Reactions to the 11 ballot measures

Both the mainstream media (including some folks who favor same-sex marriage) and SSM opponents tend to speak as if last week’s elections have changed anything in the fight for SSM. For instance, in the comments to this post on Family Scholars blog, SSM opponent “Marty” asks us, “would you like some condescension with my gloating?”

The past year really has been some sort of hysterical farce. I keep conjuring up the image of a 12 year old girl, who somehow became convinced that she was going to get a pony for christmas. Nevermind that her family can’t afford or care for a pony, she’s sure that Santa Claus will take care of all the details.

“No,” says her father “but you MIGHT get a new bike if you’re good.”

Which of course causes the little girl to become even more obsessed, demanding the pony she was supposedly promised, ridiculing the whole idea of riding a bicycle, and insulting her father as well.

Well today is the day after christmas, and there’s no pony, and no bicycle either. Instead of sucking up and grudgingly saying “ok ok, i’ll settle for the bicycle” perhaps she should apologize to her father and retrospect on her own behavior for another year or so.

Marty, dude: Maybe you should reflect on the fact that “retrospect” is not a verb. That aside, what Marty doesn’t seem to understand is that almost no one in the pro-SSM movement expected the pony this year. In statement after statement before the election, SSM activists admitted that 10 of the ballot measures were a lost cause for us, and the 11th was far from a shoe-in.

So, we ended up losing 11 of 11, rather than the 10 of 11 that was our best-case scenario. Since that was pretty much the result we expected, I don’t see any reason to change our views or our long-term strategy. No matter what, we knew that in this year’s ballot measures, our asses were going to be kicked. It’s called “backlash,” and it’s the inevitable result of progress. (Besides, the states were mostly “low hanging fruit” for the anti-SSM movement – 10 of the 11 had “defense of marriage” laws on the books even before this election).

The Times has an article suggesting that SSM activists, after the election, are backing down on lawsuits, but I think the reporter is spinning (or perhaps being spun). Activists quoted in the article say that they’re not going to be pursuing Federal lawsuits, which is good – winning in Federal courts at this time, even if we could do it, would only help our opponents by making it possible for them to pass a Federal (anti) Marriage Amendment. But that’s nothing new.

But no one in the article is talking about backing down from state-level lawsuits in places like New Jersey and Washington. As far as I can tell, the overall strategy hasn’t changed – nor should it have. It’s true that we have to win over hearts and minds, not just courtrooms; but our strongest tool for winning over hearts and minds will be the normalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts (and hopefully a couple of other states as well).

Meanwhile, as a result of the controversy over marriage equality, Connecticut is going to enact a civil union law, to provide relief for some of the extreme and concrete inequalities (hospital visitation, etc). I think we’ll see more of this sort of thing happening over the next decade. A similar thing happened during the fight for the ERA; because of the ERA controversy, public attention was brought to many legal inequalities, causing many of those inequalities to be addressed by Congress. Giving up on the ERA and aiming lower wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

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51 Responses to Reactions to the 11 ballot measures

  1. 1
    NancyP says:

    Well, civil marriage is a legal contract meant to provide a one-stop solution to a variety of situations that couples might encounter: inheritance (of anything from multi-million Cheney estate to a few pieces of furniture and a photo album), survivors’ benefits, medical care decisions, right to privileged spousal communications, right to live together in some zoning districts that don’t allow unrelated adults to occupy the same unit, right to file joint income tax, liability for other partner’s debts, etc, etc. Most people prefer a dyad when it comes to property and care decisions, hence the focus on “marriage” hetero or same-sex. Could these same benefits and responsibilities be allocated to family units greater than 2 adults? Probably, but an entirely new body of law would need to be created to deal with the issue of weighting of survivorship interests, etc. Speaking of medical decision making, it surely is more straightforward to have one person have primary responsibility than to have multiple people with conflicting views, though in fact often the whole family expresses opinions. The Koran and body of shari’a law is one example where polygamy has been codified.

    Qgrrl, are you objecting to existing marriage laws dealing with survivorship etc rights – no couple should have a one-size-fits-all legal instrument for property and other responsibilities – or are you objecting to the restriction of marriage laws to a dyad and not to a polygamous relationship?

  2. 2
    Q Grrl says:

    my bad… I had “Devil’s Advocate” in little brackets on the above post, but they don’t show up. hmmm. Anyhoo. I wasn’t trying to flame, just trying to show a different viewpoint.

  3. 3
    Q Grrl says:

    … Charles, it then seems that what straight folks have been to lazy or careless to fix themselves will now fall on the shoulders of the queer community. Sorta like: hey we’ll throw you the bone of social acceptance and civil liberties *IF* you only solve our messy problems. I know that’s not what you meant, but it is one interpretation. Again the question isn’t so much about equality as it is about assimilation. And I don’t see how assimilation changes anything (well, maybe a small amount). It is a much more likely scenario that instead of queers changing the *institution* of marriage, marriage will change the nature and expectation of queer relationships.

  4. 4
    mythago says:

    Exactly, Charles. That’s why the endless arguments about how marriage has ALWAYS been “one man and one woman,” which is a blatant lie, and the whining about why can’t they just have civil unions and not call it marriage. People get very comfortable in their notions of whose job it is to mow the lawn and who is supposed to remember the pediatrician appointments. The idea of not having those very clear markers–man does this, woman is like that–terrifies them.

  5. 5
    Amanda says:

    Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but I think once same-sex marriage is legalized, it will do a world of good for the institution as a whole. Most of the problems with marriage stem from the built-in assumption that it is between a superior man and an inferior woman. If we can take the man/woman dichotomy out of it, it might also help to loosen the superior/inferior dichtomy.

  6. 6
    Charles says:

    I tend to agree with Amanda’s optimism. It is actually a large part of why I have gone from being anti-marriage (okay, and a hypocrite) to being pro-SSM. Not only do I feel that everyone should have equal access to one of the central underpinnings of patriarchy, but I think that completely removing the gender specificity of marriage strikes a serious blow to the ties between the institution of marriage and the foundations of patriarchy. Of course, the fact that we have reached the point where we can contemplate SSM is a sign of how far we have come in divorcing marriage from gender, and from the foundations of the patriarchy.

    Of course, this is also fairly fundamental to why the other side opposes SSM so fervently. It isn’t just a hatred of homosexuality, it is also a fear of the disolution of patriarchy and the gender hierarchy.

    Or so it seems to me.

  7. oh, btw, thanks Q, Jake and Alsis for the intelligent discussion :)

    I’m growing more and more to enjoy this blog *waves at Amp*

    Sarah

  8. 8
    Alex Fradera says:

    Forget retrospect, the guy mislaid his condescension and hoped a bit of condensation would do the trick. As in water droplets on a window.

    Stupid errors + smugness = asking for it.

  9. 9
    Amanda says:

    Nice equating wanting basic rights with having a temper tantrum because you didn’t get a pony. What an asshole.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    Alex, thanks for pointing our my dumb error. I’ve corrected my error in the post – now excuse me while I go wipe this egg off my face. :-)

  11. 11
    mooglar says:

    Yes, of course short-term setbacks should make supporters of SSM stop fighting for equality and justice. Of course the anti-SSM movement would have compromised with the SSM movement if they had the chance. They only put clauses into anti-SSM amendments that forbid civil unions as well as SSM because the SSM movement drove them to it, right? Not because any sort of legal recognition of same-sex unions is utterly unacceptable to them.

    This is the conservatives’ new tactic: To try to convince us to water down our goals until we finally just take whatever the conservatives hand us. They know that, historically, short-term setbacks were part of the process of change, and that if they don’t convince us to start giving in to them, we will eventually win. They’re trying to get us to commit political suicide for their benefit. Don’t fall for it.

    If the conservatives were willing to compromise, the nation wouldn’t be so divided. Bush came into office claiming to be a “uniter, not a divider,” then went on to push an extreme right-wing agenda on the nation, ignoring any attempts at compromise from the left. When the right says “compromise,” they really mean, “accept conservative policies wholesale.”

  12. 12
    Kelli says:

    This smugness is the problem with all of these right wing evangelicals that have decided to enter the politcal areana.

    Being smug is not a virtue that God aspires for any Christian. So I will not be surprised when it backfires.

  13. 13
    Marty says:

    Thanks for noticing my comment, i know the analogy isn’t perfect but it still fits what i’ve witnessed. No one was getting their feelings hurt over the SSM issue (or claiming to be “second class citizens”) until suddenly SSM became a goal of your activists. (Help Help, i’m being repressed!)

    Good luck on the long term strategy, but my advice is to make it VERY LONG INDEED. A few more activist courts, or another Gavin Newsome, and (as you so keenly osbserved) the FMA will quickly be in the bag.

    PS: No, backlash isn’t just a response to progress. Try a food analogy: Growth is a natural response to eating, but Vomit is what happens when you gorge yourself.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Marty, lack of equal rights hurt a lot of lesbian and gay couples and their families for years before the issue recently got hot. That you’re ignorant of the harms, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

    Marty wrote: A few more activist courts, or another Gavin Newsome, and (as you so keenly osbserved) the FMA will quickly be in the bag.

    Actually, as long as no other rulings are Federal, I think the FMA is less likely than ever. After all, states who don’t want to have SSM “forced” on them can always change their state constitutions, so a Federal ban isn’t needed. So I don’t think more Gavin Newsomes or more state-level bans will really help your cause.

    What I wonder is, why are you so distressed to see that some gay couple in Massachusetts is married? It doesn’t hurt you in the slightest to let them live their own life; but you’re so fanatically against it, you’re apparently willing to play games with the Federal Constitution to stop them from making choices you wouldn’t make.

  15. 15
    alsis38 says:

    So we’ve gone from “pony Xmas gifts” as an analogy for equal rights to “vomit” as analogy for equal rights.

    Puh-lease.

  16. 16
    sara says:

    At the rate of current events, Bush might just take away all the civil liberties of Americans who are not registered members of the Republican Party and, at that, bona fide members of the extremistwing of the Republican party and born-again Christians.

    Who would scream louder then?

    That trolls (sorry, marty, you’re a troll) can come around and mock the aims of the pro-SSM movement is an instance of the death of empathy in American society. They don’t realize that many of the anti-SSM proponents also support prohibiting heterosexual cohabitation — that’s a man and a woman living together.

    As long as we’re working eating metaphors, Elias Canetti in Crowds and Power describes the unconscious selfishness of a “family” who sit at table eating while other people are going hungry. They themselves have food, and the suffering of other people doesn’t concern them. The “family,” at the date of Crowds (1962), consists of a heterosexual couple and possibly children.

    Now we learn that the hungry onlookers (same-sex couples deprived of the legal rights of marriage, whatever you call the union) are actually gorging themselves to the point of vomiting.

  17. &, great post and thanks for the good news. I agree, no one was expecting us to win most of those state measures. Glad to know about the state-level lawsuits as well as the civil union legislation in my native Connecticut. We’ll keep on working.

    Sara, I am a registered Republican and a Bush voter, and if I see any evidence that “Bush might just take away all the civil liberties of Americans who are not registered members of the Republican Party”, I guarantee I’ll scream louder than anyone. But it’s not going to happen.

  18. 18
    Kelli says:

    You know I really dislike the use of the term “Born again Christian” because to be a Christian you have to be born again. That is what Jesus explained in the New Testament.

    I also dislike that people lump them with the Evangelical extremist in American Religion.

    I am a Christian so that makes me Born Again, but it doesn’t make me part of that radical religious (and in many ways very hipocritcal) extremist group of evangelicals (who don’t even use the word correctly).

    And Marty you might want to curb the smugness and over confidence a bit. Believe me it can backfire

  19. 19
    Q Grrl says:

    I’m still puzzled why SSM is so PC right now. I don’t know a single gay man or lesbian that actually thinks that this is a politically astute topic right now. Even more so after it hurt the recent election. My short hairs were pretty fried on election night thinking of all the PC folks supporting SSM (who don’t want to be labeled bigots) who haven’t thought through the political ramifications of losing the election, the backlash against gays and lesbians that we can expect, and the ongoing and very real need for the attainment of basic civil liberties such as housing and employment that affect all gays/lesbians regarless of marital status (puke!). Grrrrrr.

    Do you all really think SSM is the answer? I almost want to ask how many of you here are gay or lesbian?

    Sorry, obviously it’s a stick up my proverbial poitical bu**.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  20. 20
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Q Grrl,

    Well, here is one lesbian that wants SSM, so much so that I am anti civil-union (though not, if we get the gov out of marriage and have everyone have c.u.’s). And I have to say that virtually every queer I know wants it too (and a lot of straights want it for us too).

    It may not be a politically astute topic right now, but we can’t honestly back down from this, this is about basic civil rights. In fact, I think we could have been pushing for things considerably harder than we have, and to restrict ourselves to what we have thought we could win (like Amp has been showing) we have been intelligent about it.

    Sure, there have been firebrands like San Fran and New Paltz that have attracted a huge amount of attention. But the thing is, sometimes it really takes big statements like that as much as it does all the wonderful quiet work being done behind the scenes (the latter of which there has been considerably more of).

    How could anyone honestly have seen the incredibly wonderful scenes of love, happiness and joy on the faces of recently married SS couples, their families and their friends (and perfect strangers) and not be moved in a good way? Sure, there are raving bigots who will never see that joy, but I happen to think it did all serve a very practical benefit.

    As to why now? Well, I honestly think it’s one of those points in history where a certain critical mass comes together and things change. Does this mean that everyone is agreeing? Hell no. I would even think that if you took a poll on missegenation in certain states that it wouldn’t go down too well even now (not that I making a comparison mind you, just a point).

    But don’t think that people are just support SSM because it’s PC right now. I think a LOT of people have looked at the issue and realised its worth supporting basic civil rights, even given the consequences. This is a long term fight, and so we need to have to put up with the temporary setbacks.

    I don’t think we’ll see many big firebrands for a while now like we did last year (although, weren’t they wonderful just to witness? *smile*) … but there will be lots and lots of little victories behind the scenes, and slowly we’re going to win.

    Sarah

  21. 21
    shannon says:

    Why do these right-wing so-called Christians think the world is their two year-old? I had a troll telling me that I “can’t just have whatever [I] want” (eg: to be a dyke) because God has rules for us just like parents have rules for their children.
    Time Out all you queers! Don’t make me get the belt!

  22. 22
    Amanda says:

    I’m not in the habit of asking gay men and lesbians if they support gay marriage, because that would come off in most social circumstances as asking, “Are *you* going to get married?” And I know from experience that question is incredibly irritating. But I do think I can tell you why marriage rights are the topic of the moment–because that is a signal that gays and lesbians are not simply “tolerated” but actually accepted.

  23. 23
    Q Grrl says:

    I disagree that it is a sign of acceptance. It is a sign of assimilation and normalization into the status quo. That bothers me a lot.

    Sarah: I don’t see how marriage is the best answer for attaining civil rights. Why marriage? Who benefits? Is society better if all gays/lesbians marry? What about the majority of gays/lesbians who are single but don’t want to sacrifice their civil rights? Are their rights not as vital?

    How assinine would it have been if women or African Americans had been required (politically or socially) to marry in order to attain their civil rights? That would have been laughed out of circulation in a heart beat. So why are gays and lesbians different?

    The push for SSM cost us an election. And my gut tells me that this is because a lot of “well meaning” heterosexuals and bisexuals decided what might be good for gays and lesbians. No thank you. There is a long history of politically savvy and astute action on the part of gays and lesbians — the push for SSM is not one of them. It is a classist and heterosexist norm couched in terms of civil liberties. It normalizes the patriarchal paradigm of “coupledom” and ignores the fact that individuals need rights REGARDLESS of marital status (again, puke!).

  24. 24
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Q Grrl,

    *nods* I have heard these arguments before.

    And honestly, don’t buy them. Going for SSM as a part, admittedly a rather large part, of our push for overall civil rights, does not stop us from also pushing in other areas, such as ENDA, etc. We are not a one-horse movement and as such we can actually push on a number of fronts at once.

    We are not pushing for SSM to get civil rights, we have civil rights that we are fighting for, and SSM is one part of that.

    And while I agree with you that we should be finding a better solution for all people than marriage as a fundamental rights location (although I disagree that individualisation of rights schemas is the way to go, I think more of a social justice responsibility system, ala the european ideals, would be better) I honestly don’t think it’s an acheivable goal right now, SSM (even as long term) is.

    And yeah, marriage is currently screwed up beyond belief (and I am not talking divorce rates here). But I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is something to be said for recognising the lifetime committment between two people, regardless of gender (though I do agree its got way too much importance right now in our society). I would suggest that perhaps SSM could help reform marriage maybe, it certainly can’t make it any worse. Is SSM gonna make society better? Maybe, maybe not. But, I happen to think that opening up society’s social institutions to disadvantaged minorities, regardless of the minority, HAS to be a good thing, if only for the ideological impact.

    Now, as to SSM costing us the election? Well, I apologise in advance for my language, but that’s the largest amount of crap I have heard in a long while (and yes, I know this theory has been forwarded in a number of venues, but just because it gets repeatedly shitted doesn’t mean it stops being crap).

    To use a metaphor, its like blaming the rape victim for wearing tight clothing. Yes, I know that’s an emotive comparison, but it still fits. Our push for SSM is CORRECT, in the same way as that victim has every right to wear what she wants and not be victimised for it. The election was lost because the other side used fear, hate and ignorance in a very politically brilliant way. There’s a bigger picture than this election.

    Even the gays and lesbians I know that personally don’t want to have marriage for themselves, want it as an option for those that do. Perhaps once we have access to the institution, then maybe we can set about fixing it. Nothing is ever fixed from the outside.

    Sarah

  25. 25
    Jake Squid says:

    Tangent:

    I believe that Sarah is correct in her response to the “SSM caused the Dems to lose the election” theory. You can blame everybody in sight (Nader in ’00, SSM in ’04, something else in ’08), but until you take a good hard look at yourself nothing is going to change. The only elections that the Dems have won in the last 24 years are the ’92 & ’96 presidential races. They keep losing in the house and senate and governor races. I’m sorry. The problem isn’t Nader or the SSM movement. The problem is with the Dems and with how the Dems run campaigns.

  26. 26
    Q Grrl says:

    Sarah: thank you for your response. I wish I could articulate better why SSM bugs me so much, but it is on a very gut level. I suppose some of it stems from my local observations that we aren’t being so multifaceted as a movement. And as I live in a southern conservative environment, it is really crucial that other issues don’t take a backseat to SSM. I feel that I have a better chance of changing conservative outlooks when I speak of housing or employment rights etc., then I do if I’m trying to convince folks that two women should be able to marry.

    I still believe that SSM hurt the election. It created a reactionary politics from the conservative contingent. And since this *is* politics and *not* a tight skirt, we, and we alone, are responsible for how the public receives our message. In other words, we keep trying until we find the right formula and the right time — otherwise it backfires.

  27. 27
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Q Grrl,

    thanks for the reply :)

    *nods* I certainly agree with you that you SHOULD be fighting for employment and housing anti-discrimination. If those are the big issues in your area then more power to you, and anything I can do to help I would gladly do. But, I live in one of the most liberal parts of the country, and we have employment and housing anti-discrimination here, so here the priorities have moved on to other things.

    As to being multifaceted enough, yeah, we DEFINITELY aren’t (the marginalisation of bisexuals and transpeople are evidence enough of that). I think a feminist methodology of “think globally, act locally” approach would be better than the universalist framework that seems to be de riguer at the moment. The US is a HUGE country with many different cultures therein, so we need to look more to particularities in local areas.

    But I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on the SSM-election loss connection *smile* Sure, we have responsibility for our message, and we didn’t really handle it as well as we could have. However, we are NOT the only ones here constructing the discourses around SSM. The bigots on the other side played a really large part in it too, reframing our claims of equal civil rights into something that isn’t even recognisable to our intentions. And, honestly, they did a better job of it … but then, they had quite a large headstart, in terms of the conservatism of the country at the moment, to start with. I just think it’s not as simple as ‘we shouldn’t have pushed this’.

    Sarah

  28. 28
    alsis38 says:

    At the risk of being a lightweight, I have to say that there’s truth in what Q, Sarah, AND Jake have said. I don’t make SSM the central focus of my views, and I have serious issues with marriage as an institution myself. Still, the right to marry was available for me to reject if I desired. I thus support SSM because everyone should have the right to reject it, not to have it kept from them by somebody else.

    Q, one of the reasons I have bolted the Democratic Party is precisely because I am tired of the weird disconnect between social issues and economic issues. I think they need to be considered together. In fact, during the blow-up following the 2000 election, I told more than one Gore loyalist that I was tired of hearing about how great the Democrats were for civil rights. Not merely because I think Clinton and Gore were a big letdown in that regard, but because the cutthroat economic policies they supported created an economy in which civil rights as REAL, day-to-day change, –not just laws on the books–could never hope to thrive except among those already of the privileged classes. (A lesbian Wal-Mart employee, IOW, always faces hurdles that a lesbian Century 21 realtor doesn’t face, no matter how many SSM-type laws get passed, or at least get paid lip service.) Historically speaking, hate movements thrive beautifully in terrible economies. I think it’s possible to read the link between SSM and the Democrats’ drubbing in that light, but I still wouldn’t simplify it to the degree that SSM alone caused the problem. It’s as much what Democrats didn’t address ALONG with SSM that’s the problem. :(

  29. 29
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    alsis

    (lunchbreak, so I’m posting too much *smile*)

    I do completely agree with you. I think the Dems have gone too far to the centre, particularly in reference to their economic policies, and do not see the connections between this shift and losing the votes of minorities and disadvantaged groups in society.

    One of the great things about left wing parties (the reason why I was attracted to them in the first place) WAS that understanding of the connection between economic and social policies. As a tangent, I think the inability to see this is similar to not seeing how fighting for abortion rights IS actually a pro-life position if you take a look from a bigger picture (although personally my support for choice rights comes more from a woman having control over her body admittedly).

    But anyways, I definitely would argue that the way for the Dem’s to win would be for them to move back to their left wing roots, to reconstruct their base in the same way that the Repubs have done so well. Take a similar long term approach. They don’t win by becoming Repub-lite, and the last few elections have shown this repeatedly, and ever increasingly, so.

    I mean, we had a Pres. the majority of the country didn’t like, a majority of the country also thought we were going in the wrong direction, we had record debt, social policies OPENLY undermining rights, a war that looks like being the biggest fuck-up since Vietnam, a RECORD deficit, the first net job loss since Hoover, the biggest march for women’s rights in history … and yet the ‘left’ still didn’t win? I think that really means a revisiting of strategy is seriously in order.

    We let the opposition make our platform about just the things they could win on, we were completely reactionary, and our approach to SSM was entirely fitting with this.

    Sarah

  30. 30
    Q Grrl says:

    Heh, I didn’t say Dems… :)

    Thanks for all the input above Sarah, Jake and Alsis *waves to Alsis*.

  31. 31
    Nick Kiddle says:

    Still, the right to marry was available for me to reject if I desired. I thus support SSM because everyone should have the right to reject it, not to have it kept from them by somebody else.
    Seconding you on that. Marriage is a pretty lousy concept, and making it available without gender bias only makes it slightly less lousy, but marriage isn’t going to go away so it makes sense to push for marriage equality.

  32. 32
    Elkins says:

    First of all, can I just say how much I’m enjoying your posts, Q Grrl? You’re bringing a fresh perspective to a debate that (for me, at any rate) had been growing a trifle stale.

    Devil’s Advocacy notwithstanding, I can definitely see a good deal of validity to the concern you express here:

    It is a much more likely scenario that instead of queers changing the *institution* of marriage, marriage will change the nature and expectation of queer relationships.

    At the same time, though, I wonder whether it might not work the other way around. I see most of the changes the institution of marriage has undergone in my lifetime, for example, as having worked more to subvert the patriarchy than to reinforce it. Would that subversion have happened more quickly if women had boycotted marriage altogether, rather than working to change the marriage laws to reflect a different paradigm? I honestly don’t know. But the 19th century suffragettes did try a boycott of marriage, and that attempt proved a miserable failure.

    Is there something inherently patriarchal about the financial benefits of civil marraige? It’s certainly dyadistic, I can’t deny you that. But I don’t know if I think that its dyadism (which, as Nancy P. points out above, does have some logistical and pragmatic advantages) is inherently gendering. Is it possible to think in terms of “pairs” without attaching gender to that equation?

  33. 33
    Amanda says:

    Q, I thought of that when I suggested that opening marriage up would benefit straights and gays. But I think that we might be falling into a zero-sum way of thinking. Legalizing same-sex marriage is good for everyone, but it primarily benefits same sex couples. Opposite sex couples are unlikely to see rapid change like same sex couples.

    I understand your reluctance to engage in a patriarchal institution. But to my mind, it’s a rights issue. It’s not your thing, but many gays and lesbians want this for themselves. And I want it for them. Just because others marry doesn’t mean you have to–I’m not married myself and don’t plan to be any time soon, even though I have the legal right to it.

  34. 34
    Charles says:

    Q Grrl,

    No flame taken. I realized that the basis for your objection was implicit in what I wrote, and I recognize that it is a potentially significant problem. My argument in response is three fold:

    1) equal access trumps hope of revolution.

    While I may be saying: “Here queer people, have marriages so that the fundamental nature of marriage as a patriarchal institution will be overthrown,” you are saying: “We queer people must be denied the rights and priveleges associated with marriage, so that we can overthrow the fundamental nature of romance as a patriarchal institution.” Both of our versions pin unreasonable hopes on a group whose membership is defined almost entirely by who they like to have sex with, but my version allows those members of the group who choose to to gain equal access to fairly fundamental rights, while your version denies all members of the group from having the option of accessing those rights. [likewise, no flame intended].

    2) The history of change within the institution:

    As I mentioned, large changes (which decreased its ties to the foundations of patriarchy) in the institution of marriage were required to get us here, where we can talk about marriage as being a one-stop, one-size-fits-all structure for arranging rights and responsabilities between 2 people with a long term commitment to each other, rather than being a contract by which a man takes ownership of a woman from her father. The only major portion of the legal construct of marriage which remains in the old model rather than in the new model is that it remains (in most states in this country, and in most countries in the world) a contract between a man and a woman, not between two people. I am not saying that queer people will need to do something to break marriage from the patriarchy, I am simply saying that queer people being allowed to marry is the completion in the law of the new model. To what extent the completion of the new legal model of marriage will change the cultural model of marriage is hard to say.

    3) Intercolonization:

    The cultural institution of marriage has already colonized much of the space of same-sex relationships. My friend and housemate’s mother and her wife were married in church long before they were finally able to marry under Massachusetts law. Sexual orientation is no gaurantuer of sexual or relationshipal radicalism. Likewise, I know many marriage resisters among het couplings.

    Of course, I myself am an example of the complexity of this: If my partner and I were of the same sex, we would not be married, but we would still be in a long-term commited monogamous sexual relationship. We would still own a home communally with Amp. I would not be in the hypocritical position of being opposed to marriage as an institution while simultaneously being married, but we also would not be able to provide each other the legal benefits of marriage.

    As I mentioned, I have softened in my opposition to the institution much more in response to the fight for SSM than I ever did from being married.

    On the other hand, Elkins and I married (rather than staying unmarried) in large part because we both felt that the mental unmarried relationship space was at least as heavily colonized by the patriarchy as the married relationship space.

  35. 35
    Nick Simmonds says:

    Er, retrospect is a verb, much like inspect or expect. In fact, the modern usage as a noun only entered our lexicon through mistaken use of the verb. “In retrospect” may be the most common usage, but it’s in no way wrong to use the word in its original form.

    That aside, yes, Marty is being a boor and apparently hasn’t actually been paying attention for a year.

  36. 36
    Blog Ethics says:

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  38. 37
    Q Grrl says:

    If *I* might be so bold, it doesn’t matter what your intentions are — I’d like to know that queer politics are decided by queers (even the dissenting voices like my own). It’s not that I am against SSM — I am against the timing of the political agenda and I am against it being used as a stop-gap measure to ensure civil rights. I feel that it has hurt our movement forward in that area. This concerns me greatly. I would rather not have the “opt-out” politics of “not choosing” marriage. That makes me ill. I’m sorry if that is hard to grasp (which is why I don’t think my arguments against assimilation are really being heard — because you lack the context for them — which is not a fault on your part, just a fact).

  39. 38
    Amanda says:

    I definitely see your point. And I definitely agree that it’s not up to any one group of people, particularly a privileged group, to tell another what to do. Until I first heard about gay rights groups agitating for the right to marry, it hadn’t even occured to me that this might be a big issue. Again, the heterosexual privilege, if you will, blinded me to the issues and no, I don’t want to be blinded anymore.

    Your perspective is really enlightening to me, Q. Since my neighborhood is the height of mundane and very gay-friendly, most gay and lesbian couples I know are married in all but the legalities of it, so from my narrow perspective it just seems unfair is all.

  40. 39
    Jake Squid says:

    SSM has been an issue for a long time. I remember people getting married (not legally recognized) 15 years ago. I performed a SSM in 1996 (not legally recognized). I support those who wish to be married, I will vote against anti-marriage equality measures & politicians. I do not view this as me deciding what queer politics is or should be. Rather, I view it as supporting both equal rights as I see it and supporting the queer politics of those I know. I understand and respect Q Grrl’s position and feelings on the matter. I don’t see my actions as in conflict with what seems to be her basic point (who determines queer politics). I hope that Q Grrl sees it the same way. If not, I’m wondering what it is that I’m doing that appears to be determining what queer politics are.

  41. 40
    Q Grrl says:

    “I understand your point about differences from ‘straight culture,’ but still.”

    But still… what? Clearly you don’t understand assimilation. Or why I might be threatened by it.

  42. 41
    Amanda says:

    Q, many of us who are straight have no desire to push assimiliation on you. But if I may be so bold, I have to side with mythago on this one. No one thinks that you have to get married if you don’t want to–I’m not married, myself. But a lot of gays and lesbians DO want it, and I don’t see why we can’t all push for that. You don’t have a right to refuse to marry if you don’t have a right to marry, after all.

  43. 42
    mythago says:

    Gays and lesbians have a distinct culture

    Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transfolk have distinct cultures, plural, that have evolved in different times and in different ways. Yes, the closet, AIDS issues, and prejudice have shaped them all to some degree–but the leatherdaddy culture of the Castro in SF is not the same “queer culture” as what you would find on womyns’ land in Ashland, Oregon. A teenage babydyke who was born and raised in Los Angeles is in a whole different world from a sixty-year-old gay men who grew up in rural Kentucky.

    I understand your point about differences from ‘straight culture,’ but still.

    My version asks that society give us those civil rights without having to jump through the particular hoop called marriage.

    Unless you have the option of that hoop, you do not have full civil rights.

  44. 43
    Charles says:

    [still a snippet post]

    Mythago,

    If I understand Qgrrl’s position, she is arguing for the abolition of marriage, and for the extension of marriage related bennies to a larger set of arrangements that includes diads as a subset. While I disagree with her position that this larger goal makes the expansion of marriage to include same-sex marriage not a worthy immediate goal, her larger goal does include full civil rights for everyone. If marriage no longer exists as a state institution, then no one is excluded by not having access to it (and as a non-state institution, everyone already has access to it).

  45. 44
    Charles says:

    Tiny, out of context response ’cause I’m at work and busy. (I promise I’ll give a more complete response later, cause I’m really enjoying this discussion).

    Q Grrrl, you wrote

    I do not see marriage as a patriarchal institution of “romance.” I see it as a patriarchal institution of power, control, social status, manipulation, abuse, etc.

    Sorry, I forget that my personal political philosophy is not universal :). To me, romance is “a patriarchal institution of power, control, social status, manipulation, abuse, etc.”

    Marriage is just more legally institutionalized.

    When I have more time (later this evening?), I’ll go into this in much more depth and respond to your points point by point. I don’t think that our political philosophies are actually far off (even if our policy positions may be), I think I’m just not succeeding in communicating the nuances and subtexts of my position effectively.

  46. 45
    q grrl says:

    well damn — those weren’t all suppossed to appear. Sorry everyone. Amp, can you get rid of those duplicates???!!!!

    **cringe**

  47. 46
    Q Grrl says:

    Charles says: “We queer people must be denied the rights and priveleges associated with marriage, so that we can overthrow the fundamental nature of romance as a patriarchal institution.”

    I’m not sure how you’re getting that from what I have said. Indeed, I am not at all interested in discoursing romance. Gays and lesbians are *already* denied civil rights – not just those associated with heterosexual marriage. Housing and employment being the most recognizable and the ones that I have mentioned ad nauseum. I do not see marriage as a patriarchal institution of “romance.” I see it as a patriarchal institution of power, control, social status, manipulation, abuse, etc. That is what I don’t want to see queers mirroring just so they can attain equality in the larger social eyes (or civil rights/liberties). For the record though, gays and lesbian have *already* overthrown patriarchal norms of romance – but again, we’re talking rights not romance.

    Charles says: “Both of our versions pin unreasonable hopes on a group whose membership is defined almost entirely by who they like to have sex with,”

    Again, no. That is your interpretation of marriage/heterosexuality/homosexuality. I am not defining my push for civil rights on who is sleeping with whom. In fact, that is one of the reasons I object to using marriage as the platform to attain those rights. I do not plan to be partnered, much less to marry a partner. I am lesbian even though I am celibate. My lesbianism is not, and has never been, contingent upon my sex life. The discrimination I have faced and will face is certainly not based on my sex life, as those who actively discriminate against me have no freeping idea of whether I am partnered or not. Or sexually active, for that matter. Therefore (and again focusing on housing and employment) I do not see how marriage will protect/ensure my civil rights.

    Charles says: “while your version denies all members of the group from having the option of accessing those rights.”

    Wrong. Heterosexism, heterosexual values (including marriage), and homophobia deny all members of the group “queer” from accessing equal civil rights. My version asks that society give us those civil rights without having to jump through the particular hoop called marriage.

    Charles says: “ I am not saying that queer people will need to do something to break marriage from the patriarchy, I am simply saying that queer people being allowed to marry is the completion in the law of the new model. To what extent the completion of the new legal model of marriage will change the cultural model of marriage is hard to say.”
    I’m not looking to change marriage. I want civil rights. Your above statement is not pertinent to my life.

    Charles says: “The cultural institution of marriage has already colonized much of the space of same-sex relationships.”
    So, what, we all just lie down and take it? Let complete assimilation take place because some assimilation already has happened? I don’t get your point.

    To me, your comments highlight why I don’t like heterosexual allies deciding what queer politics should be. You don’t get it (nor do I really expect you to). You interpret almost everything through your heterosexual lens and don’t even realize it. Subtexts within my politics are beyond your grasp; instead you fill in the spaces with generalized assumptions that, if played out in the political sphere, are harmful to the life desires and wishes of gay people.

  48. 47
    Q Grrl says:

    Wow, a lot to respond to. I hope I have the time…

    DISCLAIMER: these are just Q’s opinions and are therefore subject to error and change. :p

    to start with, NancyP says:

    “Well, civil marriage is a legal contract meant to provide a one-stop solution to a variety of situations that couples might encounter: inheritance (of anything from multi-million Cheney estate to a few pieces of furniture and a photo album), survivors’ benefits, medical care decisions, right to privileged spousal communications, right to live together in some zoning districts that don’t allow unrelated adults to occupy the same unit, right to file joint income tax, liability for other partner’s debts, etc, etc”

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by any legislation surrounding these items, I believe it is corporations, not individuals. Corporation’s interests are protected on the off chance that they make an error in medical decisionmaking or in distributing benefits (for example) – the legal contracts conferred through marriage ensure that corporate entities cannot be held responsible if all parties are not satisfied.

    Marriage also has a long and documented history of acting in a power-over manner where the female partner was/is viewed as property. Many of the above listed legal devices are created in a manner that reflects property value – but they don’t always specify this, if it be human or not, and it is currently a more subtle subtext.

    “Most people prefer a dyad when it comes to property and care decisions, hence the focus on “marriage” hetero or same-sex.”

    But why? On the surface this looks like a chicken and egg situation: which came first, social norms or personal desires? I think most people “prefer” a dyad in these situations because corporate systems are set up in dichotomous or either/or manners. (Do you want life support or not? Do you want to donate organs or not? Etc) Similarly, because corporations (and the State, both individual and national) want only one decisionmaker (because otherwise you would have to create multiple scenarios and that gets burdensome to policymakers, no?), a dyad makes the most “common sense.” Whether this is the reality of all choices is another matter.

    “Probably, but an entirely new body of law would need to be created to deal with the issue of weighting of survivorship interests, etc.”

    I agree with this, but the difference between our viewpoints is that I do not see this as problematic. My personal belief is that assimilation is far more difficult and is inherently more dangerous to the social fabric than is changing our approaches to policy making. If you look at both the US foreign policy and economic policy you will see how and whom assimilation helps – those already in a power-over relationship with others and those who already stand in an economically advantageous space. Those foreigners who do not wish to assimilate are fiscally and environmentally blackmailed, or they are treated as the subhuman and are bombed or sanctioned into submission. On the smaller scale of social issues within the US, marriage posits a legitimacy of rights while at the same time putting contingencies of appropriate social behavior upon them. The question for me at this juncture is: what will the social response be to those queers who don’t want to be either married or partnered? Will they face additional social ostracism that isn’t even currently in place (because they can currently ignore heterocentric social norms)? Will the only good queer be a married queer (much as many women are currently socially valued based on marital status)? How will queer sex be taught in public classroom’s? Will it still be about abstinence until marriage (insert sarcastic rolley eyes here)?

    Gays and lesbians have a distinct culture that arose in the context of the closet, AIDS, and community activism. I worry on both a personal and political level that assimilation will erase this. And I guess that doesn’t sit well with me.

    Also, and I’ve said this here before, I think: When I was a little girl it was drilled into my head that my value in life and my definition as a woman would be based on my ability to find a husband. When I came out in the 80’s I was told that because I was gay I was too ugly to get a man (i.e, I didn’t have what it took to get married anyway—I was undesirable). Now, as a purposefully non-partnered lesbian I’m getting the same damn message – although very quietly and covertly – and this time it’s quite coercive because it makes it seem like my civil liberties are on the line. Or at least unobtainable until I toe the party line.

  49. 48
    Q Grrl says:

    Wow, a lot to respond to. I hope I have the time…

    DISCLAIMER: these are just Q’s opinions and are therefore subject to error and change. :p

    to start with, NancyP says:

    “Well, civil marriage is a legal contract meant to provide a one-stop solution to a variety of situations that couples might encounter: inheritance (of anything from multi-million Cheney estate to a few pieces of furniture and a photo album), survivors’ benefits, medical care decisions, right to privileged spousal communications, right to live together in some zoning districts that don’t allow unrelated adults to occupy the same unit, right to file joint income tax, liability for other partner’s debts, etc, etc”

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by any legislation surrounding these items, I believe it is corporations, not individuals. Corporation’s interests are protected on the off chance that they make an error in medical decisionmaking or in distributing benefits (for example) – the legal contracts conferred through marriage ensure that corporate entities cannot be held responsible if all parties are not satisfied.

    Marriage also has a long and documented history of acting in a power-over manner where the female partner was/is viewed as property. Many of the above listed legal devices are created in a manner that reflects property value – but they don’t always specify this, if it be human or not, and it is currently a more subtle subtext.

    “Most people prefer a dyad when it comes to property and care decisions, hence the focus on “marriage” hetero or same-sex.”

    But why? On the surface this looks like a chicken and egg situation: which came first, social norms or personal desires? I think most people “prefer” a dyad in these situations because corporate systems are set up in dichotomous or either/or manners. (Do you want life support or not? Do you want to donate organs or not? Etc) Similarly, because corporations (and the State, both individual and national) want only one decisionmaker (because otherwise you would have to create multiple scenarios and that gets burdensome to policymakers, no?), a dyad makes the most “common sense.” Whether this is the reality of all choices is another matter.

    “Probably, but an entirely new body of law would need to be created to deal with the issue of weighting of survivorship interests, etc.”

    I agree with this, but the difference between our viewpoints is that I do not see this as problematic. My personal belief is that assimilation is far more difficult and is inherently more dangerous to the social fabric than is changing our approaches to policy making. If you look at both the US foreign policy and economic policy you will see how and whom assimilation helps – those already in a power-over relationship with others and those who already stand in an economically advantageous space. Those foreigners who do not wish to assimilate are fiscally and environmentally blackmailed, or they are treated as the subhuman and are bombed or sanctioned into submission. On the smaller scale of social issues within the US, marriage posits a legitimacy of rights while at the same time putting contingencies of appropriate social behavior upon them. The question for me at this juncture is: what will the social response be to those queers who don’t want to be either married or partnered? Will they face additional social ostracism that isn’t even currently in place (because they can currently ignore heterocentric social norms)? Will the only good queer be a married queer (much as many women are currently socially valued based on marital status)? How will queer sex be taught in public classroom’s? Will it still be about abstinence until marriage (insert sarcastic rolley eyes here)?

    Gays and lesbians have a distinct culture that arose in the context of the closet, AIDS, and community activism. I worry on both a personal and political level that assimilation will erase this. And I guess that doesn’t sit well with me.

    Also, and I’ve said this here before, I think: When I was a little girl it was drilled into my head that my value in life and my definition as a woman would be based on my ability to find a husband. When I came out in the 80’s I was told that because I was gay I was too ugly to get a man (i.e, I didn’t have what it took to get married anyway—I was undesirable). Now, as a purposefully non-partnered lesbian I’m getting the same damn message – although very quietly and covertly – and this time it’s quite coercive because it makes it seem like my civil liberties are on the line. Or at least unobtainable until I toe the party line.

  50. 49
    Elkins says:

    Oh, and…

    On the other hand, Elkins and I married (rather than staying unmarried) in large part because we both felt that the mental unmarried relationship space was at least as heavily colonized by the patriarchy as the married relationship space.

    Actually, I was convinced that it was far more so. :->

    But that’s probably getting a bit off-topic.

  51. 50
    Q Grrl says:

    Wow, a lot to respond to. I hope I have the time…

    DISCLAIMER: these are just Q’s opinions and are therefore subject to error and change. :p

    to start with, NancyP says:

    “Well, civil marriage is a legal contract meant to provide a one-stop solution to a variety of situations that couples might encounter: inheritance (of anything from multi-million Cheney estate to a few pieces of furniture and a photo album), survivors’ benefits, medical care decisions, right to privileged spousal communications, right to live together in some zoning districts that don’t allow unrelated adults to occupy the same unit, right to file joint income tax, liability for other partner’s debts, etc, etc”

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by

    When I think of who truly benefits from the list above and who is ultimately protected by any legislation surrounding these items, I believe it is corporations, not individuals. Corporation’s interests are protected on the off chance that they make an error in medical decisionmaking or in distributing benefits (for example) – the legal contracts conferred through marriage ensure that corporate entities cannot be held responsible if all parties are not satisfied.

    Marriage also has a long and documented history of acting in a power-over manner where the female partner was/is viewed as property. Many of the above listed legal devices are created in a manner that reflects property value – but they don’t always specify this, if it be human or not, and it is currently a more subtle subtext.

    “Most people prefer a dyad when it comes to property and care decisions, hence the focus on “marriage” hetero or same-sex.”

    But why? On the surface this looks like a chicken and egg situation: which came first, social norms or personal desires? I think most people “prefer” a dyad in these situations because corporate systems are set up in dichotomous or either/or manners. (Do you want life support or not? Do you want to donate organs or not? Etc) Similarly, because corporations (and the State, both individual and national) want only one decisionmaker (because otherwise you would have to create multiple scenarios and that gets burdensome to policymakers, no?), a dyad makes the most “common sense.” Whether this is the reality of all choices is another matter.

    “Probably, but an entirely new body of law would need to be created to deal with the issue of weighting of survivorship interests, etc.”

    I agree with this, but the difference between our viewpoints is that I do not see this as problematic. My personal belief is that assimilation is far more difficult and is inherently more dangerous to the social fabric than is changing our approaches to policy making. If you look at both the US foreign policy and economic policy you will see how and whom assimilation helps – those already in a power-over relationship with others and those who already stand in an economically advantageous space. Those foreigners who do not wish to assimilate are fiscally and environmentally blackmailed, or they are treated as the subhuman and are bombed or sanctioned into submission. On the smaller scale of social issues within the US, marriage posits a legitimacy of rights while at the same time putting contingencies of appropriate social behavior upon them. The question for me at this juncture is: what will the social response be to those queers who don’t want to be either married or partnered? Will they face additional social ostracism that isn’t even currently in place (because they can currently ignore heterocentric social norms)? Will the only good queer be a married queer (much as many women are currently socially valued based on marital status)? How will queer sex be taught in public classroom’s? Will it still be about abstinence until marriage (insert sarcastic rolley eyes here)?

    Gays and lesbians have a distinct culture that arose in the context of the closet, AIDS, and community activism. I worry on both a personal and political level that assimilation will erase this. And I guess that doesn’t sit well with me.

    Also, and I’ve said this here before, I think: When I was a little girl it was drilled into my head that my value in life and my definition as a woman would be based on my ability to find a husband. When I came out in the 80’s I was told that because I was gay I was too ugly to get a man (i.e, I didn’t have what it took to get married anyway—I was undesirable). Now, as a purposefully non-partnered lesbian I’m getting the same damn message – although very quietly and covertly – and this time it’s quite coercive because it makes it seem like my civil liberties are on the line. Or at least unobtainable until I toe the party line.