28 June 2013

What's Wrong With Marriage (Gay or Straight)

The mainstream LGBT movement is so strongly wedded to equal rights activism centered around the legal right to gay marriage (often incorrectly and oppressively worded as same sex marriage, and yes, the pun here is intentional; you can groan) that so-called progressive activists both within the supposed LGBT movement (which is really quite often only L and G, and only cis L and G at that) and those who position themselves as allies to it have managed to completely (or conveniently) ignore the oppressiveness of the institution of marriage itself.

1.) Marriage is a classist institution. This I need not explain; it ought to be apparent.

2.) Marriage as defined as a union between two people, regardless of gender or sex, ignores polyamorous relationships of any type. Those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm not talking about abusive polygamous relationships in which one man has power over several women in a not-really consensual relationship that reeks of misogyny; I'm talking about any kind of polyamorous relationship, regardless of gender distribution, where the folks involved love each other and want to be with each other. And those of you who do know exactly what I mean, I need not explain why marriage and the so-called equal rights campaign repeatedly and consistently denies the validity of your relationships.

Essentially, marriage as advocated completely and utterly invalidates so many forms of relationships that fall outside "relationship between two people." Look no farther than pro-gay marriage signs with messages proclaiming the lesbian or gay holders to be "monogamous" and "committed" to see that one form of oppression is only traded for another, that activism is only a commodity available to those who cannot conceive of oppressions beyond or other than their own -- the hallmark of privilege is not having to ever notice that you have it.

And yes, oppressed people can also be privileged. Ask any Black man or white crip.

3.) Even if every one of the fifty states of the U.S. were to legalize what has come to be termed as "gay marriage," thousands upon thousands of disabled people, queer or straight, will remain unable to wed their partners without severe consequences. In other cases, the presence of legal guardianships or other, less formal but equally impune mechanisms of enforcing power differentials will prevail and coerce disabled people from even being able to make their own decisions about with whom to spend time, let alone whom to love.

4.) Either straight or gay marriage is a binarist and cissexist institution. "Same sex marriage" ignores the basic reality that sex and gender are not the same thing, and either straight or gay marriage ignore the basic reality that not everyone fits into the gender binary to be a man or a woman.

5.) Marriage as legally defined in some jurisdictions serves to enforce compulsory sexuality at the expense of asexuals (or anyone anywhere on the ace spectrum) whenever a condition of marriage involves consummation (aka sex).

6.) Queer folks are disproportionately likely to a. become homeless, b. become suicidal, c. actually commit suicide, d. be victimized by hate crime, e. be multiply marginalized, f. be victimized by police brutality.

And we're concerned about marriage?

What victory is it that only serves to enforce other forms of privilege in the name of throwing off oppression?

7.) Marriage, ultimately, is an institution of privilege that cloaks itself as a human right, when in fact it relies upon legitimizing legal systems and processes that frequently serve only to perpetuate oppressions upon oppressions. And the rhetoric of marriage is one that places value on certain kinds of relationships while asserting, quite aggressively, that relationships that fall outside its model have no place in society.

Marriage is not about love. Marriage is about enforcing dominant, hegemonic ways of performing sexuality and gender within the constraints of an innately oppressive system of law.


  1. "Marriage is about enforcing dominant, hegemonic ways of performing sexuality and gender within the constraints of an innately oppressive system of law."

    Do you think this is inevitably the case? Speaking historically, it certainly seems to get it right, but I guess what I'm wondering is whether you think there could be some version of marriage that doesn't result in the harms you've outlined here.

    1. If marriage were removed from state control, then I think a lot of these problems would begin to disappear. Because marriage is so closely tied to particular state-sponsored legal benefits or recognition, as an institution it does privilege certain groups of people, and expanding who is allowed to get married doesn't actually change that fact. If marriage remained an individual choice rather than one controlled by the state and used to reinforce other forms of marginalization, then that would definitely be another step in the right direction.

    2. Yeah, I think I agree. I so rarely lean towards privatizing anything, but marriage might be a good exception.

  2. One form of discrimination against disabled people regarding marriage that you didn't mention is the loss of disability benefits if a beneficiary marries someone who is not also abjectly poor. I would be in a very sticky situation if I married someone with an average income, because I'd lose my benefits AND my student loan repayment would be based on my family income.

    In other words, I'd be completely financially dependent on my new spouse AND they'd be required to pay off my student loans. If I applied to have the loans discharged on the basis of disability, my spouse would get to pay the income tax on the value of the forgiven loans.

    So I'd be a major financial albatross to my new partner. This could be a real problem for a potential spouse of moderate means, and I don't want to be a gold-digger looking for a rich partner.

  3. It is not my purpose to get into a religious discussion here, I only site the on top of because it tends to illustrate my earlier point of a gay lobby and a strong "gay agenda.


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