Yasmin Nair

And the Winner Is...Gay Marriage! Or: Why Milk and Sean Penn's Acceptance Speech Do not Equal the Need for Gay Marriage

Filed By Yasmin Nair | February 23, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk's message, Oscar acceptance speech, Oscars, Sean Penn

As expected, Milk received major 2008 Oscar awards, including the one for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Sean Penn).

And, as I expected, the success of Milk has become, in a bizarre fashion, some kind of emblem for the continued success of the gay marriage movement.

Penn even referenced gay marriage in his acceptance speech, causing the clapping in the Kodak Theatre to increase in its intensity. Yes, Penn and his Hollywood pals were saying, this is a film that proves that gays are good, gays are worthy of our attention, and gays must have marriage if they are to ever be thought of as worthwhile human beings.

And yet, it's bizarre that Milk's life and career, which had little to do with the advancement of gay marriage, should now be contorted in the public realm to stand in for the ideals of the gay marriage movement. Here, I'll stop and make a confession before moving on: I haven't yet been able to see the film, so I'll save a longer consideration of it for another post. But even the most cursory understanding of Milk's career tells us that the man was a politician. He was a politician whose political interests expanded beyond gay causes even as his entrance into politics was clearly marked by a desire to live the intersection between queerness and public life in a way that had rarely seemed possible prior to his arrival.

So, it's bizarre that Milk's career is now being held up in its cinematic facsimile as proof for the need for gay marriage. In the process of claiming Milk as the figurehead for the modern gay marriage movement, we've conveniently forgotten an important historical fact, one that remains hidden to most but can be found in the pages of Nancy Polikoff's book Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law. On page 8, to be exact.

Polikoff, a fellow Bilerico contributor, has this to say about what transpired after Milk's assassination: "His surviving partner, Scott Smith, received death benefits from the state Workman's Compensation Appeals Board."

She continues: "When gay surviving partners of those who died on September 11, 2001, did not receive workers' comp death benefits, gay rights advocates attributed it to marriage discrimination. But solutions to this problem and others are available or more achievable using a valuing-all-families approach, and they will help more people. Scott Smith was successful because California does not base entitlement to workers' comp death benefits on marriage. Its law is one model other states could adopt."

So, in other words, while a film about Harvey Milk has become an excuse to argue for gay marriage, the reality was that his own partner actually received the exact benefits that gays argue should accrue only through marriage. What gay marriage advocates want in 2009 is an erasure of the laws that granted Scott Smith death benefits. If you don't believe me, go ahead and read the posts on civil unions that have been posted on Bilerico and elsewhere - they demonstrate nothing but contempt for anything but marriage.

But, you might ask, what if we removed marriage as the primary way to get benefits and made it possible for lots of people - unmarried people, people bound by friendship, people related to each other - to leave behind benefits, or to determine who their caretakers should be? Instead of making marriage the only way to grant benefits and health care, why not just make it just one more option among many?

Again, you'd have to read the vitriolic attacks on something as simple as civil unions to understand the blind obsession and even rage of the mainstream gay marriage movement. Nothing less than "full equality" ( a strange concept - isn't equality enough?) will do, apparently. And those who choose not to get married can just rot in hell.

Which brings me back to Milk. No doubt, proponents of the nothing-but-marriage-will-do-movement will argue that Milk would have married Smith if he had been given the chance. Maybe. Maybe not. The point is not whether Milk would have wanted to marry Smith. The point is that he lived in circumstances where it was possible for an openly gay and unmarried man to leave death benefits to his surviving partner.

When you think about it, that has an elegant beauty and simplicity to it and surely the principle is one that we should think of extending to everyone, gay or not. Lots of married people die leaving their benefits and estates to spouses they had grown distant from - surely we can all believe in a world where the question of who gets your stuff or your benefits ought to be intentionally determined by more than mere spousal relations. Why privilege marriage as the only relationship worthy of validation? And while we're at it: Why make Milk's life emblematic of a struggle that is so of our time and not his?

For more on Milk, watch this space; I'll be watching it in the next couple of weeks. For now, you can check out my review of Polikoff's book.

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Yes! The issue is privilege granted to marriage and privilege grabbed by the religious institutions that gave set themselves up as gatekeepers to that privilege. Prop 8 was about keeping the religious stranglehold on privilege.

True change in the direction of equality means recognizing and reorienting our societies around that issue of privileged relationships, even if we are beneficiaries of that privilege ourselves.

I guess you actually missed what Penn spoke of when discussing equal rights, which is what the bulk of his crazy rant was.

And is also what Harvey Milk stood for, he didn't want anything special, just equality.

Sorry; there are too many holes in this argument. I'll grant that perhaps the word 'marriage' doesn't need to be there, but anything less than entitling a committed gay or lesbian couple to the same legal rights as a straight married couple is certainly one of the things Milk that falls under his quest for equality. Two additional comments, from the specific text here...

"...the reality was that his own partner actually received the exact benefits that gays argue should accrue only through marriage." Yeah, but too bad there are about a thousand benefits available only to married couples that aren't available through other means. Using one anecdote doesn't make the need for gay marriage any less important. And, if Milk had lived longer, would he and Scott had children? We'll never no, but, if so, they'd be as disadvantaged as the children of any gay or lesbian couple (depending on what state you live in).

"...a strange concept - isn't equality enough?" I find it hard to believe the author is unfamiliar with attempts to fob off something close to (but not quite) equality to the LGBT community, eg a non-T-inclusive ENDA. Anyone who's read Animal Farm knows that some are more equal than others...

I agree with Matt, I don't see how Milk has become a marriage-equality icon. I think the Milk has reminded people to be proud of who they are, and not to compromise what they are worth.

It just so happens, at the moment, the issue at the top of the list is marriage.

The remarkable thing about Milk, the movie, and why it is featuring so prominently in the dialogue of LGBT people right now (aside from the feel-good aspect of winning at the Oscars since we aren't winning anywhere else) is because the Prop 6 campaign detailed in the movie is a textbook example of "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it". Anyone who watches that movie, especially if they lived through Prop. 8 in California, has to be utterly dumbfounded at how we blew it -- and we blew it by trying to play nice, trying to be conciliatory, trying to find common ground. Our enemies haven't changed in 30 years, they use the same damn arguments -- how could we have been so inept in our response?

Yes, Harvey Milk was a politician, he probably would have had us work much harder to build bridges to other marginalized groups to build a coalition to stop the amendment -- but he would not have had us reduce our dignity by laying so low. I don't think that will happen again in the marriage equality movement, at least not in California. But even beyond that, DLB spoke backstage about a 1964-type civil rights act for LGBT people -- both winners spoke of Federal protections that go way beyond simple marriage rights and that is very much Harvey's legacy and I think the message of the film, it's about never compromising your worth, fighting whatever battle is at hand to rob you of your dignity as though you were fighting for your very life.

As an aside, I am one of those people for whom it is marriage or nothing and let me tell you why. The argument that civil unions or some other arrangement should be good enough -- even with exactly the same benefits as marriages, is based on the idea that because of the religious connotations of marriage we should just leave it for the religious folk. That was the whole Melissa/Tammy argument, and I was one of those people who jumped all over them for it and continue to throw up a little anytime I see them speak for LGBT-anything.

I am a person of faith, and marriage is a sacrament to me too. In addition to that, there are many denominations, and clergy within many other denominations that do recognize the sacred worth of LGBT people and their relationships. Abdicating the term 'marriage' to appease the fundies would be like recognizing one religion over another, and on a more personal level lends credence to the myth that gay people cannot also be religious people. So I will not surrender the term, not anymore

Religion plus secular power is a disaster for both secular society and religion.

I think, as I believe Yasmin did, that questioning privilege and the institutions that serve as gatekeepers to privilege is the basis for the kind of change that brings about real equality.

If we leave privilege in place and unquestioned, we'll be back to fighting the same fight over and over again.

I am a person of faith, and marriage is a sacrament to me too. In addition to that, there are many denominations, and clergy within many other denominations that do recognize the sacred worth of LGBT people and their relationships.

Maybe the government shouldn't be deciding who has access to sacraments and who doesn't?

I think there is a great space to be advocating civil unions alongside marriage. Make them both open to everyone and open up many of the rights to unmarried, un-civilly united couples. And then get rid of the silly idea that health care should be tied to marital status or a job.

Lots of people seem to hate on the civil unions in the LGBT community, so I can see what Yasmin's saying. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't be good as a supplement to marriage rather than a substitute to it. (Or perhaps get rid of marriage for everyone and civil unions for all.)

I've already asserted that privilege and equality don't mix very well.
Imho thinking about the place of privilege and equality and power is a good thing no matter where you come down. That's my favorite thing about Yasmin's article.

DanaRSullivan | February 23, 2009 1:54 PM

I have to disagree with the premise that wanting complete marriage rights is the same as showing contempt for couples who don't want to get married. Are people fighting for adoption and custody rights being contemptuous of childfree couples? Are people working to repeal DADT looking down on civilians? Of course not. Wanting something very much, and not settling for a compromise, isn't the same as poo-poo-ing everyone who doesn't want it.

Yeah, but too bad there are about a thousand benefits available only to married couples that aren't available through other means.

Adam, and should all of those benefits be available only to folks who decide to get married? Or should we create a system where everyone has access to the benefits sometimes procured through marriage - such as healthcare, housing, and citizenship.

It just so happens, at the moment, the issue at the top of the list is marriage.

Jennifer, the mainstream gay rights movement has been very intentional about pushing marriage as the single most important issue to the LGBT community – "the last barrier to full equality" as they say. There is nothing random about it, and it did not "just happen".

I watched the Oscars, and disagree that the main message of the evening was gay marriage. First of all, when Dustin Lance Black won best screenplay for "Milk," he talked mainly about the message of Milk's life for young LGBT people today -- that they don't have to see themselves as "less than."

When Sean Penn accepted the best actor award, he started out by mentioning the anti-gay protesters outside who were screaming that Heath Ledger is burning in hell for playing a gay role in "Brokeback Mountain." The protest was one of the things that moved Penn to talk about hate and the need for "equality for all," not just gay marriage.

In short, I think that "equality for all" is what most Americans will remember from last night....if they're open to remembering anything at all that relates to us.

Thanks to everyone who has responded so far. It looks like there is already an interesting conversation in full swing. I'll make a couple of quick points: Patricia and others: I think it's disingenuous not to see that all the talk about "equality" these days, as it relates to LGBT issues, is ENTIRELY about marriage. EVERY other issue - whether the rhetoric of protesters, hate crimes legislation, DADT - you name it - is made to fix into that tiny "marriage equality" box.

When the word "equality" is mentioned, it automatically means "gay marriage." It doesn't mean health care for all, or the disbursement of benefits to non-couple people. It means marriage. So, please, let's not even bother parsing the speech at this point. With regard to Penn's speech: Even Penn has reiterated, in post-Oscar interviews, that he was directly referring to gay marriage.

Alex and Nick have already tackled many of your points, and I wanted to add that your own analysis of the film as providing parallels between then and now proves my point exactly. It's an ahistorical understanding of very different time periods. But more on that later.

I'm very specific: it's the people who would erase civil unions as a possibility who are being contemptuous of unmarried/uncoupled people. Like Adam before you, you miss the point of my argument. Which is to say: instead of complaining that unmarried people can't get benefits or security for their children, why not work at creating a system where everyone can access those benefits regardless of marital status?

And, incidentally, as far as the safety of children is concerned, I'd like to point out that the children of single women on welfare, especially women of colour, are under constant threat of being taken from their mothers and forcibly placed in foster care/adoption because their mothers are deemed "unsuitable" - because of the poverty that the state will do nothing to alleviate. This isn't the time and place to go into details, but we should note that there's an ugly and occasionally symbiotic relationship between the world of gay adoptive parents who are given the option of adopting those kids (usually Black, usually older) who are "rescued" from those single women.

I'm not trying to demonise any one side, and adoption is a hugely complicated and complex issue for all concerned. But I am asking that we consider the details of the really problematic reconstructions of the "family" before we start beating our chests about how gay parents and their children are particularly vulnerable.

I'm really tired of the gay marriage movement refusing to consider itself within a larger framework where a LOT of individuals and a LOT of families are under constant threat from a state that doesn't give a damn whether most of us live or die. Just ask the nearly 50 million of us without health care, for instance. Or those of us, gay and straight, who feel we shouldn't *have* to be married in order to get elemental benefits like health care. Or choose who gets our crap when we die.

Hey Yasmin,

Great post.

When I hear people say they think the film has added relevance because of what recently went down in california, I agree with them, but only in the broadest sense... the film covers prop 6, which was intended to keep Queer folks from teaching in schools... and the Right's campaign surrounding prop 8 exploited very similar fears... the right's mobilization around prop 8 raised so many issues beyond marriage legislation -- exploitation of fears abt intergenerational stuff and so-called sex offenders, exploitation of communities of color (and the racism directed by a lot of LGBT folks toward those same communities in response).... but I think it's a huge mistake to collapse disgust over prop 8 with support of gay marriage. And to say that aspects of Milk's movement work resonate with things happening now is a far cry from positioning him as a gay marriage activist, but most don't seem to be making that distinction. I feel like the discourses around prop 8 put those of us who are critical of prop 8 but also very ambivalent abt marriage, or anti-marriage, or very critical of marriage as the primary focus of glbt/queer politics, in a very awkward position, because we have to completely shift the conversation in order to be intelligible.

I also felt comfortable interpreting (or at least appropriating) Sean Penn's speech as primarily a denouncement of the Right's hatespeak and tactics rather than a pro-marriage argument, and I thought on the whole it was a pretty good demonstration of ally-ship, but you're probably right that most people will interpret it as an argument on behalf of gay marriage legislation.

I definitely recommend seeing Milk when you have the opportunity. The are several things I really like abt it-

~it is about a social movement and not just a charismatic individual

~it doesn’t normalize its characters’ lives. the filmmakers make some pretty gutsy decisions about including some pretty marginal lives, practices and experiences that aren’t easily reconcilable with a cozy mainstream LGBT-type activism.

~I think it creates a critical space for looking at the tension between glbt rights work that treats gayness like a coherent ethnic identity or political lobby to be extended rights and privileges within existing political structures and Queer activism that advocates for a broader social justice and transformation of the way power itself is distributed… (there’s some interesting stuff early-on abt collaboration w/ labor unions and an emphasis on broader counter-cultural practices, but the arc of Milk’s political career is also the gradual construction of GLBT folks as A political power block, and we begin to see why this framework may have its limitations.

Thanks, Tim,
all good points - and I'm glad to see someone else reference issues like intergenerationality and the demonisation (and creation, by creating more overlapping categories) of sex offenders.

I agree that a disgust with Prop 8 does not imply a wholesale adoption of gay marriage - the last time I said that in print, I was slammed by one of my readers as a "hack" who didn't understand the force of the marriage movement! Go figure.

I'm going to see Milk tomorrow, and am excited to see it, especially keeping what you've said about it.

Hollywood is really about California, and California is about progressive change. The Mid West perhaps doesn't have the same urgency of 18,000 married California gay people. Although I did read about the Impact march to the Catholic Cathedral, the one that burned later, like Palin's church. Whether one sees the marriage issue as urgent it depends on where that center of perspective and personal involvment lies. We have very active protest movements around this issue in California. I don't feel that gays and lesbians in Chicago or Indiana really feel that the issue applies to them. As a married person in California this issue is very important to me and worth going to prison for. I can't expect those in Chicago or New York to understand. The progressive energy is just not in those places, and never has been. They are traditionally market towns, Chicago meat packing and New York trading on the Stock Market. California is always progressive and Gavin Newsome was right, as California goes so goes the nation. We will win this issue of equality no matter what it takes. We are not afraid of the label, "the land of fruits and nuts".

Thanks, Charles. Glad to know that the Republic Windows and Doors worker action, one of the gutsiest organized labor demonstrations in recent memory, doesn't enter your radar as progressive. Neither, apparently, does the Chicago-based Spring 2006 immigrant rights march that effectively launched the contemporary immigrant rights movement. Or the years of ceaseless work done by Chicago-based police accountability activists to address the violence perpetrated by former police commander Jon Burge.

All of these are issues that directly affect Queer folks, often the same Queer folks that the narrowness of the marriage agenda tends to leave at the margins of lesbian and gay activism.

Your regionalist bullshit is vile and disheartening.

Gosh, Charles--I'm astonished to learn that a heterosexual married man in California can tell me (a gay man living in Detroit with his partner of seven years) what I think matters most.

I'm reminded of the punchline to the Sophie Tucker joke: "Doc, do me a favor, look up my ass
and tell me if my hat's on straight!"

Far too many Americans think we'll have equality when two people of the same gender can get married. What you saw was the insane melding of that meme with the reality of LGBT needs.

"Far too many Americans think we'll have equality when two people of the same gender can get married."
Bil, that's perfectly put.

A beautifully written post, Yasmin. Speaking as someone who did get married in California (to address the comment above), I remain painfully aware that marriage does not address the day-to-day inequities faced by my friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens who are unpartnered or whose private/domestic lives are not organized around a co-habitating couple relationship.

Nick and Yasmin (and others),

Since you've both called me on the carpet, I'll clarify my position. To your question--"should we create a system where everyone has access to the benefits sometimes procured through marriage - such as healthcare, housing, and citizenship"--my answer would be a qualified 'yes'. Right now, that system is called 'marriage'. If there were a process called 'civil union' (or any other name) which allowed EVERY SINGLE RIGHT allowed by marriage to other couples, I'd be fine with that, too. I think that system should be as legally solid as marriage, and as legally difficult to dissolve, given that (let's face it) there are people out there who would seek to take advantage of the system. Many of the people you cite who violently object to civil unions object because they are second-class partnerships.


Marriage is not a system. It's a cultural institution; a lot of people don't want any part of it. People should not have to get married in order to get the basics like healthcare.

And, by the way, I recommend you read Paige Schilt's recent post to see why even marriage doesn't help people who are married and need healthcare ("A Plea for Putting Health Care at the Center of Our Movement".)

What, in your worldview, should happen to people who don't want to get married? What about people, straight and gay, who are married but have no health insurance?

Healthcare available to everyone who needs it? A system. Check the UK. Or Canada. It works. There's a reason why they call it the "healthcare system." Which, in the US, is broken.

Education is a system. Welfare? A system. Housing provisions? A system.

I wish people who go on about "second-class partnerships" would just admit that they're invested in the cultural and social sentiments invested in marriage. They'd like it to be further validated by tying it to the basics like healthcare. Instead of thinking about those who have no wish to marry in the first place. But then, of course, in the minds of many - no such person exists, right?

To repeat: Marriage is an institution (and a deeply flawed one at that), not a system. And, to quote Cher, who wants to be part of an institution?

"Marriage is not a system. It's a cultural institution." Well, if a where Britney Spears can be 'married' for 55min and qualify as a 'cultural institution', then perhaps someone ought to revisit the definition. Whatever it is, I agree that it's flawed, but focusing on semantics ("It's a fruit! It's a vegetable!") isn't the issue.

"A lot of people don't want any part of it." Really? Guess what: a lot of people DO want it. If you don't want to get married, here's an idea: DON'T GET MARRIED. Don't commit to one person. Or "commit" for a month at a time. But don't say it's not important to me because it's not important to you.

"What, in your worldview, should happen to people who don't want to get married?" See previous paragraph.

"What about people, straight and gay, who are married but have no health insurance?" Not the same issue. I'm not proposing gay marriage will solve the health care crisis, although much of your rhetoric seems to revolve around the fact that it's supposed to. And the fact that Milk's partner got his death benefits is great. But those are two rights out of a thousand, as I said in my first post--and to say Milk's work doesn't support gay marriage because his partner got death benefits is to take a very narrow view of things.

I have no problem that there exists an institution/system/whatchamacallit/whackdoodle that will make sure that, when two people make a commitment to each other, each is protected in the event that something happens to the other. That covers things like health benefits, death benefits, hospital visitations, adoption assistance, taxes, inheritance, etc.
I have no interest in taking benefits away from straight couples in order to achieve the full equality that Milk for. Nor would I deny health care to those individuals who choose to not get married. But people who choose not to get married because they wish to remain uncommitted to an individual (eg, 'single') don't have to worry about visiting their partner in the hospital or custody of the kids or the inheritance taxes he'll have to pay or fighting with the "in-laws" over the will or power of attorney (items which you haven't touched on at all). Marriage or something FULLY EQUAL TO IT for gay and lesbian couples is fully within the scope of what Milk fought for.

This gets back to Matt's and Jennifer's comments. Milk--and Sean Penn's speech--were about equal rights for everyone, not just gay marriage.

Oh, and I do agree that gay marriage is not the be-all, end-all of equality, just as interracial marriage didn't spell the end of racial discrimination. But let's not dismiss it because it's not the magic bullet.


Thanks for proving my earlier point about the sheer callousness of the mainstream gay marriage movement. To wit:

"But people who choose not to get married because they wish to remain uncommitted to an individual (eg, 'single') don't have to worry about visiting their partner in the hospital or custody of the kids or the inheritance taxes he'll have to pay or fighting with the "in-laws" over the will or power of attorney (items which you haven't touched on at all)."

Right. Because, of course, singles/uncoupled people are just carefree folks without a care in the world, no kids, no friends to leave stuff to. Look, I don't think you get what the rest of us are trying to say here. That's because you, like a lot of people who're bent on making marriage the highest form of a relationship AND one that's recognised as such by the state, can't conceive of a world where the point is not whether or not married people can do x or y. The point is to open up every one of those benefits to people, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.

You can't pretend that marriage and the benefits that come with it are just a question of choice, when people like you are determined to make it so that marriage becomes the *only* way to get benefits. In the recent past fewer people were getting married because they didn't have to be married in order to make it as single people/parents/domestic partners and so on. But, as we saw in the state of Massachusetts right after gay marriage became legal, workplaces are happy to cut out domestic partnerships on the grounds that well, since *everyone* can get married now, *everyone* who wants health benefits for a partner has to get married. Which leaves a lot of straight and gay people, who don't want to get married, in a tough spot. So, again, stop pretending that gay marriage is about providing more choices.But ah, of course, in your worldview, that's just their tough luck.

It's that last part: *regardless of marital status* that's obviously causing you the greatest amount of trouble. As for issues like inheritance and power of attorney, again: those can be be made available to all, see Polikoff's book and her posts here for examples of how other places deal with that. I'd also like to remind you that there are a lot of instances where custody and/or power of attorney should absolutely NOT go to the spouse/bio-family in question.

It's unfortunate that we've collectively forgotten about the years of the AIDS crisis, when a lot of queers took care of dying friends only to be denied even the right to attend their funerals by their bio-families/spouses. In those cases, the caretakers were not romantic partners (and there were often multiple caretakers), but they were the closest friends of the dead man or woman. Even today, there are plenty of reasons why spouses and bio-families should not automatically inherit estates or get custody of children.

As I've argued elsewhere, it's time we thought of our relationships in more intentional ways. The language of your post betrays your contempt for anyone who, in your worldview, isn't prepared to "commit" to one person. And I can't even begin to expand on your incredibly narrow version of "commitment" in part because that would entail, for now, buying into your implicit and deeply problematic assertion that only people who can commit are worthy of our regard.

At any rate, thanks for proving my point: that the mainstream gay marriage movement doesn't give a fig for any kind of social justice but is only out for its own tiny slice of the pie.

thank you. what's most disturbing about our marriage rhetoric is not that people want to marry, but that we've adopted the "unmarried=unresponsible/unentitled to benefits" mantra.

In other words, we are now willing and in some cases desperately trying to undo all the other forms of family recognition we have. Protections that, contrary to popular brainwash, were not actually created just because we "couldn't" marry. They were created for everyone. We want to toss them out and then wonder why some people think we want special rights?

First, thanks for proving my point that LGBT people that don't want to get married apparently don't think anyone else should, either.

Second, you apparently missed my whole point about the notion that whatever you call--whatever gets us closer to (but not necessarily at) full equality--doesn't have to be called 'marriage', given the flawed nature of the institution.

I have no contempt for single people, or people who change partners on a monthly basis. I wouldn't want to force them to get married to be treated the same as a straight single/uncommitted person (eg, treated equally), any more than you're apparently forcing me to remain unable to get married. Aside from the fact that I disagree with you, I'm not sure where you got that. Now, I could generalize all LGBT single people as footloose, fancy-free, and promiscuous, but that would be wrong, and then I'd be guilty of the same stereotyping that you are.

I also agree that the partner is not always the best choice for child custody or power of attorney.

As far as the rights I mentioned in regards to "single" people...
1. Single people can visit their friends in the hospital. But there are circumstances that say, "family only"; my partner's a nurse, and that in itself creates enough problems when the extended family winds up interfering with the staff's ability to provide care. Are you suggesting that anyone can visit anyone in the hospital anytime, regardless of whether they are family or just good buddies?
2. Yes, single people have kids. But when a partner dies, and said partner's parents say to the surviving partner, "I don't think the kids should stay with you," there's not always a legal recourse, given that some states don't view gay couples the same way as straight couples.

So what kinds of relationships should be recognized by the state? Apparently, married couples--straight or gay or lesbian--are off the list. Friendships? Friends with benefits? All I hear is what you don't seem to approve of.

Sure, I'd love the utopia you talk about--yet it's not clear how to get there from here; perhaps all the answers are in Polikoff's book, which I confess I have not had a chance to read today (and since you haven't even seen 'Milk', then I suppose we're equally informed). From your text, it sounds like we scrap everything we have on the books today and re-create it from the ground up.

Or, as an intermediate step, we could get same-sex marriage on the books to get the rest of country used to the idea of 'full equality' for LGBT citizens.

When you have a plan to explain how this works, please share it.

I haven't read any of your long rhetoric because you assumed I was a heterosexual. What a joke. I am married to a man with a California marriage certificate to prove it, jackass. I have loved and been the dominate sexual partner with a woman, married for 23 years until her death, and the lesbian separatist against marriage because it is a male dominated insitution can't deal with that. Get over it. Hollywood figures with intelligence rules. You have Mayor Daly who throws a few crumbs to the gay community once in a long while.

Wow to all of you. Good points from all but to Yasmin in particular...

I do give you credit for your article as it has generated quite a bit of comments, kudos!

Yet, your article to me was speaking down to our own community as less than...shame on you. The speech by both Black and Penn were beautiful, poingnant and timely. There was nothing wrong with mentioning 'equal rights for everyone' by Penn and 'soon, the right to marry' by Black (paraprase).

Can any of you brother and sisters of mine recall how long it has taken us to get where we are today? Our community has not fought hard enough or loud enough or demanded enough our 'equal rights'. And if that means the right to marry?...then jump on board.

Your comments reminded me of a point read earlier about the Senator from Utah who lost his Chairman position over homophobic rants...'you', a woman no less, could read your thoughts and comments to suggest that women should not have the right to vote as it is too big an issue to fight but we'll just accept say, woman can be allowed to speak their minds at the dinner table instead of the equal right to vote.

Your argument does not hold water. When we demand our 'equal rights'...take on the establishment of 'separation of church and state' or make them pay taxes...use the Bible against them and their hate...use all of the 'abominations', i.e., if you own a credit card, you have created an abomination...if you wear two types of cloth together, you have created an abomination....all of this is just peepee kaka.

Penn and Black did us justice...you did not.