- Marriage-progressive. This group is the largest, in my estimation, when it comes to the number of queer people who subscribe to it. Generally, they believe that same-sex marriage is a worthy goal, but it's not the only one. They will often discuss same-sex marriage in the context of other issues for the LGBT community, like ENDA and hate crimes legislation, and are concerned with other progressive goals like health care reform and ending war.
They're less vocal than the second category, the marriage-focused, when it comes to the issue of marriage mainly because they tend to see it in the context of other civil rights issues. They're more likely to push for and accept non-marriage same-sex couple recognition such as civil unions and domestic partnerships, but they generally believe that those substitutes are inferior to and mere stepping-stones towards same-sex marriage.
As the largest group here, this group has some of the most prominent ideological debates going on in the LGBT population. While they all view marriage as one issue among many important LGBT issues, some don't think it's the most-pressing issue, while others do. Some are more confrontational about homophobia among straight people, while others focus more on "cleaning up house" within the LGBT community when it comes to sexism, racism, transphobia, and classism. Some may even go so far as to say that marriage should be put on the back-burner while other issues get taken care of first, with marriage still being an important goal to work on down the line.
This group generally votes Democratic, often resides outside of coastal-urban areas, and is racially and ethnically diverse. Both queer Millennials and Boomers swing in this direction, and they usually describe us as the "LGBT community." They voted for Obama not because of same-sex marriage, but because of his stated support of other LGBT legislation as well as other progressive policy.
- Marriage-focused. This is the second-largest group, but by far the most vocal when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage. People outside the LGBT population tend to think that all LGBT people think like them, and even many queer people on the left or the right who don't follow LGBT politics closely assume that gays and lesbians are all in this group.
They see marriage as the most important goal for LGBT activism, and often have a hard time seeing any other goal (with the notable exception of DADT repeal). They often discuss the "moral" importance of marriage and its "stabilizing effects," put "family" before individuality, and sometimes think marriage will be a solution to many problems that afflict the community, like bullying, the closet, adoption rights, and economic inequality between LGBT people and straight people.
They are less likely to be satisfied with marriage-lite solutions like civil unions and domestic partnerships, sometimes referring to them as "marriage apartheid." They also see other LGBT legislation, like ENDA and hate crimes laws, as distractions or trifles, and may even oppose them citing libertarian concerns like lawsuits, small government, "thought-control," and the individual's right to discriminate. Many support and work on a variety of non-LGBT issues, on both the right and the left, and might see marriage as less important than those other political or non-political issues.
This group generally resides in big cities with large LGBT populations, has more Gen Xers than the other groups, and is whiter than the LGBT generally population is, even though there are people of color who fall into this category. They're less patient with the Obama administration, LGBT orgs like HRC and the Task Force, and usually describe us as the "gay and lesbian community." They vote generally Democratic, although the majority of gay and lesbian Republicans fall into this category. Those who voted for Obama did so because of general fatigue with Republicans and Bush, as well as genuine hope that Obama would repeal DOMA and DADT.
- Marriage-apathetic. This group of people vaguely supports same-sex marriage because they're likely to think legal discrimination is wrong, but they don't think same-sex marriage is the most important LGBT issue or even one worth their time. They don't have a problem with the institution of marriage; rather they see other problems that afflict LGBT people, like hate crimes, health and HIV issues, job discrimination, and societal acceptance, as so pressing that marriage itself appears too abstract or too frivolous for them to pursue.
This group is the least visible (except for reactionary and closeted) when it comes to the issue of marriage and often resent how much marriage has taken from the community in terms of time, energy, and resources.
When it comes to other issues, they can be very involved in LGBT politics and activism, often working on non-governmental discrimination issues, transgender/transsexual issues, and HIV/AIDS issues. While this group is apathetic to same-sex marriage, marriage-apathetics aren't necessarily ignorant of politics and may follow the news as closely as those in the marriage-progressive and marriage-focused categories. This group is often sensitive to racism, sexism, transphobia, and classism within the LGBT community, and are sometimes more quick to condemn prejudice when LGBT people commit it than when outsiders are homophobic or transphobic.
This group spans generations and appears both in and out of coastal-urban areas. They mostly vote Democratic but are impatient with political insiders and will often criticize LGBT organizations like HRC and the Task Force. Many (especially straight) TG/TS and bisexual people fall into this category, as well as quite a few gay and lesbian people who find themselves on the margins of the community due to income, political ideology, or serostatus. They usually describe us as the "LGBT community," but are more likely than marriage-progressives to also use narrower phrases like "LGB people," "the transgender umbrella," and "an LGB(t) organization," conscious of the individual meaning of each term.
- Anti-marriage radical. This group believes that marriage is bad and that it should be dismantled for everyone. They believe that marriage is an inappropriate way to distribute resources and, therefore, shouldn't be a goal for LGBT activism. They tend to see broad connections LGBT politics and other leftist movements, like economic equality, feminism, and environmentalism, and will often choose to participate in other movements instead.
Their opposition to marriage can come from several places. Some anti-marriage radicals believe that marriage is an out-dated, patriarchal institution that has no place in a free and equal society. Others believe that marriage takes resources away from single people and other family forms, therefore creating more discrimination than legalizing same-sex marriage would solve. Still others believe that the atomized family unit is unsustainable and therefore shouldn't be encouraged. Most anti-marriage radicals will have a variety of reasons for their beliefs.
Their focus on other issues and movements tends to put them outside the conversation when it comes to marriage. They're more likely than any other group to be labeled traitors, generally because they challenge fundamental identity narratives of marriage-progressives (that same-sex marriage promotes equality) and the marriage-focused (that gay and lesbian activism should only be concerned with "gay issues"). They also tend to easily get frustrated with what they see as the narrow focus and limited goals of the larger LGBT community, thus removing themselves from community discussions. They are more likely, in internal discussions, to criticize prejudice within the LGBT community than they are to criticize homophobia and transphobia from outside.
They tend to vote Democratic or third-party, if they vote at all. They span generations in much the same way as the marriage-apathetic, and are racially and ethnically diverse. They often reside in coastal-urban areas and usually call us "queer people."
- Beyond marriage. These are policy and law wonks from the "marriage-progressive" and "anti-marriage radical" categories who believe that same-sex marriage is an important civil rights goal, but that it's ultimately an unfair way of distributing resources and that there are many other related issues that are more important. They tend to believe that family is important and that relationships should be promoted and protected by the government, but they see stress the importance of relationships that aren't currently recognized and accepting a diversity of families.
They're probably the smallest group I'm describing here, mainly because of the complexity of their ideology and the relatively little attention LGBT media give it. Their beliefs stem not only from feminist theory (that the relationships that are important are the ones people deem important themselves), but also from general economic progressivism (that economic protection is a necessary function of government and should work to eliminate all forms of inequality).
They tend to understand and care more about family law than anti-marriage radicals, but they are also further to the left than marriage-progressives. They are often labeled traitors by the marriage-focused because they challenge their foundational narrative that marriage is the only legitimate way to organize society. They are concerned with other issues facing the LGBT community, especially adoption law, but tend to see less of a distinction between LGBT people and straight/cis people and therefore are less likely to see any law as explicitly LGBT. They are generally OK with civil unions and domestic partnerships, and often support having both marriage and civil unions available to everyone.
Beyond marriagers generally vote Democratic because of many progressive/leftist issues. They trend older than the LGBT population generally, but can be found in and outside of coastal-urban areas. When I'm talking about this category, I'm referring to more than just the people who wrote the famous Beyond Same-Sex Marriage manifesto, although many don't have the language to put with their beliefs. They're also not all wonks and include a lot of queer radicals, hippies, New Deal leftists, and feminists. They usually refer to us as "the LGBT community."
- Reactionary and closeted. This could very well be the largest category, but it's at the end since they're often difficult to tell apart from straight homophobes. They oppose same-sex marriage but support, often with lots of energy, opposite-sex marriage. Not all of them are closeted, but those who aren't think that their political ideology and sexuality require them to constantly prove their loyalty to movement conservatism.
While there are famous people in this category, like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, both of whom oppose same-sex marriage while at least being gay and bi men in behavior, most shun the spotlight and don't participate in LGBT discussions, making it harder to estimate how many people there are in this category. And since their beliefs on marriage stem from internalized homophobia, they're easily dismissed by those in the other categories.
Along with the anti-marriage radicals, they're the only group here who opposes same-sex marriage. They're easy to distinguish, though, since they only oppose marriage for LGBT people, don't subscribe to any recognizable feminist ideology, and often avoid the conversation entirely if they can.
They generally vote Republican, if they vote at all. They are racially and ethnically diverse and trend older, even though there are many younger adults in this category. These people are unlikely to believe that any other LGBT issue is important. They tend to live outside of coastal-urban areas, and use cringe-inducing phrases to refer to us like "homosexuals," "the homosexual community," and "the gays."
Obviously, this isn't meant to be exhaustive. There's plenty of diversity and debate within each of these categories and people who lie at the outskirts who may identify with more than one.
I would put my own politics with the beyond marriage folks, since I do think think that there are plenty of relationships worth protecting and plenty of better ways to distribute rights than with marriage. The Bilerico Project's readers probably mostly come from the marriage-progressive category, a few people from the other categories as well, except for reactionary and closeted folks.
What do you think? Is this list an adequate way of describing LGBT's diverse opinions on marriage? Where would you fall in these categories?