Alex Blaze

Marriage won't solve all our problems, part II

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 23, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, child exploitation, gay marriage, gender roles, LGBT, LGBT families, marriage, marriage equality, Prop. 8, propositino 8, same-sex marriage

Gay Patriot West asks:

Many opponents of gay marriage, however, do understand the social benefits of the institution. Instead of calling them mean-spirited, shouldn't we join them in their defense of marriage, using that defense as a basis for extending its benefits to gay people?

Short answer: no.

Long answer after the jump.

The idea that marriage is the foundation of society, that everything we don't like is caused by the "institution of marriage" failing, is a right-wing frame that will always work against queer people. It's factually incorrect, prejudiced, and distracts us from real solutions to real problems.

People who oppose same-sex marriage generally don't just care about us; their goals have always been broader. The goal is to put all of America's diversity through a sausage machine and turn out families with a man who works, a woman who stays at home, and children who are raised to do the same.

This takes the form of opposing women in the workplace, opposing abortion and contraception, and, yes, opposing same-sex marriage.

To that end, they blame all of society's problems on the failing of that family structure. Black people make less money than white people? That can't be even partly about discrimination! It's because of the "breakdown of the Black family." What caused the current economic crisis? People aren't getting married enough. (What, did you think it had something to do with deregulation?) Crime, idleness, drug use, rape, and incest? Breakdown of the family structure.

It's a great way to blame all of society's problems on people's "moral failings" instead of the people who actually caused them, so that makes it attractive in conservative circles.

When conservatives talk about how same-sex marriage will change society, usually the gay rights movement rolls its collective eyes and wonders what in the world those folks are talking about. While they're completely wrong, they're also completely transparent: they see the question of same-sex marriage as a way to express their vision of family interactions.

Marriage, for them, is about forcing people into families that all look the same because it's simply the best thing to do. But for Americans in general, marriage is about choosing with whom we associate and build a life with.

For us, it's two equal people who love each other trying to share a life together. For them, it's a man getting a slave.

And there's no compromise. Their entire argument is the slippery slope: change one aspect of that family structure and all of society goes to hell. We can laugh at that, since so much of that institution has changed over the last half-century that a slippery slope argument just sounds ridiculous.

But in the conservative mind, we need to legally enforce gender roles and a definition of "family" that excludes anyone other than the Cleavers, or else everything in America will continue to be as shitty as it is today.

That mentality will always work against LGBT people. Always. Consider this press release from the Christian News Wire, from today:

Child prostitution in America is a major component of human Trafficking. One root is the break up of the central family of mother, father and children.

Many young girls fall victim to domestic trafficking by not having a loving father and mother and a secure family structure.

Prop 8 Marriage Protection Amendment will help hinder human trafficking of children by reinforcing the social structure of the traditional, nuclear family.

Human trafficking occurs right here in America. Every year nearly 800,000 children are reported missing. Child prostitution is exponentially growing.

Most hear of trafficking overseas. Now there is "reverse trafficking". Predators come to the United States to have sex with children.

Prop 8 Impact: Child prostitutes predominantly come from broken homes where girls do not have a stable two parent family. Instead they are either thrown away, run away or lured. If these children had the balance of a mother and a father the chances of them falling into the hands of the predator are drastically reduced.

Reinforcing the natural, traditional family of a mother and father by Prop 8 will help build and maintain sound families protecting children. Much more will need to be done i.e. bringing moral integrity to the culture.

They consider this the intellectual defense of marriage, even though it's "ZOMG!!!1! Teh gayz MOLEST childrn!1" repackaged.

No, we can't join in their defense of marriage, because each side has a fundamentally different vision of what marriage is. And their vision is a sham. That's the message we need to get out.

Forgot to link to this more elegantly, but here's the first post about marriage not solving all our problems. There I was talking about how the movement for same-sex marriage thinks it'll solve all the community's problems, and it won't. It's basically the same argument, though, that marriage is a cure-all.


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you are right it won't solve them, but I bet it will make a bunch of new problems for us. I'm gay and I don't want marriage, I'm happy in my committed relationship with my partner for the last 13 years. If it was legal or be comes legal in my state i still won't marry.

However the issue should be decided by the people, not the courts. also if it passed in CA, the marriage won't get federal approve for taxes, so if marry in ca and you moved to any other state, guess what your marriage doesn't exist at all, so what have we gain,, I will tell you NOTHING NOTHING at all..

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | October 24, 2008 8:13 AM

"For them, it's a man getting a slave."

Alex, you make several statement like this as characterizing the views of "conservatives" on marriage. While that most certainly applies to a considerable number of people who adhere to what they consider a "truly Biblical" view of marriage and family, I think it paints with to broad of a stereotypical brush. I have a number of relatives who are members of clearly "evangelical" congregations, and who to my chagrin have a knee-jerk affinity for Sarah Palin. Yet for the most part they have been warm and caring to my partner and my relationship. And I think for the most part they have no difficulty with the concept of equal benefits, etc. They are hung up on the "M-word", and they have difficulty separating it from a religious context. Are they in error? Yes. Are they satanic bigots? Absolutly not.

Marriage is certainly not a utopian panacea for the GLBT community, let alone humanity in general. Downstream society may take a different tack concerning the legal recognition/treatment of interpersonal relationships, and certainly the GLBT community needs to be very supportive of the needs of such alternative family structures things as single grandmothers raising their orphaned grandchildren. But so long as the law gives rights and benefits to the phenomenon of "the significant other", it must not violate equal protection concepts in doing so.

There are definitely many people who are against same-sex marriage who don't particularly care about the institution or make arguments about how marriage will save all of society, but I wasn't talking about them.

The idea was whether or not to join in the "pro-marriage" arguments that are being made against same-sex marriage. Most people who oppose same-sex marriage aren't as... creative as some conservatives are on the subject, but then I don't see how a "real debate" on those supposed benefits of the institution would work with them. Would saying that both same-sex and opposite-sex households reduce child prostitution help? Would your extended family be open to that argument?

Separating the civil institution from the religious one is an entirely different argument than I was referring to up there.

As to the slave argument... well, the extreme right doesn't believe in a woman's right to choose abortion or contraception, her ability to say "no" to sex, and expect her to stay home raising kids, even if she doesn't want to do that. There's a reason that feminists rebelled against that, and it wasn't because it was too freeing of a situation for women.

But my main point is that we ought to stop taking these arguments in favor of the "institution" on face value, and understand what their "definition of marriage is one man, one woman" argument is coming from. I see far too many LGBT people saying something along the lines of "But you won't divorce because of same-sex marriage!" which misses the entire point.

I think you're absolutely right that the "religious" right is not so concerned about marriage as a legal institution, but rather wants to push a particular, limited type of family relationship. Making other types of families invisible or disenfranchised is part of that strategy.

When we fight for marriage rights we tend to idealize the institution -- we want to emphasize what we're missing. But if we play along with the far-right that monogamous, with-1.6-children civil marriage is the only proper foundation of society, then we forget what we've taught the world throughout queer history: love makes a family.

That's such an elegant way of putting what I was saying, and I don't think it made it through in the post. Thanks.