Michael Crawford

Marriage: Not Just for the Wealthy and White

Filed By Michael Crawford | August 11, 2007 7:38 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: gay marriage, gay rights, LGBT families, lgbt rights, people of color

I really want to post this video because of the attitudes expressed by some in the progressive LGBT community that marriage is either of concern only to white gay men with money or is part of some grand scheme to remake same-sex couples into a hetero-like version of suburban blandness. The push for marriage rights is not something orchestrated by DC-based activists or donors but has always been something pushed for by people like Deborah and Octavia.

The truth is that marriage is something that the national organizations would have been more than happy not to touch and that they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the issue. They were content to focus on employment non-discrimination and hate crimes protections, both of which are vital to our communities. It's also true that at different points in time different issues take the spotlight. But it was same-sex couples across the country who stood up in a variety of ways who first demanded the freedom to marry. These couples and their allies went to city facilities to request marriage licenses, filed lawsuits, wrote letters to their elected officials, pushed for union ceremonies in their churches and caused such a ruckus that LGBT advocacy organizations had to come along.

As the story of Deborah and Octavia (and the story of Fernando and Mike below) make clear, marriage is about much more than ceremonies, parties and over-the-top honeymoons. Ending marriage discrimination is about full and equal participation in American society and the rights and responsibilities that are associated with marriage such as hospital visitation, immigration, access to a partner's health care insurance and social security benefits.

Will marriage benefit the white and wealthy among us? Yes, absolutely. But because white and wealthy gay men will be able to marry does not negate the huge impact that gay people of color, poor and working class gay people and others will gain from being able to have the relationships and their families legally recognized.

There will undoubtedly continue to be discussion about the place of marriage equality in the larger fight for LGBT equality and there should be. But it strikes me as patronizing for others to imply that LGBT people of color do not understand or want the opportunity to marry.



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This project is working, this project is working....

Thanks for posting the vids, Michael.

Eric Georgantes | August 11, 2007 10:38 AM

I'm constantly amazed by the stupidity of those who support the argument that gay marriage is "part of some grand scheme to remake same-sex couples into a hetero-like version of suburban blandness."

Even if they themselves have no desire to be married, why on earth would they not support their peers who do want to? It's absurd not to.

Thank you Michael. You've expressed what I've been unable to in the comments.

I just forwarded the videos to all of my straight friends and relatives. It is important that our Straight Allies see these types of videos and hear these stories so they can see first-hand the importance of marriage equality.

15 years ago, universal healthcare was almost a mainstream gay issue -- it was on the table because so many queers, witnessing the deaths of friends and lovers and entire social/support systems due to AIDS, and realized that oh, if everyone had access to health care, maybe some of my friends would still be alive...

Around 1993, gays in the military became the dominant issue on the mainstream gay agenda, and then more recently marriage has certainly risen to the top of the priority list for all of the national gay organizations. This reprioritization has absolutely occurred at the cost of the fight for universal healthcare.

Of course Deborah and Octavia should have access to healthcare, as should people who do not go to work, pay taxes, pay the bills or raise a family. Of course Fernando and Michael should have healthcare and hospital visitation rights, as should people who do not wish to get married or serve (unwittingly, perhaps) as part of the ad campaign for Gavin Newsom, who got elected as mayor of San Francisco by criminalizing homeless people and appealing to the most virulent anti-poor rhetoric, then exponentially increased his popularity with the risk-free (in San Francisco, at least) publicity stunt of "legalizing" gay marriage (nothing, of course, was actually legalized).

As Deborah and Octavia allude to, queers have received the benefits of marriage for generations by living in straight relationships -- no one now calls that progress. Gay marriage is the same thing with different packaging -- heteronormativity, long-term partnership/monogamy, etc. in order to obtain the benefits that are only sometimes procured through straight marriage. This isn't progress, it's a tragic compromise that -- yes -- could help some people in relationships where one partner actually owns property, has a healthcare plan or a job with benefits. But at what cost? What about those unwilling or unable to access these privileges? The national gay organizations are unfortunately fighting for marriage rights instead of universal access to health care, housing, food, or the benefits now procured only through citizenship.

For generations, queers have been developing ways of living with, loving, caring for and lasting for one another that are outside of the status quo/ marriage = love doctrine so obviously false for any queer who grew up in or around marriage. The gay marriage agenda is desperate to erase these challenges to mainstream normalcy in favor of the white picket fence/"we're just like you" model of assimilation. And there is no question that the gay marriage "movement" has fundamentally redistributed resources in the wrong direction -- away from AIDS services, domestic violence prevention, drug treatment, etc. and to the white gay elite organizations (HRC, Marriage Equality, etc.) that have no interest in an agenda a broader than tax breaks or inheritance rights for people like Rosie O'Donnell or David Geffen.

I can't believe I almost neglected to mention the rabid gay patriotism so present at almost every gay marriage demonstration, where gay marriage proponents drape themselves in the stars and stripes and demand their place at the red-white-and-blue table of normalcy without challenging any aspect of US imperialism.

beergoggles | August 12, 2007 6:09 PM

And there is no question that the gay marriage "movement" has fundamentally redistributed resources in the wrong direction -- away from AIDS services, domestic violence prevention, drug treatment, etc. and to the white gay elite organizations (HRC, Marriage Equality, etc.) that have no interest in an agenda a broader than tax breaks or inheritance rights for people like Rosie O'Donnell or David Geffen.

Anyone who has gone through spending thousands of dollars in lawyer fees to get a modicum of what heterosexuals get for spending 35 dollars at the marriage license window can tell you that your argument is fallacious.

Do you really think rich people like Rosie will have any problems leaving money to whoever they chose via foreign bank accounts, high paid accountants and lawyers? How about getting healthcare for whoever they want? Visitation?

Now do you think your everyday gay person will be able to do the same when they can't afford the costly lawyers and accountants and foreign accounts?

The simple truth is that equal marriage benefits low to middle class gays far more than it does the very rich ones because it puts within our reach what was once available to only the rich gays. You're so blinded by your hate of whatever tax break the rich homos are getting that you're willing to screw over the rest of us. GG.

Leland Frances | August 12, 2007 8:33 PM

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