I haven't put up the rainbow banner that's doing the rounds, because I'm not unequivocally pro SSM. Which is not to say that I'm against it, I'm just not sure that it's really the priority of what people who support gay rights should be fighting for. Shoot me if you like, but please at least read the whole of this before you jump to conclusions.
I don't mean in the sense that it's more important that same sex couples should be able to go about their lives unmolested than that they should get their marriages recognized by the state. That's undoubtedly true; Sarah from Not You, The Other One puts it very well (quoted, because her commenting system doesn't allow direct linking):
My main gripe is that it seems to be turning the be-all and end-all of the equality thing; gay marriage means fuck-all to me when I've sat on my lunch break and had to listen to big men laugh about how many puffs they kicked in, how much they hate perverted homos, how much they're going out to do some more gay-bashing and maybe rapoe a dyke or something, all whilst one of them is staring intently at me.
Gay marriage means fuck all when the vast majority of society would rather we didn't exist at all. I'd rather the homos living in a bubble in Brighton sharpened up and campaigned against, eg, Homophobic stuff in crappy newspapers, stronger penalties against gay-bashers, for education in secondary schools, and to get homos included in equal-opportunity employment laws. Really, in the big scheme of equality, Marriage is so not top of my list.
Nevertheless, however much I agree with the sentiment, in terms of whether I add my name to the SSM cause, it's a non-argument.
My point is, I'm not sure it wouldn't be more worthwhile to campaign for recognition of serious relationships that are not marriage, rather than trying to redefine all relationships as marriage.
A campaign for the interplay between church and state to be sorted out properly (both in this country and the US; different problems, but they're aspects of the same category of problem), that I could get myself behind. Access to IVF and adoption services, legal recognition of financial interdependence in all kinds of situations, all that kind of thing, should not depend on trying to shoehorn one's relationship into a particular cultural and religious setup called marriage. Gay people would benefit from reforms in these kinds of areas as much as all kinds of queer people and people whose relationships are frowned on for reasons other than sleeping arrangements or gender.
You'd need a heart of stone not to be moved by the sight of two little old lesbians finally getting to formalize their 50-year relationship. The trouble is, I think in this sort of politics, sometimes stone hearts can be quite an asset. And actually, it's rather disturbing to talk about a marriage between two people who have been essentially married for half a century. I don't feel like dismissing all the hard work that must have gone into maintaining that relationship, and of course all the prejudice and annoyance they'd have had to fight on top of that, because it wasn't marriage and is therefore meaningless.
Also, because I don't like slogans. They either end up not saying what you actually mean, or being reduced to total truisms. Various people have picked up the problems with the original 'marriage is love' tagline; in particular, much kudos to redbird for one of the most marvelous and eloquently expressed pieces of pedantry I've come across! Thank you, Redbird, that really brightened my day.
Of all the variants that people have devised, the one that most appeals to me is Asexual reproduction is love (originally via angelsk, but various others have picked it up). Because the internet needs more cell biology jokes...
My twitch against that "marriage is love" meme is that the original post starting it specified marriage should be for any two people who love each other; claiming to be against oppression while using, even if unconsciously, language which is in itself oppressive of another set of non-standard relationship models does not impress me. [ It may well be more practical to fight this one step at a time, but to take a classic metaphor well out of context, I'll welcome this lion into the tent to help keep the great chaotic monsters out, but that doesn't mean the lion is my friend. ]
My personal favourite clever variant so far is here.
I'm with you on this one. Extending the in-group slightly is barely even heading in the right direction for ending discrimination against the out-group. If it is a step, it's a minuscule step. So yes, I do feel that the SSM movement may indeed be comparable to befriending a lion, as you put it.
I had the same reaction as Redbird to that meme, which is why I refused to play along. As I posted in response to a comment on SA a few days ago:
quote: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Food_Motivated came out of the closet to say: Marriage has been around long before organized religion, and it has an incredibly important practical purpose. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
That of aligning political parties, be they individuals, families, tribes, city-states, or countries. Marriage as it is practiced in the United States is not the gold standard by which other cultures/countries define marriage.
quote: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- My cultural anthropology notes came out of the closet to say: Marriage is universally defined as a socially accepted sexual and economic union involving a lasting commitment between two or more people who have parental rights and obligation to any children of the union. ...The apparent universality of marriage as an institution suggests that it fulfills a variety of functions in the maintenance and perpetuation of human social life. These functions include (emphsis added) channeling sexual behaviour into stable relationships, fulfilling the economic needs of marriage partners, perpetuating a society's kinship groups, and providing an institution for the care of children until they become self-sufficient. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks for these thoughtful comments, Oompalumpa! It's true what decision the US makes isn't all-important, but given that state sanctioned same-sex marriage is currently very rare anywhere in the world, for the US to go down that route is still a big deal.
The other point is that there are international treaties on marriage; I don't know the technical details of exactly how they work, but I think that one country's acceptance of SSM might well have implications internationally.
And yes, I agree that marriage means different things to different people and different cultures. But a particular state has to have a carefully defined position on marriage, in order to be able to deal with the administrative side of it. It would be dishonest to argue that accepting SSM would be no change to the status quo for the US.
It will certainly change the status quo (for the better) but there does need to be recognition by certain groups here that marriage has meant many different things throughout human history. The claim that "marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman" is false and should not be used to argue against same-sex marriage.
Not that I'm saying you're using that argument. Just saying, is all. :)
While I'm not pro-marriage period, even between heterosexual couples (I see no reason to have the state validate serious relationships), I have to say that one of the big motivators for me to support gay marriage instead of, say, civil unions, was this sentence (read somewhere on the web, but can't recall where exactly):
In the United States, separate has never been equal.
As for homophobia, I await the day when gossip about sexual orientation is met with, "Who cares?" That day would come sooner, I think, if everyone, especially celebrities, came out.
I'm not pro-marriage period I'm neither pro nor anti marriage, really. It's something that some people want to do, but I don't think it's of itself desirable. In the sense that some same sex couples want to marry, it would be better if they were allowed to. But I'd possibly rather that no-one cared whether a couple was married or not.
I see no reason to have the state validate serious relationships I don't agree that there are no reasons. But I do think that a lot of different things are currently being muddled together in the concept of marriage, stuff that's really about religion, and personal relationships, and state bureaucracy. The state should definitely stay out of the first, and to a large extent it should stay out of the second too. But while they're all entangled, it's hard to achieve that.
In the United States, separate has never been equal. Oh, absolutely. At the moment, marriage makes a lot of difference, and therefore same sex couples should have access to it. But that doesn't change the fact that marriage shouldn't make so much difference anyway!
I await the day when gossip about sexual orientation is met with, "Who cares?" That day would come sooner, I think, if everyone, especially celebrities, came out. You're right, but the problem with that is that until there's a critical mass of people who have come out, doing so can be rather problematic. Most people don't want to be pioneers, so progress is very slow. But I think progress is happening; there are far more openly gay people in public life now than, say, 10 years ago.
"one of the most marvellous and eloquently expressed pieces of pedantry I've come across! Thank you, Redbird, that really brightened my day."
That is one of the nicest things anyone has said to or about me in a long time. *swoon*
I don't think anyone on what I think of, loosely, as "our side" of the issue is saying that this is the be-all and end-all of the movement, the last thing we need for equality. Rather, it is a good thing, though not a perfect thing. Yes, I agree with rysmiel that it valorizes monogamy and romance at the expense of other kinds of love, which is part of my problem with the "marriage is love" slogan, but there are practical aspects to legal marriage that should be made available to more of the people who want them. papersky pointed out that the best is the enemy of the good: not getting this won't help us get the legal right to marry more than one person.
What those wedding pictures and stories are doing is, I hope, getting some more empathy for us as people: if you've wept happy tears over someone's wedding, it's harder to argue that they shouldn't be allowed to inherit their husband's home, or visit their wife in the hospital, or keep a job because they're gay.
That is one of the nicest things anyone has said to or about me in a long time. *swoon* Yay pedantry. The original version of this post was just a link to yours with a comment about how cool the pedantry was, but then I decided I wanted to talk about why I wasn't jumping on the meme-wagon.
it is a good thing, though not a perfect thing This is a fair point, but I'm not totally convinced it is a good thing, or a small but significant step in the right direction, or whatever. The arguments people have put here and elsewhere are bringing me round to this point of view, but I'm still sufficiently ambivalent about it that I am not going to insist on it heavily.
there are practical aspects to legal marriage that should be made available to more of the people who want them I can hardly disagree with this statement of the issue. I'm probably being pointlessly utopian by desiring that those practical aspects (and likewise the intangible aspects like it being an expression of love and commitment and so on) should not be tied to marriage at all. But the situation as it is leads to all kinds of discrimination, and one group who suffer are same-sex couples. Perhaps that should be enough of a motivation for me to wave the 'discrimination is bad' banner, at least, even if I can't quite bring myself to wave the 'marriage is good' banner.
What those wedding pictures and stories are doing is, I hope, getting some more empathy for us as people Yes, there has been some very queer-positive press around this whole issue, and that can only be a good thing.
did adopt the phrase to denote a connection to the lj movement That's admirable of you; it's just not the way I operate.
I am always glad about more specific, more detailed, and altogether more conductive arguments in order to work out the real issues beneath and find some common ground That, on the other hand, is very much my approach to most 'Issues'. I really hate the kind of campaign which oversimplifies a complex, if worthy cause. I think it ends up doing more harm than good. Example: I was very against the UK government's imposition of charges for university education, so I wanted to join the protest movement. However, I found myself in a big group of people chanting 'Tuition fees - No way! Tax the rich and make them pay!' which annoyed me, because I don't believe in excessive tax for the richest people as a political principle (and certainly not as a means of funding Higher education).
You, my dear, have put into words what I have always thought but couldn't articulate properly. *blush* Thanks, it's kind of you to say that!
Thanks for articulating some of my concerns with that meme better than I could. I got myself into all sorts of legal tangles involving inheritance when I tried to come up with an alternative to it last Sunday.
Thanks for articulating some of my concerns with that meme better than I could. Oh good, glad you liked! I had fun doing it, the thinking it through in order to post here was good for me, as such things often are.
I got myself into all sorts of legal tangles involving inheritance when I tried to come up with an alternative to it last Sunday. Well, hooray for people who think through the practical consequences of their ideals!
It's true that the slogan isn't exactly right, and that slogans in and of themselves aren't exactly right, either.
It's also true that same-sex marriage isn't the final and biggest thing we're fighting for.
However, you know me. I want a family, I want kids, and I want to have a wedding in a fancy dress, maybe with a huppa, 'cause I'm a romantic like that. While SSM isn't the be-all-end-all of what we're fighting for, is there any reason that it shouldn't be a stop along the way?
"While SSM isn't the be-all-end-all of what we're fighting for, is there any reason that it shouldn't be a stop along the way?" The battle for women to have the simple right to vote took more than fifty years because advocates kept being told that there were other, more important, things on which they should focus than being treated as citizens of their own country.
Sometimes, it seems as if that ploy is being used on those who advocate equality for gays.
The battle for women to have the simple right to vote took more than fifty years because advocates kept being told that there were other, more important, things on which they should focus Yes, this is a very valid argument, thank you. That's why I dismissed in my post the point that gay people suffer much more serious discriminations than the inability to have their marriages approved by the state. My point is that there are other aims that are (or may be) of more benefit to long-term, monogamous same sex couples than SSM, and that some of these aims conflict with the SSM cause.
I'm not totally convinced of this view, and you may very well be right that I'm allowing myself to be distracted by backlash and propaganda. This is something I should be careful about. I'm just... ambivalent. To be honest with you, the discussion following this post has caused me to lean more towards the pro-SSM side of the debate than I did when I originally posted. Maybe a few more strong arguments like this and I'll find myself in the fanatics camp!
I want a family, I want kids, and I want to have a wedding in a fancy dress, maybe with a huppa, 'cause I'm a romantic like that. The thing is, state-sanctioned marriage shouldn't affect your ability to have these things. A family is what you make it, not what a piece of paper says. Kids are something that the state would find it difficult to prevent you from having (short of the sort of draconian measures of, say, Nigeria, but I most fervently hope that the US government will never be that bad). A wedding in a fancy dress is up to you and your friends and your partner to organize; signing the marriage registry is not exactly the most fun part of the ceremony.
As for a chuppa, well, you should address yourself to the Jewish community, not the government. There are in fact a large number of Jews who would already be prepared to marry you to the future Mrs Darcy, and whose communities would regard that marriage as valid. Frankly, the sorts of communities that would have a problem with it are probably the sort you wouldn't want to associate with anyway.
Look, if you can't find anyone who'll marry you under a chuppa, I'll do it. I promised you a long time ago that I'd come and cry at your wedding; officiating at it would perhaps be even cooler.
While SSM isn't the be-all-end-all of what we're fighting for, is there any reason that it shouldn't be a stop along the way? I hope it is, but part of me thinks it might be headed up a blind alley towards married relationships being somehow magically superior to unmarried ones, and worse discriminations than the current system endorses. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just not sure. And I'm not going to jump up and down demanding something I'm not sure about.
"part of me thinks it might be headed up a blind alley towards married relationships being somehow magically superior to unmarried ones" In some ways, this is already true. Marriage does confer privileges not enjoyed by other forms of union. For example, you could not be compelled to testify against your spouse (although there are exceptions); an unmarried partner does not have that privilege. While an unmarried person has to go through legal hoops to have his/her partner granted control of medical decisions, inheritance, etc., a married couple enjoys those things by default.
I see the right for people to have a same-sex marriage not so much as a declaration that being married is better than not but as a very important symbol of their status as equal citizens of our country. If they are not allowed such recognition, then they should not be required to pay taxes, sign up for selective service, and should be exempt from other responsibilites incumbant upon every citizen of the United States.
There is absolutely no rational reason to forbid consenting adults from making a formal declaration of their love and commitment to each other, before friends, family, and community, in the manner of their choosing.
To abridge the freedom of choice to homosexuals is to deny our fellow citizens their right to the pursuit of happiness.
That reads very much like a rant and that was not what I intended. Sorry! Well, as rants go, it's very polite compared to most of what's on the internet. And I'm a sensible person to rant at because I'm in a fence-sitting position and can quite well be swayed either way. I'm particularly likely to be swayed by such intelligent and eloquent 'rants' as the above. So it's a better idea to rant at me than at some entrenched homophobe who is never going to listen to you anyway. Thank you.