Adam Polaski

How Larry Kramer Actually Feels About Marriage Equality

Filed By Adam Polaski | July 28, 2011 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: gay marriage, Larry Kramer, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, The Advocate, The Normal Heart

LarryKramer.jpegLast week, veteran gay rights activist Larry Kramer made headlines when The New York Times quoted him about the marriage equality law in New York:

These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call feel-good marriages,' Mr. Kramer said. 'Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment -- that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.'

Now Kramer is saying he was misrepresented in the Times piece - that the newspaper excerpted his statement and, in doing so, distorted his message. In a new editorial for The Advocate, Kramer clarifies his stance and explains that he is not anti-marriage for the LGBT community, but rather that he wants the community to consider how state-recognized marriage between same-sex couples does not offer the same legal and economic benefits as federal marriage.

His new piece provides the full statement that he had submitted to The New York Times:

"The historic and cultural significance of this moment is that once again the gay population of this country continues to accept second best. These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call 'feel-good marriages.' They convey little in the way of benefits (and in some instances they are even financially punishing to those who embark on them). Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment -- that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.

Most straight people who are congratulating us so effusively don't understand that these marriages share none of their federal benefits and entitlements, the right to inherit without punishing taxation, the right for our joint incomes not to be taxed so hideously high, the right to share insurances -- there are over one thousand benefits worth money that the federal government bestows on heterosexual marriages and which our state marriages don't. So why do we continue to get so excited when so few worthless crumbs are thrown our way? I have from the beginning never understood the philosophy and tactics of our various organizations who appear to be calling the shots on this issue. If we are to wait for a majority of states to recognize gay marriages, we'll all be dead.

When are we going to recognize that until the Supreme Court blesses our union, we continue to be worthless and powerless, which is the way our enemies wish us to remain. When will we face up to the fact that no sooner does a state grant us marriage, than our enemies immediately tie up the courts in endless litigations to disallow them, as in the monstrous mess that has become California. Our enemies have bottomless pockets to fight us with. It has been discovered that the biggest contributors to the California wars are and have been the Mormon and Catholic churches. I do not disparage any gay couple's desire to wed in New York, or anywhere else, and in so doing feel and take joy from this act. But let us all recognize that beyond this euphoria, these marriages are hardly worth the paper they are printed on. And once again, I can only raise the cry: how long are we as a people going to accept such shabby and unequal treatment?"

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I agree with Kramer. It's one thing to accept that incremental gains are a necessary part of achieving full civil rights. It's quite another for most LGBT people to never lift a finger to help obtain our rights, and then to celebrate an incremental benefit that leaves our people in harm's way, as if we won the war, rather than a single battle, and go home again, never again to be heard from in the fight for our civil rights.

Om Kalthoum | July 28, 2011 3:53 PM

He didn't have to explain to me. I knew what he meant. Of course he's correct. Tempest in a tea pot.

Obviously, all civil rights activists agree that we need to repeal DOMA to have full state and federal marriage. That does not diminish that state marriage is a HUGE victory. Federal marriage is far better than state marriage, which is much better than civil unions, which are much better than nothing. Yes, even Rhode Island civil unions deserve jubilation and celebration. Even Lawrence v. Texas, which just legalized sex and did not even get us near civil unions, was worthy of celebration. Incremental progress is the only way to achieve equality. We would never have achieved inter-racial marriage in Virginia, Alabama, and Utah if we did not first achieve it in Vermont and Massachusetts.

Wilberforce1 | July 28, 2011 6:52 PM

One step at a time.
We are hugely out numbered, outspent by fundy churches, and out spoken by corporate media that use us as a wedge issue to elect fiscally disastrous republicans.
All we have going for us is Hollywood, which is finally doing our pr, and activist groups that are more about feathering their own nests. Meanwhile, the community are busy spitting venom at our allies in the liberal church while ignoring the spread of hiv.
One step at a time.

Jay Kallio | July 29, 2011 2:42 AM

Larry is making the case for the repeal of DOMA, which is one of our next steps. There are also battles being waged for GENDA and other nondiscrimination bills across the nation, where no LGBTQ people are protected from catastrophic losses of jobs, homes, etc. We are spread very thin with our tiny resources, compared to the massive forces aligned against us. Too few people are actively involved, which has always been a problem, and too few people are "out".

Larry is a person of immense talent and courage, and as someone who has taken huge risks as an activist he has the moral authority to encourage, even demand, others step up and do their part as well.

That said, it's still wonderful to celebrate when we win, especially now, because it looks like the political tide might finally be turning in our favor. At least the Dems might decide they have the political safety to back us, instead of demonizing us as a huge political liability as they did when they blamed the 2004 presidential election loss of John Kerry to George Bush on us, not so long ago. Those were very dark days for our movement, when even our supposed allies were scapegoating us, and perhaps now they are finally lifting. It gives me hope!