Queers Question the Politics of Gay Marriage
To read the Advocate or other mainstream gay and lesbian papers in recent months, one might easily believe every queer person on the planet had suddenly gone marriage crazy. Since November 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was discriminatory, national LGBT rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom To Marry have been working at a feverish pace to make legal gay marriage a reality. The decision by the mayors of San Francisco, California and New Paltz, NewYork to perform same sex marriages — until legal injunctions ordered them to halt — drove the excitement level even higher. Now, with a constitutional amendment that would ban such marriages at the federal level looming darkly on the horizon, pressure is rising for queer activists and their allies to close ranks and make an all out push for "marriage equality."
Thousands of same-sex couples packed courthouses in a handful of cities earlier this year to marry. Yet a sizable contingent of queer folks aren’t feeling it.
Far from the cut-and-dried moral issue that it’s been portrayed as, many radical queers question who benefits from the campaign, whether it disregards and hides others’ needs, and what to make of its eerie tendency to echo conservative language and policies. As an effort to sort through the issues myself, I decided to ask a number of friends and acquaintances to share their thoughts on the politics of gay marriage.
Nava Etshalom, a recent graduate of Oberlin College who, like thousands of other young people, grew up in a queer family without any form of government recognition, reacted to the recent national debate about gay marriage with considerable ambivalence. "In some ways, just having some attention focused on the meaning of queer family has been exciting," she said. "But the way that that’s functioning to narrow, not expand, meanings of queer family in the U.S. is scary."