Alex Blaze

Sorry, same-sex marriage won't solve all our problems

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 03, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: gay rights, hospital visitation rights, LGBT, marriage, Thomas Disch

Hell, it won't even solve most.

But that won't stop drivel like this, from The Advocate:

On July 4, 2008, the out science fiction writer shot himself in his New York apartment. Could gay marriage have saved him?

I don't know, but the good money's on "No."

The article argues that Thomas Disch, who lost a fight to keep his apartment in New York City a year ago, killed himself recently because he couldn't get married. The connection to same-sex marriage is that the apartment was under his male partner's name, and had they been married, Disch would have been able to keep the apartment.

The article breezes by other factors that may have contributed to Disch's tragic decision: the death of his partner, the fact that his second home in upstate New York was damaged in a flood, his diabetes, his difficulty walking.

While it's tragic that he took his life, there simply isn't enough here to say that same-sex marriage could have saved his life. We simply don't know enough about Disch's life to make a claim like that.

And it comes off as using his death to push a political agenda.

I generally have no problem with doing so if someone's death was caused by something identifiable, like lax regulation of a certain product, since that can be a starting point to prevent others' deaths. But the claim that it was discriminatory marriage laws... well, that's a bit much.

(Especially considering that the article never proves that he needed marriage. What it does discuss is that he needed fairer housing protections that would have allowed him to keep the apartment, no matter what his relationship to the person on the lease was. He was living there, and being displaced by the landlord was wrong. It doesn't matter if he was the same-sex partner, grandparent, godchild, close friend, second cousin, or care-taker of the person on the lease, he should have had a right to keep his home.)

Consider this also from Michael Petrelis:

This comes as a shock to me, that marriage, or specifically gay marriage, may be an effective method of stopping HIV. I didn't know the foundation was touting gay marriage this way, till I read their release on queer nuptials:

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation applauds the recent California Supreme Court decision to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage, an important step towards equality for all Californians. The Foundation strongly supports marriage equality both because it is an important civil rights issue, and because there is emerging evidence that suggests gay marriage may be an effective HIV prevention strategy.

To their discredit, the foundation's brain-trust didn't see fit to link to any actual scientific proof to back up their startling claim, but it is certainly in keeping with AIDS Inc in San Francisco making pretty unbelievable predictions related to HIV, and offering little to nil proof.[...]

And if SF AIDS Foundation leaders endorse gay marriage as HIV prevention, will they next champion abstinence until marriage?

I doubt it. The point isn't that they've adopted the Religious Right's mindset on every issue (i.e. that marriage means that no one will cheat on their partners anymore or start using condoms, or that abstinence education actually prevents STD's), the issue here is that marriage has become such a central feature in gay rights activism that everything has started to be analyzed from that point. Everyone's trying to hitch themselves to that bandwagon, and all that does is make other problems facing the queer community invisible.

How about the health care argument?


iPhone users: Click to watch

Same-sex marriage isn't a cure for even a significant part of America's health care crisis, it won't give the necessary protections to other people who should have a right to be in the hospital with loved ones or serve as health care proxies (unmarried lovers, close friends, caregivers), and it won't provide even a majority of LGBT people with sick leave to care for significant others.

If the producers of that YouTube video actually cared about reforming the US medical system and solving the cited problems for everyone who faces them, they'd be pushing single-payer health care, advance health care directives (that allow people to designate easily their health care proxies and who can visit them in the hospital), and paid sick leave for all American workers (half don't get any sick days) that they can use on themselves or anyone who needs their care while sick.

Instead those specific, material issues come off as a pretext to push for marriage. They're huge problems for tens of millions of Americans, gay and straight, and the number of situations like the one in the video where same-sex marriage would solve all the problems mentioned are few and far between. A real commitment to health care reform does not lead one to same-sex marriage.

The idea's out there, though, that marriage is the cornerstone of the LGBT community's problems, and it's easy to see how many of us might just think that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage all over the country would mean that 90% of the movement is going to pack up its bags, go home, put its collective feet up, and call it a movement.

(Sullivan openly stated it in his book Virtually Normal, that after same-sex marriage is available in all 50 states and DADT is repealed, "we should have a party and close down the gay rights movement for good.")

And most LGBT people, the ones who didn't choose to get married as well as the ones who did, will still have the same problems as before. Thomas Disch still would be living with whatever caused him to want to take his life. People will still be contracting HIV at alarming rates. And the man in that video, or other men like him who didn't go down and get married or couldn't marry whoever needed their help in the hospital, will still not be allowed to visit their partners in the hospital. 48 million Americans still won't have health care coverage.

But, I guess, the benefit would be that we'd stop hearing about how same-sex marriage can solve all of our problems. The downside would be that we, for the most part, will be in the same position as before.


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I'm completely with you, Alex, in not wanting to trivialize the death of anyone lost due to suicide by assigning a single, simple, trigger. (I learned from experience after my partner's suicide in 2000.)

I hear you, as well, about the risk of assuming that legal, equal marriage will mark the end of all problems for gay folks.

Good thoughts... thanks!

I agree entirely I'm sick and tired of people trotting out marriage as the solution to every problem anyone in the queer community is facing. In my local community there are a few individuals who seem to think that once queers get marriage everything will be perfect forever. No one will cheat on there partners, no one will get depressed, no one will have casual sex, and no one will be without health care.

All I can do is pat them on the head and tell them its a cute fantasy. Marriage wont fix all of our problems it will fix a few problems for a few people. But I don't see it bringing sweeping and monumental change to most of our worlds.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 4, 2008 12:50 AM

All good points Alex. What lies beyond is the necessity of Human Rights for all people around the world. A massive and probably unending effort to start with the basics of clean water and education. We westerners are largely ignorant of how truly fortunate we are in the division of the best things in the world.

My own attitudes are not a secret. If I give the state the right to "legitimize" or "institutionalize" my relationship what has it been for 32 years? I have to think that our joining an institution of "respectability" with a present 50% failure ratio is not the best use of our efforts as all relationships are what individuals make them.

I certainly respect those who view their marriage as a refinement of their commitment.

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: LEV. 11:10

Gay Bride of Frankenstein... She's coming

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 4, 2008 5:21 AM

Quoting Leviticus? What are you a doctor of Shocker? Veterinarian perhaps? No, that would make you a man of science and obviously it is too complicated for you. Mail order Doctorate of Divinity?, yes, that would be about your speed.

Unless you are a new delusional soft drink with plenty of pointless caffeine and a bitter aftertaste.

Shorter Dr. Shocker: Love the shrimper; hate the shrimp.

Thought I'd spell the joke out for Robert.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 4, 2008 10:21 AM

Same sex marriage is not our most important fight. Far more important is a major fight for an inclusive ENDA, and agianst Barney Franks fake verion. He gutted and then cut it because in it’s original form it would have been a body blow to the little piggies that own and manage companies that want to increase their profit margin by underpaying GLBT folks, women and minority peoples. The Democrats accepted every amendment put forward by Republicans and the only winners were the Chamber of Commerce and the bigots.

Of equal importance is hate crimes and hate speech legislation which was also ditched, this time so that no one would form the outrageous view that Democrats were pro-LGBT.

BUT, when SSM becomes the focus of a major attack, which, win or lose, has major national consequences, the picture changes totally. We are not just defending a silly patriarchal holdover to get tax breaks for rich GLBT folk, we’re defending our community.

A better way would be to abolish marriage with it's wealth preserving and cult connections in favor of inclusive, secular civil partnerships. And we need laws requiring passage of rigorous parenting classes and state guarantees for the welfare and protection of women and children, including insistence on a secular education.

The inability to marry, and the subsequent feelings of alienation, can be a sizable contributor to depression.

However, I'd argue that homophobia in general is the killing agent. To me, it seems far more evident that prolonged torment/alienation on the social sphere, starting from early school, is what drives these feelings of perdition. Why don't I see myself on television? Books? Why is my identity used as an insult? Why do I have to be afraid of being beaten to death should I choose to express myself openly? Those seem like more immediate causes of suicidal thoughts than marriage.

Of course, everybody wants their socially recognized, exuberant, white wedding. It's such a family-centered ritual. For those of us where family is very central in our lives, marriage is such a burning desire. However, it would still be of little use if I were able to have my big Hispanic-style wedding, but most of my family would choose not to attend, or I would hear snide comments resonate from members on my wedding day.

Call me naive if you wish but the number one reason I vote in support of gay marriage is a hope it encourages monogamy.According to a recent article I read about aids there are still 55,000 new infections every year in the US and if I remember right 53 percent are gay men.Encouraging monogamy and safe sex and discouraging casual sex and infidelity would have to have some effect on the numbers of new aids infections of gay men.

Safer sexual practices and monogamy do not go hand-in-hand. It is perfectly possible to have responsible sexual contact numerous partners and be at far lower risk than someone practising unsafe sex once in a while with strangers.
The rise in HIV/AIDS amongst hetero people with their heads in the sand in the UK shows that gay and bisexual men are more likely to understand the risks and acknowledge them in their sexual behaviour than those of other preferences who still think you can "tell" if someone "has AIDS" by looking at them in a nightclub.