So the US Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot prohibit marriage between people of the same sex. A whole crazy rainbow of jubilation erupted over the internet, with the exception of a certain percentage of Republican Presidential hopefuls (they are so numerous and fungible that we measure them as percentages). And before you draw any conclusions from the title of this post, let me affirm my opposition to any kind of discrimination such as the marriage restrictions that have now been swept away.
If I’m not celebrating, or if I am bringing my umbrella to the parade in anticipation of you-know-what, I have several reasons, or at least three.
First, I never thought that marriage was an institution worthy of copying. Maybe I spent too many years giving legal information to people separating or divorcing, or maybe I’m just a bitter single person with no groom in sight. Maybe both. I do recognize the importance of providing protection to relationships of support: access to the loved one in case of emergencies, protection for the one who sacrifices economically, enabling the other to thrive. These are things that could be done outside of the institution of marriage.
Many years ago, during the debate in our own Parliament on the issue, an MP from the crazy right-wing fringe party that has morphed into our current government rose to make a modest proposal: the protection of all of those helping relationships (sisters living together into their old age, friends who are always there to support each other, etc.). I found myself curiously in agreement with the proposal, although not with using it to limit access to marriage.
Second, I am not sure that this was the most pressing issue for the LGBT community. While every nerve of my repressed WASP soul was ruffled by the heckling of President Obama at a White House Pride event (so rude!), I have to side with the heckler on being able to take advantage of the proximity to power to raise the very serious issue of the abuse of trans women in detention. You may not have noticed, but we are increasingly removed from power by a phalanx of security types, barriers and wide spaces. If she were yelling outside the White House fence, no one would have heard her and thought about the issue.
There are many more issues, too: poverty, workplace (and other) discrimination, recognition of trans people’s rights and identities, immigration issues…to name only a few. The last item on the list might sometimes be helped by marriage, but not so much the others. Instead of the symbolic victory, we ought to have been fighting for the substance, including those rights that tend to be accorded automatically with marriage.
Third is my big fear for the future. What happens to that advocacy energy now? Sorry, we’re married now and have so little time to give, what with our adopted children and the lawn inside our white picket fence. No time for HIV, poverty, discrimination… Is it a win at the end of a process or a milestone along the way to a better society that will keep people mobilized for other battles?
I fear the worst.