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February 24, 2004

On Marriage: Ass Backwards Activism

The City of San Francisco has decided to issue same sex marriage licenses in a power grab. When a justice of the peace in SF says, 'by the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronouce you man and wife' to a gay couple, he is lying. A more truthful rendition would be, 'by the power arrogated by me under color of the authority of the State of California..'

But most gay friendly people think gay marriage is inevitable. It should be although it shouldn't be called marriage. We've been over that already. The primary reason for this positive regard for gay union is one of civil rights. Marrieds get things non-marrieds do not, and it's not fair.

As much as I hate analogies, I will use one here. What the justices of the peace (who are actually disturbing it) in SF are trying to do is to paint blacks white. They claim that their ulterior motive is to guarantee equal rights for gay couples, but if that were the case why not sue those entities which are discriminating against gay couples?

I want to leave that question hanging, but I'm coming to believe that there are a bunch of nutjobs who love living in analogy-land. And in that topsy-turvy universe they can start talking about MLK and unfair discrimination and try to make parallels between this aspect of gay liberation and the Civil Rights Movement. Fair warning, such crap will not be tolerated at Cobb.

The common sense stupid question is whether or not gay individuals as 'marrieds' seek to pass as het individuals. That is to say, if I were a gay man and I were to be 'married' would I wear a gold band on the third finger of my left hand? Would I joke about 'the old battleaxe' and tell my co-workers that I have to be home for dinner or the ball and chain will make me sleep on the sofa? Please tell me the answer to this is 'Hell no' (or 'Hells no!' if you're more like Essex Hemphill).

The Hell Yeah answer is whether or not gays should be free in their privacy. That was decided properly, thank God, in the Lawrence case. The Hell Yeah answer is whether gay couples should have the same legal benefits as married couples. But does this require Marriage? No it does not. It's exactly like saying you should be required to be white to own property.

As RT Ford writes in Slate:

Of course for many of the committed gay couples whom for the first time, if only for a few heady days, can claim to be "legally" married, none of this hand-wringing over doctrine and politics matters. To them, the only politics that matter are the politics of recognition�the city's actions send out the message that there is at least one place where the body politic takes gay couples and their relationships seriously. That message is worth something. But whether it's worth the litigation, political backlash, and stirring up of homophobia sure to follow is a matter of opinion, not of law.

There's a lot of crap hitting the fans over this, but it's definitely not worth it. And I think it is something of an insult to people who try to be tolerant (whining for myself) in the most serious multicultural pluralist way, for us to accept this granstanding as if it were a matter of life and death. Gays are not het, nor are bis or transexuals for that matter. There is no way that society is served by overloading what is well understood with the implications of gay love and life. They are not the same, and that's alright.

Fight the discrimination where it arises. Stop mucking with definitions.

Posted by mbowen at February 24, 2004 02:07 PM

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...but I'm coming to believe that there are a bunch of nutjobs who love living in analogy-land. And in that topsy-turvy universe they can start talking about MLK and unfair discrimination and try to make parallels between this aspect of gay liberation and the Civil Rights Movement. Fair warning, such crap will not be tolerated at Cobb.

You don't know how good that is to hear. Like talking to a sane person after talking to a bunch of insane people.

The Civil Rights analogy is what sets me off more than anything. It's offensive and it trivializes the real civil rights movement.

What offends me is that this "gay marriage" movement is a war on reason.

Posted by: IB Bill at February 25, 2004 06:56 AM

This is civil disobedience, not a power grab. Every American change, whether it was women's rights to vote, or anything involving black rights, has involved flouting the law. That's just how this stuff works.

That said, actually the word marriage is important to guarantee equal rights. Why? Because there are thousands and thousands of documents that specify things that a married couple can do -- hospital visitation rights, insurance policies, adoption rules, and others I can't name because I haven't been married and am not from a married household, that are held by thousands of separate organizations all over the country. You decide that gay people get civil unions, and that doesn't change this particular adoption agency's policy, or that partocular hospital's policy, or what have you. Every single one of those entities would have tochange their documentation . And would they? Some yes; most no.

I don't think the gay rights/civil rights analogy quite works either, for reasons I can't work out right now (in my own head, I mean), but civil rights folks use them because they seem to be the only way to make people emotionally connect to the isue, to realize that not all gay guys act like the folks on Will and Grace, not all lesbians look horrid, neither of these groups on the whole get a huge kick out of incest or molesting children (no more so than the general society who thinks that fucking a 17 year old is a crime if your 45, but an 18-year-old is just fine). The worst thing you can call a lot of white people is a racist. That has cache. That means something. They are drawing an analogy to the black struggle because its the only analogy they have. They can't draw on morality, because there are simply too many ignorant Bible thumper who think that "hell" belongs in a rational argument as something other than a cuss word.

Posted by: TLL at February 26, 2004 08:02 AM