turn his vision of marriage into national law but that is not currently politically possible.

    Where the first circle overlaps the second circle is where progress can potentially be made. However, just because there is overlap doesn’t mean it will happen – we need organizing and political pressure for that. Where the third circle overlaps the second circle is where the movement can potentially be set back. And, there is no overlap between the first and third circles.

    There are people working in all three circles. Some are working exclusively in the What We Really Need space, trying to push those solutions down into Political Realism (Visionary). Some are working in the overlap between WWRN and PR, trying to turn potential progress into actual progress (Pragmatic). And some are working in the overlap between PR and False Solutions, trying to keep those bad policies from setting us back (Defensive).

    I see so much infighting between these three groups, each arguing that their work is the most important, but all three types are needed! Without the Visionaries pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, we’d never expand the universe of possibility. Without the Pragmatists translating vision into laws in the existing system, social change would remain all potential and no reality – things like gay marriage that the general public accepts but powerful interests do not, would never happen. And without the Defense, we’d be snookered from behind much more often.

    Obama HAS to work in the Politically Realistic circle – he’s the president! His job is to push the boundaries of that circle via leadership so that it includes *more* of What We Really Need. We can argue about whether he’s done enough of that (no), but, by definition, he can’t take on the job of being the Visionary. That doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t appreciate the work Visionaries do. In fact (for example) he’s explicitly encouraged climate justice groups to apply more pressure to him so that he can take harder decisions.

    So all this to say – while assimilation and bad bargains certainly happen a lot and should be called out on a case-by-case basis, I don’t think the Pragmatists engage in “trickle down social justice” *solely by virtue of being pragmatists*. If done right, Pragmatism creates incremental social change and the Visionaries are right behind them reminding us that it’s not enough and pushing for the next step to reach the point of being politically realistic.

    Erica

    May 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

  3. Erica, thank you so much for bringing that framework into my life!

    Thirdxlucky, that’s a really interesting perspective, and I can see the basis for that argument, but to me it feels…incomplete? It takes the idea of resource allocation in a bubble which scares me – people fund issues that impact them, so I would want to see a better breakdown of how funding comes in, and is allocated, within GLBT organizations and political movements. I’ve been reading about “compassionate consumption” recently as it relates to Project (RED) and one of the arguments made by Project (RED), and relatedly by people who push for compassionate consumption, is that these systems bring in “virgin” money (money that would not have been otherwise allocated to charitable giving) rather than usurping charitable giving budgets. The connection for me here is, would the money dedicated to marriage equality still go into the GLBT movement if marriage equality wasn’t on the agenda? I’m also under the (potentially mistaken) impression that marriage equality funds come from private donors whereas funding for medical care and support for queer youth and poor youth comes largely from state and federal funding as well as managed grant money and foundation funding*. So while we can ultimately argue that the GLBT community should be supporting queer youth from private funds or that allocation of private funds to marriage prevents this, I think people are far too fickle and self motivated to really make a dent there.

    Finally, while “trickle-down social justice” doesn’t work, structural change has to start with structures that the system understands. With relation to structural change, and bearing in mind that overturning the government and burning the system to the ground is not _my_ goal, marriage equality is an interesting piece of case law. For example, how will child custody battles be impacted by the systemic acceptance of gay and lesbian unions? What about healthcare legislation?

    *This was the case several years ago for the groups I was involved with in MA, but may be location specific and/or out of date.

    kinkinexile

    May 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm


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