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Why I am politically opposed to same-sex marriage

March 26, 2013

Since same-sex marriage is back in the news thanks to SCOTUS, I need to mention a few reasons why I think it’s a misguided political issue for LGBTQ-identified people to fight for. And I’m adding my reasons to the many offered by many other people and organizations elsewhere. (For starters, check out the statement put out by QEJ several years ago.)

First, so long as the legal and economic benefits that accrue to marriage remain tied to that institution, marriage will never simply be “one option on the menu” of various kinds of intimate, erotic, sexual, romantic relationships. It will be elevated as the idealized, materially privileged relationship. Indeed, expanding marriage to include same-sex couples will only further entrench married conjugality as the apex of “loving” relationships.

Second and related, I don’t buy the trickle-down effect notion that same-sex marriage is a “step in the right direction” for LGBTQ rights. The idea that legalizing same-sex marriage will somehow make U.S. society more tolerant and accepting of queer folk is not only illogical (are interracial relationships any less stigmatized in the wake of Loving v. Virginia?), it’s politically dangerous. Making marriage an “option” for everyone regardless of sexual orientation will, as above, not make it a freely elected decision but something that is expected of everyone. So those queer folk who do not marry — out of choice, disinclination, ethical opposition, sheer bad luck — will be stigmatized all over again, seen as incapable of maintaining a long-term relationship, possessed by perverse desires, practicing all kinds of deviant acts, attaching themselves to all the wrong sorts of people.

Seriously. All you straight unhitched folks who are sick of being asked “so when is it your turn?” at weddings, who are apprehensive about being regarded as “lonely” spinsters and bachelors, you should be hearing me right now. Because while some unmarried queer folk currently have the alibi of illegality, that’s gonna disappear soon. And all of the unmarrieds — straight and queer alike — are going to be faced with the same mean perception no matter their reasons for not tying the knot: you’re a loser, baby.

Third, this is what kills me about the rhetorical position, or posturing, that having to make the case for same-sex marriage puts people in: it is precisely not a tactic for speaking truth to power, but of speaking lies to presumed homophobes — of putting on the face of beautiful, handsome, healthy, able-bodied, happy, well-adjusted, hard-working, committed, loving, often child-rearing respectability in order to demonstrate that we’re just like you and want the same things as you. It’s gross and it’s a lie. (And sweet heaven knows that straight people are nothing like that, so stop it with the “just like you” business.) Or at the very least, it’s a very partial truth of who queer folk in all their heterogeneity are and what they do and want to do with their bodies and lives.

Finally, I need to say that the phrase “committed same-sex relationship” seems to me redundant. Can you be in an uncommitted same-sex relationship? If by “committed” is meant “exclusive” and “monogamous,” well then, there you have it. The point is not that marriage is a conservative “heteronormative institution” that must be opposed by queer folk on principle (because we’re so, you know, revolutionary and dashing) but rather that it’s a coercively normalizing model of human coupledom that causes all kinds of disaster and destruction. Sheesh, haven’t we learned anything from Muriel’s Wedding? Idealizing marriage makes people do nutty things. Singing ABBA songs in front of a mirror, however, is not one of them.

p.s. I hope to return to my academia-related disgruntlements soon.


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  1. Leslieann permalink

    Thanks for these thoughts, my friend! I’m all in agreement with your points. And while I should be jetting off to my class that starts in 2 minutes, I want to pose a question, one that might, perhaps, reveal my ignorance on this matter. What about the legal benefits that come with being married? I thought this whole issue was about having benefits such as being able to stay with your partner 24/7 while s/he is hospitalized (remember: only family, particularly spouses, are allowed to stay overnight). Am I wrong? Please educate me! 🙂

  2. Hey L, thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. I’m certainly no expert about hospital visitation rules or about the 1,000+ benefits that come with legally recognized marriage. I would simply point to the “beyondmarriage” coalition’s advocacy for “Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.” This would include granting the sorts of privileges currently reserved for blood-kin and spouses to “Close friends or siblings living in non-conjugal relationships and serving as each other’s primary support and caregivers”; “Households in which there is more than one conjugal partner” (since marriage would recognize only one spouse); and “Care-giving relationships that provide support to those living with extended illness such as HIV/AIDS.” In short, having the right to stay with and care for your loved one(s) in the hospital is extremely important. Why limit that right only to blood-kin and spouses when people inhabit and forge household and intimate relationships of all kinds? I’m pretty sure there are legal work-arounds those prohibitions now. And opening up marriage to same-sex couples would certainly be a shortcut to acquiring those benefits. My point is simply that people shouldn’t be forced to marry in order to get them.

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