Yasmin Nair

Dump Gay Marriage Now

Filed By Yasmin Nair | July 02, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, The Movement
Tags: Canada, gay marriage, No More Potlucks, Ryan Conrad

The Canadian queer radical journal No More Potlucks has just published my piece "Dump Gay Marriage Now." A print-on-demand edition will also be available.

mjparpd.png"Dump Gay Marriage" was sparked by my Bilerico Project piece, "Prop 8 Is a Distraction, or: NOW Can We Dump Gay Marriage?". The two pieces are quite different, with only a couple of paragraphs remaining from the original, so please do read this new one and let me know what you think.

My thanks to Ryan Conrad for sharing his amazing photograph. And to the Bilerico readers who made the original post one of the most popular, and who engaged in one of the more nuanced conversations we've had here in a while.

Excerpt and link after the jump.

The popular and populist history of gays in the United States goes something like this: In the beginning, gay people were horribly oppressed. Then came change in the 1970s, where gays like the men in the Village People were able to live openly and had a lot of sex. Then, in the 1980s, many gay people died of AIDS, and that taught them that gay sex is bad. gaymarried2.jpgThe gays that were left began to realise the importance of stable, monogamous relationships and began to agitate for marriage. Soon, in the very near future, with the help of supportive, married straight people--and the help of President Obama--gays will gain marriage rights in all 50 states, and they will then be as good as everyone else.

This is, of course, a reductionist version of gay history, but it's also the version of gay (not queer) history that plays out in today's mainstream media representations of the fight for gay marriage, an issue that is now seen as the alpha and the omega of gay rights in the United States. On May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 8 would stand, thus upholding a ban on gay marriages; it also ruled that the 18,000 or so marriages that had already taken place would not be invalidated. The decision released a wave of anger in the mainstream pro-gay marriage community. A month later, the Obama administration's response to the Smelt suit seeking to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) brought forth yet another set of petulant tirades and much dramatic rhetoric about "betrayal" by Obama.

An outsider might think that both Proposition 8 and the DOMA case are symptomatic of a widespread wave of unrest among gays and lesbians across the land, who will now take to the streets if need be in their relentless quest for gay marriage. The outsider might also think that this is what every queer in the United States wants: the right to marry. But, in fact, both instances have exposed the fact that the fight for marriage is a drain on the political, economic, and emotional resources of a community that never really wanted gay marriage to begin with. Rather than see the Prop 8 and DOMA debacles as symptoms of a renewed need to fight for gay marriage, I suggest that this is the time to dump gay marriage and return to the real issues that concern us, as queers who are faced with the multiple forms and challenges of inequality in a neoliberal world.

Gay marriage, as framed in the United States, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy, in that it allows for a politics of the personal to masquerade as a necessity for policy change. In the process, it serves to distract us from the very real issues facing millions of U.S. citizens and residents. For instance, a primary argument for gay marriage has been that it would allow gays and lesbians to acquire health care and other benefits via their spouses. But this claim ignores the fact that the United States is the only Western nation that does not provide health care to its citizens, and that approximately 50 million Americans are without health care. The ability to marry would not help the millions of gays and lesbians without health care in the first place.

As law professor Nancy Polikoff points out in her comprehensive book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, the United States is unique in the way that it draws such sharp distinctions between the married and the unmarried. Countries like the Netherlands and Canada do treat gay and straight relationships equally in that they permit marriage, but what's often ignored by U.S. gay marriage activists is the fact that these countries also treat married and unmarried people in equal ways. In other words, in Canada, you can be unmarried and still have health care and, in various instances, you can name a person who is not your romantic partner as the beneficiary of your estate. In the United States, however, your marital status is, increasingly, what determines your legal status as well as your legitimacy as a subject of the state.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the treatment accorded to single mothers on welfare. Following the egregiously named "Welfare Reform" package of 1996, poor women in particular have been subject to the kind of state intervention in their lives that would be held as unconstitutional if exerted on any other segment of society. With the collusion of the Religious Right, single mothers are required to undergo marriage counselling in an effort to get them to marry the fathers of their children. The stigma against unmarried people swirls around in U.S. culture at large, with an overwhelming array of messages in the media about single people as desperate, lonely souls who need to find their lifemates if they are ever to be considered as human beings. It is no coincidence that such a widespread deligitimisation of single people comes at a time when fewer people in the United States are getting married--currently, less than 50% of U.S. citizens are married. Divorce rates are higher than ever among those who do get married, sparking great anxiety on the part of the Right.

While the gay and lesbian community is widely seen as a liberal/progressive one, its rhetoric around marriage often mirrors the discourse of the Right on the need for marriage as a stabilising force. Gay marriage activists have taken to deploying the strategies of the Right in asserting that marriage is necessary to cure a host of ills, for instance even going so far as to claim that not having marriage increases the social stigma faced by the children of gay couples. But surely we live in an age where the children of unmarried straight people are not considered "bastards," and are not disallowed from inheriting property or from receiving parental and state support because their parents were not married. In such claims to moral standards, gay marriage advocacy hearkens back to the conservatism of the 1950s and earlier eras. It's this conservatism that allows for a blinkered distraction from the other, and more pressing, issues that face queers who are not, after all, immune from the ravages of the world. Or, as Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore puts it, "The spectacle around gay marriage draws attention away from critical issues--like ending U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, and challenging the never-ending assault on anyone living outside of conventional norms." In this way, gay marriage, in framing, reinforces the kind of social conservatism that's essential to maintaining the myth of the United States as the ultimate arbiter of the value of the subjects over which it claims to hold dominion: whether they be Iraqis, Afghanis, or those whose sexual lives do not fall into the patterns the "normal," monogamous, two-parent household.

As a result of its growing conservatism, the gay marriage movement is gaining support from mainstream media and a range of politicians, including prominent Republicans. This is not an indication of the liberalisation of the United States (inasmuch as we can consider liberalism desirable, which it is not), but its increasing conservatism. At the same time, the vast resources invested in gay marriage also mean a depletion of resources that could go to issues that affect queers on other levels of the state's interaction and imprisonment of their bodies. At a recent queer anarchist conference, I met with activists Liam Michaud-O'Grady and Ashley Fortier, from the Montreal-based Prisoner Correspondence Project. Their group helps to establishing links between queer prisoners and queers on the outside, with a long-term mentality. I also met with Michael Upton, a graduate researcher at the University of Manchester, whose multi-nation work analyzes and critiques the intellectual property rights issues that surround the global AIDS pharmaceutical industry.

Both projects reminded me that queer activism, while still flourishing and sustained, is muted or silenced in the cacophony around gay marriage. Yet, in the 1970s, prisoner solidarity was a key part of the gay movement. In the 1980s, the wholesale critique of BigPharma was integral to the mandate of queer activist groups like ACT UP. A Chicago attorney who specialises in working with gay groups in countries where embattled queers need the support of international activists to resist the harassment they face told me of his conversations with funders who said, bluntly, that they were only interested in funding gay marriage initiatives. In Connecticut, the gay marriage group Love Makes a Family decided to disband when gay marriage became legal in that state. But surely there is more to gay rights than marriage, and surely a group that could, presumably, corral the kind of economic and social capital that LMF had access to could continue to think of directing its energy to the issues of, say, queers in prison. Instead, it chose to disband. As Nancy Polikoff wrote in a Bilerico post: "The folding of this Connecticut group confirms my fears that marriage is the end point for many people and that achieving justice for the same-sex couples who don't marry and for all the gay men and lesbians, and their children, who are not partnered is not on the agenda."

Contrary to what the gay mainstream and the press have decided, gay marriage is not the movement. Marriage should never have been our goal to begin with, since, at best, the goal of marriage is a symbolic and sentimental one. Over the last number of decades, gays and lesbians have in fact forged interesting and productive social networks outside of marriage. But with the recent publicity, few in the United States now remember when domestic partnerships were actually seen as a sexy, desirable and viable alternative for those who didn't want to marry. In Massachusetts, and now in Connecticut, for example, several employers have begun to disavow domestic partnerships for all with the simple logic that now that everyone can get married, everyone should, if they want health care and other benefits. Such decisions have raised nary a whisper of protest among the gay marriage group. Today, if any major organization is asked: if civil unions or domestic partnerships could be crafted so that they provided exactly the same benefits as marriage, would you accept them? The answer is usually a resounding no. The goal of marriage has become an end unto itself.

The point, to borrow from Polikoff, should be to make marriage less necessary, not to allow it to become an integral part of access to rights as basic as health care and custody of children. The intense personalisation of gay marriage as an emotional cause (i.e. as something that should matter because of the grief it causes your gay neighbour), is just another way to rationalise and increase the relentless privatisation of everyday life, another way to absolve the state of its responsibility to its subjects. Increasingly, I hear from straight friends that they are being compelled to marry because they are afraid that their unemployed/underemployed partners might be left vulnerable without their health care. All of this is depleting energy from the fight for universal health care. The United States is the only Western nation that does not provide health care. That, and not the fact that we don't have gay marriage, should be something that shames us all.

As we quibble about marriage, it's easy to forget that a rise in poverty and the lack of health care means that large segments of society are already denied their rights to decent education, housing, and a sense of security about their well-being.

As for the argument that some proponents make about marriage being the only way to have your love recognized--really? If your love can't abide not being recognized by the state, perhaps it's time to consider that you might have bigger problems than simply getting a piece of paper to validate your relationship.

As for the famous line about the 1000+ benefits that can only come through marriage--what about those who are excluded from these benefits simply because they're not married? And here's the basic question: why should marriage guarantee any benefits that aren't available to those who don't want to marry? Why build up the power of the state to coerce people into marital relationships that they don't want, just so that they can get the basics like healthcare?

Marriage has, for too long now, been held up as the only solution to a host of problems, including the lack of health care. The fight for gay marriage, in granting that institution so much importance, is slowly eroding the possibility that the rest of the population might get rights and benefits without marrying each other. The fight over gay marriage has emerged as a progressive cause that all progressive straights should join when, in fact, it's a deeply conservative movement that strips our movement of any imagination. Instead of asking for one way to grant rights and benefits, we ought to be advocating for a multiplicity of options.

Let's dump marriage now.

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The mainstream gay media outlets keep talking about the growing momentum for the marriage movement like it's a signal that American society is changing to accept sexual diversity, but you're absolutely right in that it isn't society that's changing so much as it's the gay community doing the changing. By actively divesting itself of queer sexuality the gay community might be able to get straight society's acceptance and assimilate, but the cost of doing so (homogenizing and purging the LGBT community of anyone who won't or can't fit in) isn't a price worth paying.

Thank you for expressing this view so clearly. I hope that even those who aren't going to agree to "dump marriage" will nonetheless resist efforts to put marriage on the ballot again in California. It was one thing to resist when we were attacked. It is entirely another thing to divert funds needed for so many purposes around the country to maybe obtain marriage in California, a place where same-sex couples can register as domestic partners. I am seriously considering stopping all my financial contributions to any group that spends any money to get a pro-gay marriage initiative on the California ballot. It may be the least, and the most, I can do.

Domestic partnership in California is not at all equal to marriage.
I personally see nothing wrong with FULL EQUALITY. You are trying to create a parallel legal system that only applies to LGBTQ, rather than integrate LGBTQ into the mainstream legal system. Although marriage should not be forced on anyone, no one should be forced by the law not to marry, nor to enter a domestic partnership that has a different legal definition in every jurisdiction in which it exists. No other issue has gotten the LGBTQ agenda talked about by ALL of AMerica. For the first time in our history, all the media is covering our issues. More and more organizations and governmental divisions are dealing with our issues - all of them, because of the explosion of publicity surrounding marriage, telling the world that we exist, that we are human beings who want equality. Marriage is helping all the agenda move ahead, by the force the issue in the minds of all America.

Erich Riesenberg | July 2, 2009 4:28 PM

Different strokes for different folks. Perhaps the advice that people who do not believe in gay marriage should not have one applies. I can't quite respect anyone who thinks my gay friends (and non friends) should not be able to be married.

And I definitely agree with not supporting mainstream gay groups. My gay dollars support glbt youth shelters.

Typical long winded dribel from Yasmin. She is against gay marriage so she thinks we should all be against it...plus do not criticize the Prez...he is not to blame. Oh really...he is the head of the Democract party and he sets the tone, and he has done nothing for us...even on your pet cause....ENDA. The only progress we are getting is because we are holding his feet to the fire. We will not be betrayed again al la Bill Clinton. His words are pretty, but I am suspicious of his intent. His own Chief of Staff says he is afraid of 1994 all over again when Clinton tried to allow gays to serve openly in the military and instead we got DADT. I am glad your opinion is in the minority in our community. Although, I do not have a partner at this time I would hope that one day I can get married if the opportunity presents itself.

Ah, DaveA,
Once again, you've shown that you don't even read my posts. Where did I ever write: "do not criticize the Prez...he is not to blame?"

And my opinion is hardly the minority in the community. I think we're seeing more evidence of dissent in the community on gay marriage.

I don't suppose you'd like to back that one up, would you? It's news to me that the majority opinion of the LGBTQ community is "no to marriage". I do my best to avoid the comment wars on your posts but this is a bit to extreme of a comment for me not to question.


It would help enormously if you actually read what I wrote. Read my comment again.

You are a dismissive annoying narrow minded woman who thinks people who desire to be legally joined by marriage equality have no business concentrating their efforts on such things. Your priorities are your own. People disagree with you and your post has been read. It is more of the same. You are no different than right wing fundamentalists. You just have a different looking package. No one is seeking your permission and many who identify as LGBT can walk and chew gum at the same time even if you cannot.

Oh, ewe,

What would a post by me be without meaningless bile from you? I was beginning to miss you...

Well, I may not be able walk and chew gum at the same time (and, may I add, nor do I wish to - that activity lends such a bovine quality to one's face), but I can at least spell.

Apparently, even after all this time, you still can't spell my name. Or, perhaps, there's some deep political agenda hidden in that "z." Since you are clearly not a bad speller, I'll have to ascribe the "z" to said political agenda. The mystery of which will forever remain with you.

"And my opinion is hardly the minority in the community."
Tell me what I misread here Yasmin.

I know multiple others have, in a very friendly manner, pointed this out to you so allow me to add my vote for it: If you want to make a point, you're doing it wrong. Being dismissive, being rude, condescending, 'holier-than-thou' if you will, etc does you no favors and turns otherwise swayable persons instantly against you. Tone factors a great deal into how a piece is read. If you less-than-subtly call your reader a moron, they are not going to be on your side.
You COULD very well get people to your side. Your arguments, overall, aren't invalid in any sense. Your attitude however undermines them all but completely.

Wagnerian | July 2, 2009 8:12 PM

Oh yeah, look at those thousands of gay people who marched in the streets AGAINST gay marriage this last year. Gay people against gay marriage are the MAJORITY. Most gay people don't think gay civil rights and FULL EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW are important issues at all!

Please, gurl, who are you kidding.


Shouting in ALL CAPS really does not HELP make your POINT any more EFFECTIVE.

Wagnerian | July 2, 2009 9:08 PM

Perhaps, but I did make my point. The majority of gay and lesbian people want same sex marriage. It's an issue that has brought out the critical mass. There's no denying that.

Persons like yourself are working against gay liberation. You want the status qou. You aresatisfied with institutional heterosexism and things as they are.

Your words and ideaology need to be forcefully rejected by all those who belive in civil rights for gays and lesbians.

And nitpicking about the technical aspects of someone's comments doesn't bolster yours.

You said that your contempt for same-sex marriage is "hardly the minority in the community." That would imply that at least 50% of GLBT people share your views, so I'll reiterate Matthew's challenge: Please provide evidence to back up this claim.

Alaric, Wagnerian, and Matthew,

I've received exactly these kind of circumlocutious comments before, and I'll just respond by cutting and pasting the exact same words I've used in response numerous times before:

“The other issue that has come up here has to do with the whole “show me proof/solutions before you dare to disagree with me.” As the estimable Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has said in her blog, and I’m going to paraphrase quite clumsily here, asking for proof/alternatives when confronted with a challenge to one’s belief in a system is a classic liberal strategy. This kind of demand allows you to evade the responsibility of defending your position by putting the onus on the questioner to provide facts/alternatives. But the questioners here are the ones still raising unanswered questions.”

In other words, what I find so striking about those who are adamant that the gay marriage fight is winning is a) how hysterical they become when faced with even the slightest challenge to that notion. b) their refusal/inability to actually engage with any critique of the ideas put forth.

The post isn't about proving that X people are for or against marriage, and I think that much is pretty clear to the reader. It's about being critical about the way that marriage has been shoved down our throats by a faux movement driven mostly by people who are interested in maintaining the status quo.

Which is why I find Wagnerian's comment about heterosexism and the status quo so amusing. Seriously, is there anything more hetersexist and more affirming of the status quo than marriage? Are we so far gone that we now see marriage as non-heterosexist and somehow destabilising to the status quo?

The paucity of such arguments is clearly the focus of my post. You can play count-the-heads all you want, but I'm not joining in. I'm more concerned with getting a more nuanced conversation out there.

And, btw, would all of you please sign in and create accounts so that I/we don't have to keep approving your comments in order for them to show up? It would save me/us a lot of time.

Wagnerian | July 2, 2009 10:38 PM

Y'know. After years of being a 'radical', I'm proud to be a liberal. It's not a dirty word to me. I think liberal strategy is right on the money in most cases. I never was a radical feminist, and I never was really offended by the supposed 'heterosexism' of marriage. I don't buy it.

My gay dads who, have been married 20 plus years, were active in early 70s gay and anti war movements. They continued lives of service to others. They want the protections and the equal recognition of legal marriage. I think that's simple. There is nothing assimilationist or exploitative about their relationship. to say otherwise. To slander them for being gay and wanting to be married IS heterosexism.

I'm gonna fight for same-sex marriage and civil equality until we win. You can blog about how that's not 'radical' enough or whatever, but most people aren't radical feminists. Most people don't care about shit like that. The numbers in the streets calling for civil equality prove it.

So...You're just not gonna answer, and then write off the request then?
Sorry Yasmin, but you made the claim. Burden of proof falls to you. It has nothing to do with debate, but I can't say I love your blatant dismissals and dodges.
I asked a simple question out of curiosity. I was in no way debating ANY of your points beyond that simple one. This has nothing to do with your article at large and I find it extremely rude of you to not simply ignore this request (one that should be extremely simple if you're as confident as you're acting), but to becoming insulting to anyone who questions you on it.
"This kind of demand allows you to evade the responsibility of defending your position by putting the onus on the questioner to provide facts/alternatives."
Perhaps I'm misreading here but I find this particular portion rather amusing.
You DO realize that it is you doing the evasion, don't you? Rather than asking the question, you keep dodging it and, in the process, becoming increasingly insulting about it for absolutely no reason. I haven't done even the slightest thing to, well, slight you. I do not deserve your tone, nor the blatant insults.

"n other words, what I find so striking about those who are adamant that the gay marriage fight is winning is a) how hysterical they become when faced with even the slightest challenge to that notion. b) their refusal/inability to actually engage with any critique of the ideas put forth."

See, and here you flat out lie about your oppossition. None of what was said has been about how SSM is 'winning'. Nor has anyone become hysterical. Additionally, your 'challenge' isn't slight.
As for not engaging in your critique...that isn't anyone's fault but your own from what I'm seeing. (and yes, this is the part where I drop the friendly and just go for the reality): A person can't engage you. You don't allow it. The very fact that you have flat out dismissed such a simple question and, somehow, taken it as some form of attack, demonstrates that.

"The post isn't about proving that X people are for or against marriage, and I think that much is pretty clear to the reader. It's about being critical about the way that marriage has been shoved down our throats ........."

"You can play count-the-heads all you want, but I'm not joining in."
I find these two quotes...irksome is a good word for it.
YOU Yasmin, were the one to play the "I'm in the majority" card. Not somebody else. By that simple statement, yes, you are saying you're counting heads. All I want is the method and information that led you this to conclusion. It is genuine curiosity/interest because it is something of a shock to me. I really don't understand why you're...I dont want to say "so angry" because that doesn't feel right but "upset" strikes me as an uglier word for it. All the same, I hope you understand what I mean when I say that I don't understand why you're reacting the way you are to what I considered an innocent request.

So I'll ask again: Why do you believe your stance to be the majority view.
That is ALL that I'm asking. I'm not challenging your overall article or arguments. I'm asking one, simple, basic question. If you dislike it as much as you've demonstrated thus far then please accept this pair instead:
Why are you so defensive over me asking this question? How does me asking this question make me the target of your ire?

As for signing in: working on it ^.^


You're like the kid in the schoolyard screaming, "You said it first!"

Yeah, well, to mimic the kind of childish rhetoric of your comments: I double-dare you to make me give a hoot about engaging with your trolly comments.

And, btw, do let's drop the whole "I'm just asking an innocent question" and "I never intended to start being such a troll but you made me" act. It's tired.

Seriously, engage or get off the boat.


Thank you.
You've answered a few other questions I've been wondering here.
Ironic that you of all people would accuse someone of trolling. Wasn't aware holding you to your statements fell under such a concept.
Do, please, define "dodging" for me, given how good you've become at it.

I fail to see how "gay marriage" creates a vacuum within the activist arena. "Queers" will attend/challenge those ideological issues most important to them--there can be diverse interests.

The myriad media attempt to define, package, and portray a "gay movement"--for better or for worse--though it does not follow that if there weren't attention and resources directed at gay marriage that, magically, all focus would be on health care, racial/ethnic inequalities amongst queers, etc.

It is certainly true that institutionalized commitment via marriage forecloses subjectivity, whereby one's relationship is deemed more valid than another. For this reason, I believe your appropriation of Nancy Polikoff's argument may be the only redeeming aspect of your argument.

Your narrow reading of what "queer" includes follows your narrow "gay" reductionism. Queered marriage--as disindentified marriage--presents a potential site for further dismantling/dis-solving of the institutional sexism/racism inherent in marriage. Let's give this "right" to those who've fought for it for some many years, and let's work in and on it to trouble its boundaries even more.


This isn't about a vacuum in queer activist work - there's absolutely no dearth of fantastic, radical, queer activist work. BUT there is a dearth of resources being funneled to the kind of work I mention in the piece.

"The myriad media attempt to define, package, and portray a "gay movement"--for better or for worse--though it does not follow that if there weren't attention and resources directed at gay marriage that, magically, all focus would be on health care, racial/ethnic inequalities amongst queers, etc." Here, again, is my point - the gay marriage movement is definitely funneling away resources from the attempts at addressing health care and the other issues.

"For this reason, I believe your appropriation of Nancy Polikoff's argument may be the only redeeming aspect of your argument." I don't see Polikoff making the argument you claim or, at any rate, it's certainly not a significant focus of her book. In fact, what I like about the book is that she focuses on the hard tacks of the legal issues concerned. The bit that you fondly imagine she or I focus on, "It is certainly true that institutionalized commitment via marriage forecloses subjectivity..." is something you might have read in other people's work. I know it must be hard to keep us all straight, given that there are larger numbers of us critical of gay marriage, but please don't put words in people's mouths.

Marriage is marriage - "Queered marriage" or "queering marriage" (ah, how I've so not missed that overly precious 1990s queertheoryspeak) does NOT make it better. It just expands the potential for abuse and oppression to a wider range of bodies.

But Yasmin, what about "disidentified marriage," that could be a new t-shirt slogan too :)

Or perhaps it would be better to go with:

Gay Marriage: Expanding the potential for abuse and oppression to a wider range of bodies.

Love that one!


"Disidentified marriage" - love it; very... existential, and it will leave people wondering ...

Yes to both!

We should set up a screenprinting shop and churn out these t-shirts for sale. At gay marriage rallies. And we can then piously use that money to fund all the other projects left scrambling for money. Although, we have to do that in a way that that won't make us part of the non-profit industrial complex logic...

In other words, let's just forget about same-sex marriage and let all those silly constitutional amendments pass and permanently relegate us to second-class citizenship. We can instead become anti-gentrification and anti-neoliberalism activists with a parenthetical "(queer)" qualifier attached, but without focusing on any issues that directly relate to gay people and our needs. All the while, the religious right will gain more and more ground against us until it finally starts working to get sodomy laws put back in place. But don't worry! Forced back into the closet, we'll once again go back to having all sorts of mind-blowing gay sex with as many partners as possible while fleeing the paddy wagons while gay bashers beat and kill us with impunity, just like in the good old days!

I'm not trying to summarize Yasmin Sullicannipaglia's spiel, but laying out what would happen if we actually took her advice.

Contrary to what Yasmin Sullicannipaglia suggests, there are actually organizations that focus on GLBT issues other than marriage, like the Trevor Project, the Ali Forney Center (both of which have received more money from me than marriage organizations, by the way) and others.

And maybe the reason why the marriage effort takes up so much funding is not just to make marriage legal but to keep it from being banned in constitutions because unlike Yasmin Sullicannipaglia, some of us are actually smart enough to recognize things like Prop. 8 as precedents for incrementally worse forms of persecution by the religious right, and we know that with gay marriage amendments in place, the religious right will be emboldened to seek other ways to use the law and propaganda to mistreat us. Despite polls supposedly showing that young people all love us, there's still a tremendous amount of hatred against gay people out there, and it's just waiting to be whipped up by the religious right in the event of some national crisis.

Like the naive Andrew Sullivan, the racist Jasmyne Cannick and the incoherent Camille Paglia, Yasmin Nair further enriches the discourse with contrarian drivel.

"Yasmin Sullicannipaglia" -- thanks for yet another t-shirt phrase.

Although "Yasmin Sullicannipaglia" doesn't have quite the zing of Lucrece's "Sadistic Attention Whore" bit.

As for your words: "Forced back into the closet, we'll once again go back to having all sorts of mind-blowing gay sex with as many partners as possible while fleeing the paddy wagons while gay bashers beat and kill us with impunity, just like in the good old days!" Riiiigght...because of course mind-blowing gay sex with many partners is the root of our problems - and those of us who have said sex are, of course, not also the ones being bashed.

Alaric, your comments make less and less sense every time.

Alaric, your comments make less and less sense every time.

Well, considering the fact that your rebuttal consisted of taking a passage from one of my paragraphs completely out of context, I suppose I can't blame you for coming to that conclusion.

Once upon a time in Canada, one of the justifications for gay marriage--other than the substantial and anonymous financial contributions from Americans--was that it would liberalize the political terrain so that transgender and transsexual people, long revised out of gay history--as in the plot summarized in the article above--would be able to have their rights recognized.

Simply to catch up to gay and lesbian people.

Another revised and related plot declared that gay and lesbian people achieved their rights by themselves, for themselves--and that transgender people, and particularly transsexual people, are nothing more than parasites. (And, apparently, heterosexual people of good will and conscience had no part to play, either.)

In recent months, even transgender people have been adopted into the gay and lesbian orbit. The Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition executive director made a personal, not institutional, human rights complaint regarding gay and lesbian health needs--an end run around his organization's commitment to transsexual people.

And now we see, repeated in this article, as elsewhere in liberationist screeds, not a mention of debts owed. (These debts, to transsexual people are, politically speaking, quite possible.)

This is the situation in Canada.

When marriage is achieved in America--being a conservating institution--transsexual people will also be abandoned.

Better get what can be got now.

In fact the argument has been made that the move to marriage in 2004 was not what most opinion polls showed as doable to the majority of Americans--unlike equal rights for transsexual people.

It has even been suggested that the move to marriage, in 2004, funded by the very same people who provided Egale Canada an irresistible motivation to work around its commitment to transsexual people by playing to Bush's strengths was a significant contribution to his re-election.

As the former editor/publisher of Ottawa's gay/lesbian only! newspaper--the only Canadian queer organization to exclude not only transgender and transsexual people, but also bisexual people--declared his goal, and apparently that of liberationists, to fuck who he wants, fuck when he wants, fuck how he wants.

Maybe the goals of queer people, those who in Canada ALREADY have BOTH formal human rights AND hate crime protections--and numerous administrative law and collective agreement rights--are what can attract the support of the vast numbers of non-queer people?

Maybe they can do it for themselves, by themselves?

Maybe it is an important goal for cissexual people to leave transsexual people behind?

It is difficult to see any other goal, particularly when the rhetoric, such as that above--rather common in Canada--simply revises transsexual people not only out of history, but also out of the mandates of those organizations that still, nominally, include us: Egale Canada and more recently the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition.

Why is the only common cause one that excludes transsexual people?

Gee, the second time it's even better. The same strawman arguments "some proponents make about marriage being the only way to have your love recognized" uh, who said that?, the same absurd conclusions "If you support gay marriage, you must be against universal healthcare and prisoner rights." The same ad hominem support. "Why one lawyer in Connecticut heard that he wasn't getting money because of gay marriage!"

But what really improves this from the first posting is the truly Ann Coulter style of rebuttal and the amusing Bill O'Reilly twists of nonlogic.

But Yasmin, listen up. Neither you nor Rick Warren nor any of the rest of the many haters have the right or the intellectual chops to tell anyone that being gay should exclude one from a basic civil right, whether you consider that civil right trivial or not.

I'm not against gay marraige. I'm practical, and because the public support domestic partnership, Id rather go for the easy victory. I also think ENDA and public healthcare and beefed up police protection are more important to our community than bouquet tossing, foisted on us by a few selfish couples looking for sweet benefits.
But go ahead. Go to it. The community has been shooting itself in the foots for the thirty years that I've been watching. And there's no reason to expect them to wise up now.

I wonder what would happen if they gay community at large said, 'Lets forget about Transgendered rights'? Lets be honest, they are unrelated. You dont have to be gay or lesbian to be transgendered and wouldnt they be better left to fight their own battles? So why should we champion for transgendered rights? Oh, because its the right thing to do? Because people should have the right to any and all institutions that they deserve as citizens of their country?

Ok I guess I can get on board with that.

Being a part of the gay activist movement for many many years, I have only known one type of person who did not support marriage equality. They were always the militant, angry, single folks who identified themselves by their race and sexuality only, not by the fact that they were human beings or living creatures with dreams or emotions. They tried to convince everyone else that by getting married, we were buying into the hetero industrial complex of slavery and relationship death. No one ever took them seriously, because their seething hatred for us horribly normal gays was more than apparent. As if there is something wrong with the fact that many of us are just average people who arent defined by who they sleep with. As if we had to do everything in our power to distance ourselves from our childhood friends and family because we had a penis and so did the people we were in love with. It really is tired.

Now.... I dont know Yasmin, so I dont know if this sums her up. I wouldnt be arrogant enough to assume it does without ever speaking to her. I am simply stating a continued theme in the people that share her view and would not be surprised if she had these same qualities. While I think her views are misguided and selfish, I commend her for being able to speak her mind.

Here is the problem though. Many more Americans can at least understand homosexuality in broader terms and even our desire for marriage, than they can relate to or understand the feelings of a transgendered person. So if we are going to speak in terms of doing what we can for our own community, its easily arguable that ditching the T in our moniker would be better suited to helping people relate to our needs and who we are as people. If in fact, we still want to be defined as people and not sexual objects solely. However, if any of us said we should remove the goal of transgendered rights, we would be lambasted as bigots and rightly so.

In other words, its not always about whats better or best for the community (if gay marriage could even logically be considered and negative for us), its about whats right. ALL people should be allowed to love and live freely, with full access to all civil institutions. If you dont want to be married, dont get married. It really is amazingly simple.

I have known very few gay people who share this view, so the idea that its a growing majority is arguably false. However, marriage equality has emboldened our community like nothing before. Young people, gay or straight, are joining groups, marches and rallies in defense of this simple inalienable right. To say that we should ditch the one thing that seems to connect so many of us, the desire to share our lives with those we lve, is simply misguided.

I hope that one day Yasmin sees the pain and hurt that she is causing people by choosing to throw their dreams and desires by the wayside. I can promise you that we would never be so cold or callous, neoliberalistic or not.

What a pathetic pile of negativity. Whatever element of the LGBTQ coalition Yasmin represents, should the rest of us be supporting their positions in the fight for equality, if Yamsin and cohorts are not supporting the issue that has garnered gays the most publicity and the most rights in states where marriage is legal? Yasmin refuses to identify her self (LGBTQ?), claims to be an " academic". (Where?). LGBTQ politics is identity politics. We face discrimination because we are a member of one of those communities within the larger coalition. We do not face discrimination because we have particular positions on immigration, on health care. We are discriminated against because of being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer. Yasmin's war against so may in the coalition is a temper tantrum that is getting mighty old.

When I first started writing about gay marriage, I thought it was a concerted and organized attempt on the part of specific and well-coordinated groups. I now realise - as does anyone who's watched the shambles of the last few months - that it's a disorganised wreck that can't get its act together and can only succeed by squashing dissent in the community. The kind of dissent that's clearly making a lot of its members rabidly hysterical, as evidenced here.

I also thought that most gay marriage proponents could be relatively sane folk who could actually argue the merits of the issue without resorting to inventing personal attacks (you've insulted my parents!) or making them (you must be a damaged, lost soul - and not even queer!). But, again, I've been proved wrong.

It seems too easy to say that the obvious failure of gay marriage proponents here to make a single rational argument without frothing at the mouth is symptomatic of the general failure of gay marriage to be anything more than a misguided, cold-hearted, avaricious, and brutally self-serving faux "movement." And yet, and yet, and yet... over and over again, the trolls who show up in my comments section make it evident that the easiest diagnosis is the most fitting.

Keep at it, people. You're helping me make my points in ways you can't even imagine.

Not to be overly 'cute' or anything here, but if anyone just proved someone's point I think you just did it for the "Your posts would get you a lot more support if you would, as the saying goes "lose the tude". I mean, really?
"Hysterical" "Frothing at the mouth" etc. Disagreeing with you, or questioning you does, in no way, make a person any of the things that comment claimed. Have all the comments been perfect? Of course not. But I like to think that anyone who's had even minor exposure to LGBTQ issues, or feminist issues should know better than to make vast sweeping generalizations (and yes, I see the irony in that statement).

Is there another way I can explain the reason these comment boards drum up such animosity that doesn't degenerate into a "You catch more bees with honey than with vinegar" cliche?

The long and short of it is this: The anger that comes up in these comments, more often than not, has absolutely nothing to do with the actual content of your articles. Instead it has to do with how you've presented that content.
This is not a strike at you, this is not a "Wow, you're such a bitch" comment. This is me doing what I can to help calm everyone on both sides down and, at the same time, try and get you to think about presenting your stance in a more...well, friendly manner. Admittedly I'm fairly sure, given a few of the above comments, that this particular board is going to prejudge your posts based on your past posts but perhaps if you're writing for elsewhere as well this could be something to consider. Maybe?


See my above response to you about your schoolchild behaviour and rhetoric since our responses may have crossed. Please don't worry about me honing my writing skills. I think I've got that covered.

And, again, drop the whole "I'm just a peacemaker" act. It's old and fools no one.


I'd like very much to know how I've given you the impression that I'm insincere Yasmin. Because I'm not. Though admittedly I'm getting rather annoyed that you take what is a mostly friendly comment and accuse it to being trolling. Oddly enough that in itself sounds a lot more along those lines.

I also can't help question something. "While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others"
So I suppose writers are immune to this rule then? Cuz I'm doing my best to bite a few back but it's difficult when I'm on the recieving end of a number of personal attacks with absolutely zero basis or reason other than the simple fact that I asked a question. Hell, I'd maybe understand it somewhat if I'd actually dissented with your opinion Yasmin but I haven't. So why the acidic responses?
And, just to cut you off at the pass here, don't play mindreader. Take me at face value because, of all the people on this board, you're the last I'd care to lie to. In the rare instances I've lied, they bite me in the ass. Badly. With you I get the feeling it'd be exponentially worse so I count myself wiser than to test those proverbial waters.

I also can't help question something. "While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others"

So I suppose writers are immune to this rule then? Cuz I'm doing my best to bite a few back but it's difficult when I'm on the recieving end of a number of personal attacks with absolutely zero basis or reason other than the simple fact that I asked a question.

I'll be keeping my eye on this thread now, Matthew. Today is the first time I've had a chance to scan the comments on this post.

He's right though - I've seen plenty of comments in the thread that are borderline TOS for attacking people instead of ideas. I notice that this isn't specific to Yasmin though - other Projectors seem to be just as vitriolic. Simply blaming her when she's also been called names, seems rather unfair.

There's a topic on the table. Either respond to the points without having to resort to schoolyard taunts about the Projector or contributor or just ignore the comment that sets you over the edge.

Great post, Yasmin, and I'm surprised by a few of the comments because this is probably the least confrontational post on the subject that we've seen from you!

I think a lot of people might be misreading Yasmin's post as saying: "You have to be against same-sex marriage to be a cool person." Instead I take it as: "Same-sex marriage isn't the only thing out there, and we shouldn't compromise our generally leftist goals (if we are on the left) in order to get it. But it's looking like there aren't many people who are willing/able to maintain that nuance."

Although she can speak for herself.

I agree; in fact, even though I generally have no problem with same-sex marriage, I can see that there are lots of gay folks who get really conservative in their support of it. It's disheartening, to say the least.

OK, and one more question for Yasmin: Why "gay marriage" instead of "same-sex marriage"? I long ago posted here about how I will never use the phrase "marriage equality" (the short version is that I got tired of cleaning projectile vomit off my walls), but I think "gay marriage" has a bisexual-erasing quality to it. I'm interested in your take on the matter.

Thanks, Alex.

And love the bit about "marriage equality," a phrase that I dislike as well.

Good question about "gay marriage." At first, I was just using that phrase since it's what was being used all around. But, at this point, it's also more of a political decision. I don't believe in or care about the institution of marriage, period, so for me the issue of whether or not bisexuals are excluded or not (or, for that matter, queers and genderqueer people, who may not fit anywhere on the approved spectrum) is immaterial. My critique of gay marriage isn't that it doesn't include specific people, but that it replicates and even worsens an institution we need to do away with or, at the least, loosen and dislodge in terms of the ways in which it is the only way to accrue basic rights and benefits.

Which is to say, I see your point about how "gay" erases "bisexual" but it also erases a ton of other queer categories that the gay marriage movement doesn't give a rat's ass about. And, more importantly, since I don't think anyone should be fighting for inclusion, my concern is not with expanding marriage but ending its hold on our lives. To quote Cher, "Marriage is an institution, and who wants to be part of an institution?"

Hope that helps. Interestingly, this isn't even the last of my pieces on gay marriage. I'm still working on what I conceive as my definitive statement against the movement - it'll be the one place where I lay out all the arguments for GM and dismantle them. And indicate why we need to work against GM. So... buckle up for that one! If this post incites so much, I can't imagine what that one will do...I'll also be taking up the notion of "marriage equality" in that one.

Although, to be honest, I can't say I'm that surprised by the vitriol. I do think there's some kind of a shift occurring in terms of a larger cultural conversation about our priorities, and I think the hysteria (my word, not yours, I know:)) evident here is a sign that some people feel their fragile hold slipping.

As the estimable Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has said in her blog, and I’m going to paraphrase quite clumsily here, asking for proof/alternatives when confronted with a challenge to one’s belief in a system is a classic liberal strategy.

No, it's a perfectly reasonable request when you make a statement of fact that contradicts conventional wisdom. When you say that your opinion is "hardly the minority," you suggest that most gay people don't care about or are against marriage equality. In your profile, you call yourself a "reporter," so I would assume you know better than to make such a statement without providing factual evidence to back it up. Otherwise, you undermine your credibility.

In other words, what I find so striking about those who are adamant that the gay marriage fight is winning is a) how hysterical they become when faced with even the slightest challenge to that notion. b) their refusal/inability to actually engage with any critique of the ideas put forth.

Ah, this would appear to be one of those strawman arguments for which others have criticized you. Who is "adamant that the gay marriage fight is winning?" Who's even arguing on that point here?

All in all, the article was teeming with red herring and strawman arguments, all centering around the erroneous assumption that "gay marriage fundies" care only about gay marriage to the exclusion of everything else and the self-absorbed idea that gay-rights groups should mostly ignore gay rights and focus on issues you deem to to be of utmost urgency and importance, but from a "queer" perspective.

Chief among your red herrings is your preoccupation with the supposed injustice of singles' exclusion from the benefits of marriage. Those benefits exist for families, i.e. people whose household expenses and responsibilities and assets are so inextricably tied that they form a cohesive unit, and the demand for those benefits is out of recognition that an increasing number of gay couples -- whether you like it or not -- are settling down, renting and buying homes, starting businesses, accumulating assets and having kids together. It's not some gross unfairness or injustice that you can't secure those benefits for your roommate, your fuckbuddy or your dog.

If you want to work for universal health care and ending the war in Iraq, then go right ahead, but some of us actually have a stake in gay marriage and the benefits it would provide now -- even at the state level -- not the benefits that universal health care will provide decades from now.

I assume that almost all LGBT people want to have rights equal to those of straights. Meaning to follow Yasmin's ideas we have to eliminate the possibility of marriage for straight people as well as for LGBT people. All existing marriages would have to be voided.

Following this step thousands of laws would need to be revised/eliminate to reflect the marriage free state of the USA.

Correct, Yasmin?

What is the strategy that Yasmin proposes to accomplish these goals?

My guess is Yasmin is intelligent enough to appreciate that her goals are unobtainable. Making me question her motivation for her never-ending posts on this topic.

Eliminating the need for marriage as a crucial part of civic life is not the same as voiding all marriages. Making marriage less central to getting basic rights is not an unobtainable goal. I'd advise you to read Nancy Polikoff's book or even her excellent blog to see examples of how this can be done. For instance, if you're concerned about the rights of people to be with their partners in hospital rooms, establish a simple national registry with a database that clearly establishes who has the right of visitation and who doesn't. No need for lawyers, since hospitals will be legally bound to honour the registry. Such a registry already exists in Colorado (I believe that's the state I'm thinking of). And, because I know what you're likely to say next: Just remember that your being married doesn't mean that some homophobic nurse/doctor won't keep you out even if you wave your marriage license in their face. A registry, the ignoring of which can lead to severe penalties, is a much surer way of dealing with the matter.

You write: "All existing marriages would have to be voided. Following this step thousands of laws would need to be revised/eliminate to reflect the marriage free state of the USA."

Yes, and all children will henceforth be bastards, they will all have horrible deformities, cows will dispense blood instead of milk, and the skies will turn orange.

Seriously, what is with these bizarre post-apocalyptic views of a world in danger if marriage simply doesn't matter as much? Do any of you realise how much you sound like religious fundamentalists who go on about the civilising effects of marriage? What's next? Covenant marriage for gays and lesbians? Wait, I think Alex once posted something about some pro-gay marriage person proposing something like that...

As for my motivation: Hey, you've got me. I imagine your wheels are spinning on that one. So fire away. What could possibly be my motivation for putting up with these screeds on a regular basis, Nerissa? Curious minds want to know.

That's a wonderful for hospital visitation, Yasmin. Now, how do you plan to secure the 1,100 other benefits? How do you plan to bundle them all together in such a way that obtaining them doesn't require spending thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer or months going through a multitude of government agencies? How do you plan to overcome the opposition from business interests that will surely be a challenge to many of them? How do you plan to overcome opposition from social conservatives who are hostile to pretty much anything gay-friendly? And how do you plan to address the fact that certain kinds of couples (i.e. straight ones) can obtain marriage licenses and others cannot, or are you content with a "separate but equal" type of situation?

I'm sorry, Yasmin, but the world just isn't as simple as you appear to think it is.

I think you made some very polite arguments Matthew and I am a little taken back by the way Yasmin has responded. I made it a point to check your previous responses, assuming that her attack on you would surely have been vindicated. After writing my response and trying to politely disagree, I find her method of choice to be rather odd considering the nature of the subject at hand.

Any writer worth their salt would understand that if they were to make a statement, it would be one that could be backed up. When a writer knows that their article is going to ruffle feathers and some respond by saying "this author is a bitch", you dont win many to your own side by treating the responses with a "bitchy" attitude.

I really am trying to go out on a limb here and understand her point of view, no matter how misguided I feel that it is. It does make it very hard to respect TBP when their authors are so cruel and demeaning in their responses to comments. Granted people have said some horrible things to Yasmin, but doesnt the high road offer a nicer view?

I could be spoiled from reading Politico and The Huffington Post, but I have never seen an author respond with such venom on those sites and often their articles are very inflammatory.

I suppose it degrades the journalistic integrity of TBP when these kinds of actions are permitted. It makes the site look like a junk science blog with quick to fire bloggers.

I will say however, that Alex's responses have been much more mature and of the quality I would expect from a site that wishes to be taken seriously. If you are going to piss in the eye of your community, dont react by pissing back.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 3, 2009 2:03 AM

Did any of y’all notice the nationwide wave of massive rallies and marches to stop SSM in its tracks? Not the ones organized by christers superstitious riff raff but the ones organized by all those LGBT coalitions opposed to SSM.

You didn’t notice them? Come to think of it, neither did I. And you won’t notice them because the vast majority of people in the GLBT communities seem to support our agenda, including the right to SSM. Very large numbers of us are marching for SSM, not against it.

But not our Yasmin. She’s holding out until her utopian version of partnering is instituted world wide. She’ll accept nothing less and in the meantime she and most GLBT Democrats agree with Obama. Naturally they can’t say anything gross like “gawd’s in the mix” because that would give their game away. Instead they make the ridiculous claim that supporting ENDA and SSM are incompatible.

One socialist view of marriage is that the state should have minimal interest in partnering except for defending the rights of women and the welfare of children. Otherwise all persons, partnered or not, should have the same rights.

Partnering arrangements should be easy to get in and out of. People should be held strictly accountable for the welfare of children in their care. Society should accept ultimate responsibly for the welfare of children by educating parenting skills and encouraging everyone to parent all children. Society should insure that all children have decent housing, good medical care and good nutrition.

I can't wait for those kinds of social norms to be instituted by a revolutionary governments here and around the globe but in the meantime if GLBT folks want to get married most of us will continue to encourage them (Obama supporters excepted) while we support ENDA, tougher hate crimes and hate speech laws and some of us (Democrat warhawks excepted) will discourage enlistment in the military.

Yasmin, when you iron the details for your mass Dump SSM March on Washington let us know. My advice is not to let Warren speak. That backfired on Obama.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 3, 2009 2:59 AM


I do not believe in or care about the institution of marriage either. It was never one of the things that mattered to me.

I hope when you write your next piece where you dismantle GM utterly you include several important scenarios among the thousand plus rights conferred both at a State and Federal level by the "m" word.

Inheritance: When one party dies and the survivor must pay inheritance tax in many states to stay in the home shared with their partner. Ask Don Sherfick about this. He has opinions. What about children of the deceased partner evicting the surviving partner?

Children: When a lesbian couple has children outside of marriage and the "birth" mother dies who is going to keep grandma from taking those children away from the surviving partner?

When a Gay male couple adopts what is to prevent the state from later deciding that the home is "unfit." It only takes a change in state legislatures.

Elder care: Who will have legal standing to make final decisions for someone who is about to die regarding the level of quality of care they will receive. With many hospitals still treating LGBT couples as lepers how will we have access to our partners in emergency rooms and pre op facilities? How do we deal with the gauntlet of nursing home care and the right to live as a couple in "assisted living" centers? Presently we have to find a "gay friendly" nursing home when we should have equal access to all facilities.

Access to pensions of a deceased partner, Social Security credits for a surviving partner and their children, the list could go on and on.

No, I am not invested in marriage either, but I see the hunger for those who want it and why they do want it. It is for reasons like these that I, for one, am an expat loving my country from afar.

I will await your practical solutions to the above

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 3, 2009 3:14 AM

Due to the length of this thread I was late to read your suggestion of a national hospital registry. This would have to be federal law. We have yet to get medical records on a national database. How many more years would this take to enact?

I saw the title of this post in my RSS feed and assumed it was by Yasmin. What I didn't assume was that such a bland, innocuous post (Yasmin, that's not an insult!) would lead to such vitriol!

Look, I completely disagree with Yasmin on marriage equality (sorry Alex—no other term works for me). But she's merely articulating a position on an issue. Disagree with her, as I do, but sheesh! It's not like she'll single-handedly stop you from working on the issue! It's called "debate", and it's healthy.

Yasmin's larger points here—lost in the fervor—are important and ought to be discussed. Even I would adopt many of them!

The biggest shock to some is that I completely agree with Bill Perdue—whoa, did a pig just fly past me?! Whew! No, since "the revolution" isn't necessary to achieve those goals, as countless countries have shown.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 3, 2009 11:36 AM

I have agreed with Bill Perdue myself and we have had many battles. The only points I would question are: who protects the rights of men? and if everyone should be encouraged to parent all children how is this different from Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" (this from a democrat hater)

Other than those two relatively minor points I think he is spot on.

Mary Hayes | July 3, 2009 8:54 AM

I'm not sure why Bilerico readers are supposed to peruse this article, look at a forgettable "amazing" picture of a man in a wedding dress, slap our foreheads and say "hey! I could've had a civil union!" but I'm definitely underwhelmed.

There's nothing new here -- just another busybody "I know what's best for everybody else" screed.

In response to those who keep asking, "so how am I going to get this, that, and the third?" The whole point is that marriage shouldn't be compulsory. You should be able to get this, that, and the third without marrying. Nair isn't out to get you, she doesn't want to take anything from you, she's not saying you shouldn't have it, she's saying you should think critically about the way you are trying to get it, that the route you're proposing isn't the only way to go and could actually preclude other possibilities in the process.

In order for me to visit my partner in the hospital, or get health care, or inherit the estate, or get SS benefits, or whatever, I must marry my partner----the point is, you shouldn't have to. You should be able to make these decisions on your own, nominate whomever you want for whatever you want, bequeath your estate to whomever you decide, grant hospital visitations at your request, etc. ---- the state should not be regulating the intimate details of your life.

Why does the state even bother? Because marriage reinforces the "right" kind of relationship vs. the "wrong" kind of relationship----marriage is inherently exclusionary. (Aside: this is why I think the phrase "marriage equality" is an oxymoron because marriage is fundamentally based on an inequality between one type of relationship and others, regardless of sex.) If you would take the time to think outside of your immediate, personal needs, outside of fierce identity allegiances, you would realize that even with same-sex marriage in the picture, singles of any orientation or gender expression who want to remain unmarried for whatever reason will not have access to the same rights as married couples, and I should hope that we can agree that what people want to do with their bodies, assets, job benefits, SS, children, or whatever, should be their decision to make, regardless of whether or not they're "legally" partnered.

Which brings me to another possibility that same-sex marriage cannot, by current definition, ever include----those who wish to recognize more than more person as an intimate/life partner/companion. Of course, it's much easier to expand the status quo than actually dismantle it, so don't worry, same-sex marriage will be a reality. Do not misunderstand me: The answer for me is not to open up the door of the institution and allow in as many combinations of people we can think of; the answer for me is to blast the damn thing to smithereens and let individuals decide what's best for them and theirs.

If this were purely a legal debate, free of any sociocultural-political bias, my utopian vision --- yes I acknowledge it's utopian --- would be a reality today. The problem is, as much as marriage is a legal institution, it's a social one, upheld as the standard, supposedly optimal, most-desired way to organize one's intimate life. For example, as Nair points out, the state has been trying to regulate the bodies of poor women of color for a while now... e.g. TANA fund (hope I have the name right, lol; the government rewarding the reduction of "illegitimate" births). Same-sex marriage is not going to eradicate the social stigma of being a nonmarried/polyamorous/[insert unconventional relationship here]. I fear that it may very well expand it, as in do not be surprised if gay and lesbian married folk years from now start lashing out at nonmarried folk for not "settling down," and if we're still in the minority, for "making the community look bad." And we can't expect that years of being on the "outside" of things will somehow soften our judgment calls. But, of course, none of this is set in stone, maybe same-sex marriage will surprise me on the social front, who knows.

Also, I find it bit disturbing, but not surprising, that some of you wish to quell or totally ignore a voice of dissent --- which is healthy to any movement, community, society in general. At the end of the day, this isn't about whether or not you agree with me, it's about fostering a healthy debate, it's about critiquing the goings-on and not just going with the flow because it just so happens to work for you. For me, this isn't about conversion, it's about conversation ---- looking at things from a different perspective, hearing each other out without launching personal attacks, and with all the pro-marriage articles on here, I thought we could at least welcome, if we can't agree with, a different take on the issue.

Yasmin, I'd like to know if you are familiar with Cathy Cohen's views on this issue? They're quite similar. I went to a lecture of hers earlier this year, can't remember the exact title, "Prop 8 in the Age of Obama." I think she's supposed to have a book coming out on this, too.

I would also like to add that I don't think the impetus to subvert the institution of marriage will come from a group of solely gay activists, nor do I think we'll see the motivating force anytime soon. It certainly won't be heard out in this current political climate with same-sex marriage being in the forefront, even in the mainstream media. I think what we may see sometime after same-sex marriage has been a reality is a group of people --- representing a multiplicity of backgrounds, lifestyles, personal beliefs, income levels, some LGBT who have become disenchanted with the institution, etc. --- coming together for this one issue as it affects their lives; an issue-based politics rather than an identity-based politics. We can see now, as Nair pointed out, that marriage is on the decline in general anyway. Please, don't think I have a problem with gay activists, I don't. I just believe that this issue brings to relief the limitations of an identity-based political movement. Simply put, I think we're going to see some straight/gay/trans/black/white/whatever-people saying "okay we're fed up with marriage" and organize others who feel/prioritize likewise to reach that one goal. And wouldn't it be icing on the cake if this coalition could actually be selfless enough to stay together and work against other systemic, insidiously-oppressive measures, even if they don't immediately affect them....that's total utopia right there, lol.

Bottom line, gay marriage won't be dumped anytime soon by what's been termed a gay movement, and my heart isn't actually breaking over this realization because it actually makes sense to me. I'm not mad at any proponents of marriage, I can't tell you not to fight for what you believe in, but please be open to discussion and realize that others don't feel this is the best route and might actually come together to get rid of marriage altogether.

Mary Hayes | July 3, 2009 12:55 PM

"I can't tell you not to fight for what you believe in, but please be open to discussion and realize that others don't feel this is the best route and might actually come together to get rid of marriage altogether."

How gracious. What are you proposing to do with people who oppose you in "getting rid of marriage altogether," assuming you can get more than 142.68 people interested?


Thanks for your very nuanced and intelligent post. As you're no doubt aware, I agree with all your points. I haven't actually encountered Cathy Cohen's latest work, and will now look out for it, so thanks for the heads up. I gather this was the “Prop 8: Race and Sexuality in the Age of Obama" talk at Yale, yes? I do like her work a lot.

You and I are on the same page as far as wanting the dismantling of the institution of marriage, and you're right on about: "...I don't think the impetus to subvert the institution of marriage will come from a group of solely gay activists, nor do I think we'll see the motivating force anytime soon." I think that gay marriage will come, eventually, regardless of what people like us have to say about it, but, as you point out, the system of inequality that breeds will prove completely unendurable.

I think the issue will arise especially from single, straight people, many of whom are increasingly unwilling to marry. I also think that the generation of queer twenty-somethings who have never known anything outside of "marriage rights" and are currently passionate about the "struggle" are going to realise, very quickly, that marriage is not the answer to their problems. And they might well be part of the attempt to radicalise the system so that marriage isn't the priority it is right now.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I hope you'll stick around for the next instalments in my ongoing critique.

Brilliant piece in that it does not robotically cede the terrain we once held close and jump on the institutionalization of sex for the sake of legalized misery. Marriage has not been that great for straight people. It won't be greater for LGBTQ people. And what are bisexuals to do? Stereophonic marriages? The comments here are right on and well informed. But the sad truth is that in today's world of festering wars brought on by oil and religion we are still messengers from outer space. Our project is revolutionary on a species level. Their project is reactionary on a nation-state level (as so well articulated by Yasmin Nair). And the observations that keeping this fight going will drain us is also true. If this can't be won in the Courts, it should not be won in the ballot box. Voting on rights is wrong. Rights either exist or not regardless of the majority's whims. I am so glad Bilerico exists!

Yasmin, this is beautiful and profound piece that makes so much sense (clearly the people making negative comments didn't actually read it, or already had their minds made up and weren't in the mood to think critically even if they disagree). Inserting gay into heteronormative oppressive systems like marriage and the military doesn't make those institutions less oppressive, it just makes more people brainwashed to think its the best way. Just wanted to thank you for your well thought out articles that bring a critical eye to somewhat crazed movement that seems to have stopped thinking about how to care for all its members not just the ones with enough money for the seat at the fundraiser dinner at HRC.


Thanks for reading and for your words. As for "Inserting gay into heteronormative oppressive systems like marriage and the military doesn't make those institutions less oppressive, it just makes more people brainwashed to think its the best way." - that's well put, and I couldn't agree more!

OMG I couldn't make it through all those comments, so long! Why is everyone responding like they didn't read the original article? It's clearly stated that you aren't calling for people to lose their rights, or have no access to rights but that attaining rights is gone about all wrong. That we seek to have protections and basic human benefits under the law regardless of who or how we love. Why is the government involved in mandating love anyhow? I just don't understand why everyone is so keen to work in a system that has proven to oppress a large portion of those who have played it's game. And if they're so tired of your articles why do they keep reading them and spending their whole lives commenting? Don't they have big gay weddings to plan? Imagine the change we could see if some of the boneheads who comment on here spent half their time allotted for comments on real activism.


LOL, you hit the nail on the head! In fact, you'll notice that many of these same people have actually formed a kind of anti-fan-club and are currently making the EXACT same meaningless comments over at Mattilda's latest post, a roundtable of which I was a part:


As you'll be able to tell, some of them have barely changed their words around.

Yes on everything you said, and especially:

"Don't they have big gay weddings to plan? Imagine the change we could see if some of the boneheads who comment on here spent half their time allotted for comments on real activism."

Well, that, unfortunately would mean that some of them might have to actually talk to real human beings, and not to electronic message boards and comment threads. :-) I've staved off being this blunt for a very, very long time, but I think it's time for us and them to acknowledge the truth.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Now is the time for the queer left to make our case. A new way is possible. We must build a stronger progressive movement that liberates us all. Join our movement at QueerToday.com

OMG! Finally! I applaud you! Try telling this to the National Equality March or any other LGBT group these days. You get your head ripped off and a lot more! Gays will, in fact, screw up the LGBT movement. They already have! We have 87% of America banning same-sex marriage. Yet, we have the President of No On 1 in Main stealing from Bush saying "Stay The Course." We have the Prop 8 people saying "We will continue to fight." We have the gays in NJ saying "We have an anti-gay gov. coming in next year, so lets push for marriage now so he'll be able to outlaw it once he comes in" and he will, too. Lastly, we have the gays in NY saying "This struggle isn't over yet."

I'm bisexual leaning gay myself and I can say "WTF?!?!?!" How are you going to support a 'marriage-only' stance and then expect to get anywhere.

It is my hope that it gets banned permanently in all 50 states, thanks to the gay community. Because, then and only then may people POSSIBLY be slapped in the face hard enough to realize "SHIT?!?!?! There's more to life than just gay marriage!?!?!? WHAT WILL WE DO?!?!"

Kevin McMullin | June 19, 2010 11:49 AM

After reading some other articles here, I think I'm getting it and I hope this is short.

You couldn't have concluded everything, and I mean everything, in your article more wrong.

In short, same sex marriage debate and legislation is not about extending rights to new groups, i.e. gay couples, it is about preserving the rights already given to all US citizens by our constitution. This is a fight against groups, politicians, and laws that are working to take these rights away from individuals. The LGBT individual already has the right to marry and with it all the benefits that come with it. Unfortunately, we are being pushed out of this right by religious groups from both sides of the aisle. This is unfortunately, not a conservative or liberal view. It comes directly from our predominant and terribly misguided religious beliefs overwhelming held by our citizens. This is the largely held view of religion and not just the religious right. Let's not forget President Clinton signed DOMA and publicized this in campaign ads for his second term run in more conservative parts of the country showing his support of traditional family values. (President Clinton was also the signer of the welfare to work act you give so much credit the religious right for passing. He was very proud of it at the time, too. Also, it hasn't actually been a total failure or even close to that as you have kind of insinuated.)
The bigger point here though is your arguement about what the supposed for for gay marriage has taken from our lives. While universal health care, homelessness, the ongoing wars, and the myriad of problems that concern you (Kudos by the way. All very important and you covered them very well.) should be extremely important to the GLBT individual they should also be important to every other citizen of the US. These issues should, and gratefully are, being discussed and worked on a much larger stage. Obama's health care legislation and all moves around that is a prime example. Preserving, and that is what the same sex marriage movement is trying to do, the right of all individuals to marry the person of their chosing, without discrimation based upon the person gender, does nothing to further the US standing as the only developed nation to not have a universal health care system. The topics are completely diconnected. I would say that any person who is drawing this connection is really the one hurting the larger topics because they are wasting time fightinga non-enemy gay marriage when they could be working for medical care and pharmaceuticals for all.
Marriage is the word our government has chosen to use in their rhetoric. That is how the laws are written. Using that language is not some sort of embrace of the sackles that bind it is simple vocabulary. Vocabulary is required to communicate. Communication is required so we can fight those who would strip anyone of certain inalienable rights. Fighting to maintain this marriage right for everyone is really just a fight for status guo. From your articles, I think you would agree with fighting the forces that are trying to strip these rights from certain individuals. Unfortunately the use of any other term such as "partnership" gives opportunities to strip rights away from the individual. By using these classifications, you are denying the individual the already government granted right to marry. Which leads back to my original point.
With all this, I would pat you on the back and even monetarily and physically support many of the causes you hold in high regard. In fact, many of them I already do. I just never saw them as important to me becuase I am gay. Access to medical care, decent housing for all, a livable wage, hunger...they are important to me because I am human.


I encourage you to go back to my post and read more carefully.

I write (words in square brackets are points of clarification that I added): "Following the egregiously named "Welfare Reform" package of 1996 [Bill Clinton was President, as you and I both know], poor women in particular have been subject to the kind of state intervention in their lives that would be held as unconstitutional if exerted on any other segment of society. With the collusion [collusion with whom, you might ask? See inserted comment above] of the Religious Right, single mothers are required to undergo marriage counselling in an effort to get them to marry the fathers of their children."

So, no, clearly, I don't blame the religious right for welfare "reform."

Where in the constitution are these "rights" written, exactly? The legal benefits that come through marriage are not rights, they are PRIVILEGES granted to those who marry and denied to those who don't. They are the result of decades of slow and steady accretion of laws that grant such benefits, not constitutional law.

Your words: "The LGBT individual already has the right to marry and with it all the benefits that come with it." Really? If so, what have HRC, NGLTF et al been fighting for, exactly? Here, I confess that your ideological take on all this is becoming quite confusing.

Here's the takeaway from my piece: Nobody should be granted special privileges (tax breaks, housing benefits, health care benefits etc.) just because they're married. Instead of asking: "Why not let LGBTs marry so that they can enjoy these benefits just for being married?", why not turn the question around and ask, instead: "Why not create a system where EVERYONE can avail of these benefits without having to be married?" In that case, the point would be to strip the word "marriage" of all its overloaded significance.

As you should know, Obama's administration has already begun making some inroads in this (and I'm not even his biggest fan, but credit must be paid): you're no longer required to be married to someone in order for you to have visitation rights in the hospital. In such beautifully simple ways, we can continue to dismantle the structure that grants basic benefits only to married people and create a more egalitarian society. Or, hell, just Canada.

As for your words, "Fighting to maintain this marriage right for everyone is really just a fight for status [q]uo." Exactly. And I have no interest in the status quo. And changing the status quo is not as difficult to imagine as the pro-gay marriage folks insist. Again, see Canada.

For more, please see www.againstequality.org

I especially encourage you to read Ryan Conrad's piece on the marriage fight in Maine, which goes into some detail in explaining how the marriage fight is sucking away our resources.