With all respect for every person’s search for happiness, regardless of whether it includes marriage…
It would be nice if we could just laugh at the folks getting gay-married… But marriage is no joke. Unlike lunch counter and voting booth struggles of previous years, which were based on individual access for all, this rights struggle is based on increasing access for some gays — those wanting to legitimize the sanctity of their coupledom. It’s about increasing access to services and economic privilege based on the willingness to enter into a ‘monogamous’ relationship legitimized by the state.
The sense of commitment once associated with straight marriage has disappeared, leaving behind a strange mixture of economic and legal privileges that should be accessible to anybody, with or without a marriage slipknot. Immigration, visitation, and adoption rights, tax breaks, healthcare — sanctified gay couples look forward to these privileges, while the rest of us unwilling or unable to ball-and-chain ourselves enjoy the trickledown liberation of one big blow smashed in the right wing’s ballooning homophobia. Do radicals have to join this poorly situated fight for gay inclusion in the mainstream before we have any hope of smashing the very institutions upon which the mainstream thrives?
Yes, the right wing’s bigoted response to gay marriage means that they truly believe we can fuck off and die. It’s a ball watching the right wing bend over backwards to stop gays from getting married, but we come down to the same old reality: some queers are still marginalized by our normalized gay cousins. The right wing’s magnificently homophobic response lends only temporarily disruptive potential to the otherwise monotonous attempt at assimilation. Liberals fight for an inclusive society while preserving their piece of the pie within a capitalist context that necessitates division and poverty. There’s nothing principled about this struggle for inclusion, because it is based on exclusion. Along with straights, gays will be rewarded with benefits — tax breaks and health insurance — that increase as couples approximate the middle class american dream. Those without the American FastPass — people working jobs that will never in a million years give them benefits; people working the street corner; people too sick to work; the crazies, cripples, sexual freaks, political radicals — for these gays, marriage is about as ‘nice’ as a particleboard bookshelf or cardboard shack.
The institution of marriage is very tricky. With straight divorce rates at 50%, it’s clear that the marriage myth is stronger than reality. The myth is upheld by the strong marriage (and by extension, divorce) economy. Between white weddings and custody battles, this economic niche is robust. With the entrance of the gay niche market, powerful in its own right, marriage will be here to stay as a stabilizing force of capitalism.
Money aside, the eternal true love and happiness promised by wedding vows are verrrrrry seductive….. fallacies. Long-lasting love and commitment to one person, to any person, to many people, are worked out through trust and intense, open communication. Many of the gay couples getting married have been together 10, 20 years — more evidence that relationship longevity is not dependent on access to the state sanction of marriage. Many people are getting married with no illusions about the commitment side of things, but specifically for the economic and legal privileges. Who’s to tell people not to make use of these newly available options? Who doesn’t want a tax break? It’s hard to sidestep the path of least resistance when the tide is strong.
Indeed, as happy couples of all sorts encircled the San Francisco city hall in a bizarre ritual, the sex police shut down My Place, an old SoMa bar renowned for gay cruising and hot back room sex. Gay marriage won’t help the freaks, the people too queer to be boxed in white with a silver bow, the people who think beyond this ‘liberatory’ limp dick. The onus is now on the gays getting married: prove that you understand the deadly complexity of the institution of which you partake, and make this gay ‘civil rights’ struggle mean something for all homos.
This is the real struggle here: not attaining the gay marriage act itself, but the opportunity, the necessity, for people to do hard work developing self-analyses of how their use of the marriage tool places them solidly within a matrix of oppressive institutions. There’s no time like the present for marriage to come out as a false god.