Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Comment of the Week: Jay Kallio on Marriage Equality Thoughts

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 10, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: AmericaBlog, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, David Frum, John Aravosis, New York Senate, New York Times, same-sex marriage

Comment of the WeekOn Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer's post Some Thoughts on the New York Gay Marriage Victory, in which he suggests we might be better off moving away from, not toward, marriage as the relationship privileged by the state, and as the source of partnership rights.

Projector Jay Kallio responded:

"...For the rest of us marriage equality is about fighting to get the 1,300 rights and benefits that the US grants to opposite sex couples, which include such life and death issues as obtaining health insurance, keeping one's home, getting social security benefits in old age when you can no longer work, among many other issues that have been the cause for catastrophic losses and deadly injustices among LGBT people. The fight for these rights is not about your projection of your own psyche into the construction of a grand social theory. It is about concrete, dollars and cents, bricks and mortar reality that reflects institutionalized, codified discrimination against same sex relationships. We are putting an end to a harsh, unjust, bigoted reality."

This should also be considered in light of Friday's New York Times article As Same-Sex Marriage Becomes Legal, Some Choices May Be Lost.

What say you, Projectors? Should we be agitating for marriage so same-sex couples can get those 1300 rights and benefits, or should we be agitating to give those rights to couples regardless of gender and regardless of a more-or-less permanent contract with the state?

Kallio's full comment:

I find all these anti marriage equality comments to be utter nonsense. Where do you folks get all these irrelevant presumptions about what the marriage equality movement "means" to the people fighting for it? Marriage equality has nothing whatsoever to do with absurd statements alleging that "it's about the direction in which we choose to move as a society" or "we've managed to convince ourselves that marriage will bring bliss and prosperity for the rest of our lives". or "by giving it so much significance, we reinforce its status and entrench it further". Only in your mind.

For the rest of us marriage equality is about fighting to get the 1,300 rights and benefits that the US grants to opposite sex couples, which include such life and death issues as obtaining health insurance, keeping one's home, getting social security benefits in old age when you can no longer work, among many other issues that have been the cause for catastrophic losses and deadly injustices among LGBT people. The fight for these rights is not about your projection of your own psyche into the construction of a grand social theory. It is about concrete, dollars and cents, bricks and mortar reality that reflects institutionalized, codified discrimination against same sex relationships. We are putting an end to a harsh, unjust, bigoted reality.

Winning marriage equality does not preclude redefinition of relationship, nor does stop us from fighting the long term battle to reissue all 1,300 rights and benefits so that they accrue to the individual, regardless of relationship status, as has been done in the social democracies in Europe over generations. Those battles will continue here, probably for generations. Have fun with all that folks. Everyone deserves those perks, whether they are married or not. Plenty of advocacy work to do there. Have a ball. Like Sisyphus and the rock.

Laws define concrete contracts between the state and individuals, and all sorts of psychological projection and interpretation of some fantasied emotional symbolism is relevant only as a reflection of the interpreter's inner struggle, and has nothing to do with why we fight to remedy legalized injustice.

Most people really don't like getting ripped off for rights, benefits and the social safety net that others receive as a matter of entitlement, after paying the same taxes and obeying the same laws and social contract as everyone else. It's very simple and straightforward. Equal means equal. That's what we fight for. And marriage equality is merely one more step in a very long work in progress.


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ditchhook | July 10, 2011 9:32 PM

I'm a bit concerned with the oversimplisity of Jay Kallio's comments, and disturbed by his apparent naivete with his contention that:

"Winning marriage equality does not preclude redefinition of relationship, nor does stop us from fighting the long term battle to reissue all 1,300 rights and benefits so that they accrue to the individual, regardless of relationship status, as has been done in the social democracies in Europe over generations. Those battles will continue here, probably for generations. Have fun with all that folks. Everyone deserves those perks, whether they are married or not. Plenty of advocacy work to do there. Have a ball. Like Sisyphus and the rock."

I don't think the argument takes into consideration what is going on 'on the ground' in more conservative settings. When I listen carefully to Indiana 'activist' in support of gay marriage, they rely primarily on assimilationist arguments that imply long-term monogamy and traditional nuclear families should be a mutual goal shared by both straights and gays: one that deserves financial and legal support of the government, and that 'promiscuity' should be a shared enemy: that HIV, bath-houses, obnoxious drag queens and disturbed trannies are merely the sad but predictable result of a heterosexist majority that exclude homosexuals from free pursuit of their family values.

Jay Kallio's prediction that gay marriage is just step one on a long journey towards some utopic equality shouldn't be trusted. Giving gay marriage activism such a high priority could just as well lead us all to a brave new world where the (superficially and hypocritically) monogamous-- gay and straight-- buy into their own arguments and work hand-in-hand to stigmatize anyone-- gay or straight-- who cannot or will not conform to their new ethical standard.

Jay Kallio | July 11, 2011 8:46 AM

People, gay or straight, who believe in monogamy and stigmatize those who do not are entitled to their beliefs and have the right to speak them, just as you take the opportunity to speak against them. I've spent plenty of time talking with voters in Indiana and conservative mores predominate there, as well as in many other states, which is the main reason I advocate for fighting for marriage equality; because any additional rights will be long term, or impossible, to gain. That is my point. Other, more progressive issues are nowhere near on the table in much of the country, so marriage is the best we can do, until trans people and others living can do much, much more work in "changing the hearts and minds". Meanwhile, marriage rights might be more achievable, and are heading us in the right direction.

I strongly encourage people who think we could simply "prioritize" the efforts and money at the disposal of our large LGBT organizations differently, and then we would win other battles (like GENDA, or resources for homeless LGBT youth), as though the causes were interchangeable, go talk with people outside urban areas, especially in red states, and see how far from reality that expectation really is. Do a reality check and see whether you can still insist on waiting forever for these other goals. Especially in conservative states.

When I say marriage is merely a step in a long term process, I am talking over the next 50 years, not tomorrow.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 11, 2011 3:44 AM

1. The rights and privileges open for married, opposite sex couples but denied married same sex couples should be open to everyone regardless of whether or not they're partnered in state sanctioned partnerships or even partnered at all. There are no justifications denying them to unpartnered people.

2) Partnering should be easy in and easy out, excepting that it's important to emphasize laws to protect women and children because of the widespread acceptance of cultist ideas that they're inferior to men and exist solely as economic assets for men. We should pay particular attention to legal processes that ease the emancipation of GLBT and atheist youth from bigoted or religious parents and to providing for their welfare.

3) The current and widespread interference by religious cults and sects in civil affairs like partnering and divorce should be criminalized or in the case of adoption and education, secularized.

Partnering, including marriage is going to take on a new importance for many in times of economic collapse. And, as we've seen, partnering continues to evolve as people make the arrangements they see fit irrespective of the limits placed on them by backward laws and religious views.

I'm pretty much on Kallio's side in this one. I'd just like to add that there are a couple of strands of history involved here that the "do away with marriage" advocates don't seem to be considering.

1) Domestic partner benefits came about because same-sex couples were discriminated against. Period. Those programs that include opposite-sex couples mostly happened to avoid the appearance of employers/governments/what-have-you catering to "teh gay." It's called sugar-coating a bitter pill.

2) Marriage is only lately about relationships. For the overwhelming majority of its history as an institution, it's been about property, and if you doubt that, think about what's under negotiation when a marriage is dissolved. Marriage is a contract, and the state enforces contracts. That's part of its job, as the institutionalized embodiment of the community.

And on that last note, I might add that marriage is traditionally a life-stage event marking a new status for the couple among their peers and recognized as such by the community. It's become codified -- a matter of licenses and authorized officiants -- as everything else in society has become codified. (It's worth noting that as late as the 18th century in Europe, a peasant couple who decided to get married just announced to their fellow villagers "We're married." Everyone said "Party!" and pitched in to build them a house. No government -- and no priest. That's the foundation of common-law marriage, which is still recognized in some states. It's also the way marriage has worked for most of its history.)

If you think everyone should receive the same status as married couples, you're bucking a few thousand years of human culture. And I have to ask why you think that, if you haven't undertaken the same formal, legal obligations that a married couple has.

Jay Kallio | July 11, 2011 8:26 AM

In my best of all possible worlds the US would bestow all rights and privileges, benefits and responsibilities on the individual, irrespective of relationship status, but this country has moved further and further to the right and away from that social democratic ideal, not toward it. Since the New Deal we have never even gotten close to universal health care or subsidized higher education, and even the improvements (over letting sick and old people suffer and die in the gutter for lack of medical care) won in the 1960s of Medicare for seniors, and then Medicaid for the poor, have been seriously eroded by allowing their privatization. As this trend of hacking away at even the fragile, riddled with holes safety net continues under a Democratic Administration, our only incremental successes possible are those justifiable as equal rights, so that the puny benefits available now to heterosexual couples can be available to the rest of us, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity recognized by the state.

Marriage equality and DADT repeal have been our only recent successes because in an evenly divided country they were the only causes that have some support from the right, in large part because they reflect the assumption of responsibilities, not added entitlements for all. Without some support from the opposition in this democracy there will be no wins.

Winning the much larger battles for individual rights is a massive, long term effort, which some believe will never come to fruition in the US, given the entrenched culture of individualism and belief in free markets that pervades most of this country. The US is the place people fled to from totalitarian countries and from communist countries, and many view the left as their bitter enemy. They are unalterably and relentlessly opposed to the ideals I hold dear, and express the commitment to literally fight to the death to keep what they see as their bastion of freedom. In my experience most of them are not at all stupid people who are blindly and ignorantly voting against their own economic interests. They are very smart and informed, have made critical judgments about the sources they choose to believe, and are willing to "sink or swim" on their own merits, rather than allow what they loathe as a nanny state they do not want to support. It is a mindset that will not be changed by more information. Many have a profound, unswerving commitment to their ideals. I know conservatives who are literally dying of cancer because they cannot afford treatment, and refuse to apply for public benefits in order to obtain medical care. It's "just not their way" and they will die for their values and beliefs. They are a very tough opposition, and have thwarted progressive change for a long time already.

If we continue fighting I believe we will get GENDA and win further equal rights, because they have a libertarian appeal and justification. In that sense, LGBTQ rights are becoming a wedge issue for the Right, peeling off Libertarians from the religious right. Beyond marriage and other equal rights legislation it seems farfetched to imagine any future gains for entitlements and additional social safety net for individuals. Gird yourself for yet another generation of work toward those goals. They may never be won in this country, given the culture and climate here. Equal rights in marriage and other basic rights may be the best we can win here.

What you're proposing is (*gasp*) Socialism! The fact that it works very well for other countries doesn't count. (It's worth noting that Germany, which has a very strong social safety net, including quite liberal unemployment benefits by our standards, also weathered the recent financial sector meltdown much better than just about any other country in the West, because even the unemployed were pumping money into the economy. We, on the other hand, were taking money out of the economy.)

I have to reiterate a point which Joann Prinzivalli has made below: the government does have a strong, common-sense interest in giving preferential treatment to married couples and families because marriage and the creation of families actually do increase social stability, and maintaining a stable society is what government is supposed to do.

I'm afraid I can't support the idea that everyone should have the same rights and privileges in those areas, simply because not everyone is undertaking the same responsibilities and obligations. If those in favor of alternate family arrangements want to push for that kind of equality, then they have to be willing to partake of the same kind of legal obligation as those who have submitted to the demands of conformity and gotten married.

Jay Kallio | July 11, 2011 6:50 PM

@Hunter: I particularly appreciate you highlighting Germany, with their strong income supports in place, having weathered the financial downturn far better than the US has. Not many recognize how their economic stability was maintained, while other countries scrambled for stimulus. It seems clear to me that the heterogeneity of the US population has destroyed any community feeling of mutual obligation and trust between different racial, ethnic, etc., groups, so achieving any similar safety net here has been impossible. People compete with each other here, they do not agree to support one another as people do in other, smaller, more homogeneous countries. Occasionally in cases of natural disaster, which people identify as a need for help that is not due to personal weakness or refusal to accept responsibility, do Americans help one another. Otherwise it's sink or swim. Even illness is often attributed to personal sin or irresponsible lifestyle choice, and considered unworthy of assistance.

I doubt there is much for you to fear about people achieving the benefits of marriage for "alternative family arrangements" here in the US. I'm trying to imagine going to Indiana or a real red state to make the case for polyamory, or eliminating the gender binary, and my mind just bucks and flees at the thought, LOL. Its just not happenin'. Perhaps some of the younger queer folks will go there and successfully change their hearts and minds, but it would be a fearsome task to my way of thinking. And Indiana is merely a purple state....

However, I do feel that GENDA and other trans equal rights legislation have a strong chance of success, and that if trans people went the same route as LG people and "came out" of stealth and were publicly identified as trans we would move that legislation forward much more quickly. US citizens have consistently polled in favor of equal rights in employment, housing, public accommodations for other groups, and we have a great chance to persuade them that trans people have those same rights. That would be a culturally consistent decision for most Americans, who generally believe in equal opportunity and meritocracy.

Coming out is very powerful, and our case for justice very strong. But our cause requires much greater activist participation by trans people, we cannot expect LG people to do it for us. The public needs to see and hear real trans people, in order to empathize with us and support our rights. No one else can do that, except us.

I don't think it's the heterogeneity of the US population that has destroyed our willingness to help others. Once again, I see at least two factors here: the American cultural ideal of "rugged individualism," which has always been pretty much a myth (in the worst sense), particularly now that the Randian Supermen are claiming that it's their entrepreneurship that has created America, when in fact it's been a communal effort; and the efforts of the latest exponents of the nativist strand to demonize everyone who is not just like them. One has to back off from all that a bit and ask why we have societies to begin with. Somehow, I doubt that it's so the biggest, meanest, and most dishonest can take everything.

I'm not worried about government benefits going to alternative forms of family, I'm just saying there's a huge amount of cultural inertia to overcome, and it's not a matter of red or blue, it's a matter of reworking our basic concept of family. It's hard enough for some people to consider families without a blood relationship as genuine -- note the verbal contortions of those who oppose same-sex marriage trying to get away from the accusation that they are demeaning adoptive parents in general.

I think you're right about coming out, and I'm pretty well convinced that the huge shift in societal attitudes toward gays is simply because more people are aware that they know someone gay and, lo! and behold, they are real people just like you and me. I don't see how that's not going to work for other groups, but it's not instant. In that regard, legislation is useful because it sets a benchmark: voicing prejudice against such-and-such a group rapidly becomes socially unacceptable when there is legislation mandating that they be treated equally. The naked racism of the teabaggers is simply another manifestation of that nativist strand I mentioned above, which has always been with us and has now taken over the Republican party and is making inroads into the Democrats. And they are, indeed, marginalizing themselves.

There's one underlying principle here that I don't think has been stated as such that is crucial to addressing the issue of equivalent rights for alternative families: those in similar circumstances are to be treated equally under the law. The kicker is that you have to make people understand that an alternative family is a similar circumstance to a "traditional" family. That's going to take time. However, when you try to carry that over to the idea of "same benefits for everyone," you dive right through the looking glass: what's the point of demanding the right to make health-care decisions for a partner who doesn't exist? (And, in point of fact, anyone does have the right to appoint a de facto "next of kin" -- it's enforcement that's the issue. I'd be very much in favor of stiff criminal penalties for any hospital that decides to ignore a power of attorney. People get real cooperative when the alternative is jail time.)

Marriage and adoption are means by which individuals create family, often but not always as a supplement to biological or medical processes that give rise to the birth of a child.

The government has an interest in promoting stable family relationships, which is why the legal licensing, sanctioning and regulating of marriage rights and responsibilities, are critical. In New York, only a small portion of the state's domestic relations law deals with the formation of family. A much larger part deals with what happens when a family relationship breaks down.

It is not as simple as it was in ancient patriarchal societies, in which divorce was accomplished by the simple means of the husband stating that the divorse has taken place, usually three times in public. In those societies, unless there was a dowry to be returned to the wife, the rule was that the husband would own everything, and the wife would return to her family, often in disgrace, even if she had done no wrong.

The regulation of marriage is a proper state function. When we refer to the "rights" appurtenant to marriage, in the enumeration we are often also referring to responsibilities - in many cases the responsibilities that married parties owe to each other and to children in their family. To the extent one is owed a responsibility by another party to the marriage, that is a right.

As to governmental benefits - sometimes we find with the elderly who might be seeking to marry, that a legal marriage could cause the loss of government or other benefits pertainign to one or the other of the parties, or might be discouraged by families of both parties worried that "their side" might be left out in the inhertiance sweepstakes in the absence of a strong pre-nuptial agreement.

Societal stability is a proper government goal. Encouragement directed toward formal family formation is a proper government policy.

In a blog essay that Archbishop Dolan wrote last week, he worried that polygamy would be the next step.

I don;t believe it will, personally. It would require a significant effort to create a statutory framework, or actually a number of statutory frameworks, to support different legal multiparty marriage arrangements, and issues relating to full or partial dissolution thereof. It will be tremendously more complicated than current dissolution proeceures.

The different kinds of multiparty marriage arrangements could make for a fascinating study. I recommend for background, that persons interested in these arrangements should make themselves familiar with the different kinds of business entities and the laws relating top formation, governance and dissolution. I also recommend a reading of two Robert HEinlein novels - The Moon is a HArsh Mistress, and Friday, for a reader to get a flavor of several different kinds of multiparty arrangements. One may also study Roman Catholic and other Religious Orders for insights into how some large multiparty families might operate (of course, in these religious orders, the goal is not to produce children, and sexual activity by the brothers or sisters is forbidden, at least officially). One might liken a convent of Catholic nuns as the equivalent of Mormon "sister wives" - but whose husband exists only on a spiritual plane (indeed, final vows are often taken in a white wedding gown, as the new nun takes a plain gold band to wear and becomes a "bride of Christ").

Individual rights exist. Fmaily rights should also exist. It would be interesting to figure out how the government would handle survivor benefits for multiparty marriages, some of which might be designed to be as functionally long-lived as a religious order (a perfect example is Heinlein's "line marriage" concept, in which new husbands and wives are voted in as others die off). There are lots of reasons for the state to be in the business of promoting and regulating family relationships through marriage.

One additional example: I believe that the single legal change that did the ost "damage" to the institution of marriage for straight people, at least, was when the states started requiring child support payments to unmarried women with children, without the sperm provider voluntarily filiating the child. If the state were really serious about encouraging family formation through marriage, it would revert to the law of bastary and filiation as an encouragement to those who might otherwise be accidentally producing babies,l toget married first. (One significant change would be to redesignate the name "bastard" to the parents and not the child). Additionally, rather than force the sperm provider to pay (a form of ex post facto arrangement in which the value of a single reproductive sex act rises friom about $100 to $250,000 by virtue of a paternity suit) would be for the state to improve the adoption process, and to provide that children born outside a marriage become wards of the state, which can place them with families capable of supporting them, unless the unmarried female birth parent can establish sufficient financial wherwithal to provide for the care of the child until maturity.

The whole purpose of eliminating the common law of bastardy and filiation was a rise in the incidence of unwed mothers on public assistance. The abolition of the common law in this area in the 1950's was a significant factor (together with the increased availability of not-quite-perfect artificial birth control) in reducing the desirability of marriage in certain socioeconomic groups.

Jay Kallio | July 11, 2011 7:38 PM

Joann, what would you think about making family rights contingent on the presence of children, for whom parents have agreed to take responsibility, instead of on the conjugal relationship between adults? If greater wage parity comes to exist between the genders, reducing the financial dependence of women on men, and the justification for paying men more on the assumption that they are the sole provider for a family is eliminated, then only the responsibility for supporting children remains as a reason for additional benefits for families. Am I missing anything in terms of social stabilizing effects of marriage between adults, independent of parenthood? Isn't the support for children the main justification for state support of civil marriage?

Other than government supporting those undertaking the enormous task of raising children, couldn't all other rights and privileges remain the province of the individual? Given the prevalence of divorce and the de facto lack of enforcement of marriage vows anyway, what social stability is it that government is subsidizing, other than child support and alimony (which can, and often is overridden by a pre nup agreement)?

I'm genuinely curious whether there are aspects of state support of marriage I am unaware of, and clearly you have considered these issues in depth.

I would prefer the "bastard" designation eliminated entirely, not applied to either child or parent...

Jay, I think there's one flaw in the argument for making family benefits contingent on the presence of children, and it goes back to both the social stability and life-stage elements: marriage is a new status for the couple that does actually promote social stability, even without children, and the government, as an agent of the greater community, rewards that status as long as it is intact. If you take away that reward, the motivation to marry diminishes (not that people actually get married for the federal benefits -- well, most don't). And let's be honest about it: being in a relationship without being married makes the relationship less in the eyes of the community. It's not a "serious" commitment, it's not permanent, and it's not "official." The Massachusetts court in its decision legalizing SSM (sorry, I've forgotten the name of the case, which is shameful), focused quite intently on the fact that marriage carries a cultural weight that no equivalent can claim. We may not like it, but that's the reality, and that's where we have to start.

Jay, you ask good questions. I think that it's more than just about children, though for many marriages, children are a focus. Over at my blog (I am not putting the URL in right now because that will slow down the appearance of this response while it gets vetted), I make a point from Pius IX's encyclical "Casti COnubii," which has an interesting passage (which I gender neutralized, but here it is in its original form first, followed by my slight rewrite:

24. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.

25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: "Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband," to express not only a law of justice but of charity.

My gender-neutralized version has only minor changes:

24. This mutual molding of spouses, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.

25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as not just a 50-50 proposition, but as each spouse giving 100% to the other, to express not only a law of justice but of charity.

--

So we can see the insight of Pius IX of marriage as involving a "mutual molding" of the spouses, as a "determined effort to perfect each other."

He refers to this mutual molding as "the chief reason and purpose of matrimony."

Children may be integral to many marriages, but the relationship between the spouses is paramount, for a marriage to be successful. In my rewrite, I replace one thought about the couple "rendering debts" to each other with the concept that marriage is not a 50%-50% proposition - it is a relationship in which each spouse must strive to give 100%.

The idea of marriage as being intended to be a lifelong commitment (though there are no guarantees that it will work out) is a lofty goal.

If a couple is serious about that each giving 100%, then it will create an enviornment where children, if there are any, can best grow and prosper. The emphasis put by heterosexist supremacists on a necessity for parents to be of opposite sexes is not the point - it's not that children need any old opposite sex couple of people to be "a mom and a dad, it is that children need loving parents. Parents whose commitment is based on that striving to give 100% to each other, will find that it is not diminished in the least by the addition of children to the mix.

Children can provide a sense of purpose, but they are not the only purpose.

Moving to rights, responsibilities, benefits, privileges and obligations - what we cll the "bundle of rights" associated with marriage - it may be possible to pry out some of the rights and make them individual rights, but it might not work with those that are intended to be mutual, one spouses right being the other's responsibility, and vice versa.

One example - that of mutual support. When one spouse is unemployed, having the other, with an income, allows the *individual* unemployment benefits to actually work. Single people without savings who find themselves on unemployment can find themselves in catastrophic economic trouble rather swiftly. So a married couple is more likely to weather the economic storm of a single job loss better than a single person.

If I didn't have a pile of work to get back to, I'd ruminate some more. Now, what's good for a couple *might* be even better for a group, though we really don't have a legal structure that is well able to support the many added issues that multiparty marriages may face. So that's an entirely separate issue, and not exactly imminent, despite Archbishop Dolan's fears.

ditchhook | July 12, 2011 3:45 PM

I'm getting more and more disturbed by these arguments. Jay Kallio writes that "Meanwhile, marriage rights might be more achievable, and are heading us in the right direction." And I'm replying that no, that isn't the right direction. It's not the right direction because the arguments deployed by too many advocates of gay marriage are only about a new exclusivity and privilege for a select group who behave (or more accurately claim to behave) in a certain way-- a way palatable by the right.

In the meantime, we tell all the queer-acting young people in our community, to just be patient and put up with an abuse and torture sufficient to drive some of them to take their own lives, because 'it gets better' (someday). Those kids do not hang themselves in barns because they are dispondent over not being able share health benefits with their future spouses. From their points of view we are not heading in the right direction.

To argue that only a certain kind of straight-mimicing, conformist, monogamist homosexual should be first in line at the equality counter is tell those queer non-conformist kids that it is their own diverse flamboyance that has to be brought under control if they want a future where they are treated with respect, and not the intolerant, bullying culture they find themselves living in.

I think we're discussing apples and oranges here. Being one of those trans folks still waiting for legal equality under the law in New York State, I am well aware of other civil rights struggles than marriage. New York already does have a trans-inclusive Dignity for All Students Act, which will begin implementation next year. There is a need form more, in New York, and in lots of other places.

Even when the law has caught up, it will still take more than a generation for things to actually improve to the point where the discrimination is invisible enought that het/cis folks will be patting themselves ion the back at how they don't discriminate, while the institutionalized forms are still there (analogous to the continuing issues areound race in America - and there are some places where racism is still right out in the open, too).

I heard Sassafras Lowrey speak as keynote at my local LGBT center's annual dinner - and you echo what she said then - youth don't want to know that "it gets better" at some time in the future - they want to know what we are doing to try to help make it better right now.

Just because marriage is the topic of th discussion in this thread does not mean that we (me, at least) aren't working on those other pieeces of the puzzle required to *make* it better.

GENDA is one of my priorities, and then I have other legislation to do in New York. In the meantime, a litigation approach is being taken toward some of the issues as well. It is not just marriage.

Ditchhook, I think you've missed a point that I, at least, have made several times -- the rights and benefits accorded to married couples, if they are to be regarded as "privileges," are earned. They're not birthright privileges: they are given in return for the couple's undertaking a legal commitment to establish themselves as a family. The right to undertake that commitment is a fundamental right.

And Joann has it right -- the topic of this thread is marriage equality, not teen suicide. There are lots of people working on that issue, and the It Get Better Project is only one aspect, if the most visible one. No one is telling queer youth just to be patient -- It Gets Better is simply trying to give them some hope while many of us are working to make it better as quickly as we can. Is there something wrong with that?

No one is insisting that same-sex couples immediately move the suburbs and buy an SUV and a big dog. They can if they want to, but it's not required, and that's another point. It's not a matter of conforming to what's acceptable to the right, because we will never be acceptable to the right. It's a matter of insisting on the same rights, the same treatment under the law, as our straight peers, and marriage equality is an important step in that process. And once we have that, we've set a new social norm: it will be less and less acceptable to be anti-gay.

As for your last comment -- who's telling kids that? I honestly don't see how you come to that conclusion, considering that what we're fighting for is everyone's right to be accepted for what they are -- and that includes those who want to conform as much as those who don't.