Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Right to Marry vs. Equal Rights for All

The point. You missed it. However, Bob Ostertag hasn't. In an article on The Huffington Post he discusses "Why Gay Marriage is the Wrong Issue". It should be read by everyone who is concerned about the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and the steps that other states are taking to keep marriage limited to one particular kind of relationship (i.e. one man and one woman). He takes a different stance from what I've seen in most discussions on gay marriage. Ostertag says that by re-framing the fight, queer families could gain more allies and have a greater chance at receiving the important legal benefits that married people now enjoy.

Sadly, many of the people who commented on his article didn't seem to get it. Ostertag is making the point that making sure that EVERYONE can enjoy those benefits is even more beneficial to society than simply making a slight expansion to a system that is so flawed that it isn't even working for the folks who currently use it. I'm a woman in a relationship with a man and we can't enjoy the legal benefits that married couples enjoy because we can't marry. His insurance wouldn't cover the costs of treatment for my cancer because of the pre-existing conditions clause that the government allows the insurance industry to put into place. We'd love to be able to marry but if we did, then I'd die because I'd have no way of paying for the extraordinary costs of treating my ultra-rare cancer.

I know lots of families like mine. Many of them probably think that gay marriage wouldn't benefit them but they'd sure as hell ally with anyone who would be willing to take up the cause for equal rights for all kinds of families. The majority of other queer people I know don't despise people with disabilities even though they have never fought en masse for us to have the rights that they now want for themselves. It makes more sense to get both groups to see our struggles as a fight for equal rights for all. However, judging from the vitriol I'm seeing, that's not likely to occur any time soon.

As long as we allow the government to play "divide and conquer" with this country's marginalized populations, there will be no equality.


Aaron said...

Well said. And Merry Christmas!

Anthony Kennerson said...

I can see Mr. Ostertag's argument about how defending gay marriage alone could be perceived as fundamentally conservative.....but in the end, I am with those who fought to defend the right to gay marriage...and I'm not even close to being gay.

The main issue, Bint, is that unlike straights, who can legally make and break marriages at will (with the approval of a judge or the Church), homosexuals (and bisexuals, and other sexual dissident minorities as well) are denied BY THE LAW the basic fundamental rights of forming the same bonds of unity and support that straight, religious couples take for granted. And such discrimination is defended solely due to the principle that marriage should only be reduced to an approved relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of breeding children (and regulating and controlling sexuality).

Extending marriage rights to gay/lesbian couples may seem pretty conservative and may even be used as a wedge to retain the conservative mores, but for basic economic and financial support reasons, and until we get a more egalitarian society that distributes resources and support based on need rather than politics, it probably is the only means of protecting their interests.

Besides....part of the argument for gay marriage is that it would prove that homosexuals are as likely as heteros to treat the institution of marriage as transient....considering the high divorce rate among straight folk, why should gay folk be considered to be any more hypocritical about defending an institution such as this??

In addition, gay marriage is one of the major stepping blocks to the next phase of social equality: gay/lesbian couples adopting children, or being allowed to keep children from previous marriages. Recognition of homosexual relationships through marriage AND domestic partnerships would equally humanize alternative relationships...which is probably why the traditional Right is so strongly opposed to the concept.

I agree that the government should not be able to play "divide and conquer" with marginalized groups....but denying the most basic fundamental rights of free association via marriage to one group is definitely NOT the way to promote genuine social equality.

Also....remember that the phrase "equal rights for all Americans" can be used just as much as a ploy to isolate and dehumanize a certain group of Americans...David Duke was infamous for using the phrase freely....and he was NO egalitarian.

You can't have equal rights for all while denying basic fundamental rights to some. The right to marry freely (and divorce freely as well) is not something that should be negotiated away for some generic belief of "equality"; it is an essential foundation of humanity. Gay marriage does not threaten such equality; it enhances it. And it will even for those who may never get to use it.

As for those preexisting conditions that prevent your significant other's insurance from covering your costs: I have five words that can solve that situation: Universal single-payer health care.


blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi there Tulip,

Merry Christmas to you (if you celebrate Christmas)!

It is outrageously wrong that you can't marry the man you want to marry because of the insurance issue! I hope you will find a lawyer who is willing to take on a class action law suit.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi again Tulip!

I just posted a note saying "if you celebrate Christmas" and duuuuuh....I didn't even notice the pretty Christmas tree photo you posted!!


bint alshamsa said...

Maybe I should change the name of this post because I think it might lead someone to believe that I think we can only have "gay marriage" or "equal rights for all" due to the use of "vs." What the versus was meant to refer to was which strategy is most likely to result in lesbians and gays being able to enjoy the same benefits that some het couples receive.

I don't know if I agree with you about what the "main issue" actually is. It's different for all of us. I'm a (queer) woman with a male partner. Nevertheless, these fundamental rights that you mention simply aren't any more available to me than they are to gay and lesbian couples.

As is almost always the case, even progressive movements like this one marginalizes people with disabilities just as much as conservatives do. It's even more hurtful when it comes to progressives because they are SUPPOSEDLY the ones who are open to the idea of equal rights for all. In reality, this is not what occurs. Instead we get the same sort of ablism that's rearing its ugly head again with this marriage issue.

When you define the "main issue" according to how this subject applies and affects non-disabled people, that's ablism. These marriage laws discriminate against us just as much as they discriminate against lesbians and gays. I think it might be easier for those of us who are not het and disabled to see this clearly but, in truth, if someone is interested in all non-het (e.g. homosexual, bisexual, queer) people gaining the ability to marry the person of their choice, then you can't ignore how people with disabilities are affected too. If you're not willing to consider how we're affected, then you're not really a supporter of gay marriage. You're simply a supporter of some gay people being able to marry.

All of the same sort of arguments that you are making for gay marriage can also be applied to people with disabilities. So why should one kind of marriage be seen as the main issue and any other kind--the kinds that people with disabilities want--be viewed as a side issue or even a non-issue?

Centering issues around how they affect non-disabled people is an example of body privilege just as centering issues around the way the affect whites is an example of white privilege. It's ablist to assume that gay marriage is one of the major stepping blocks to the next phase of social equality. I don't see us as getting us any closer the next phase of social equality until progressive-minded folks stop leaving people with disabilities out of every struggle they fight.

If the needs of people with disabilities aren't considered, then gay/lesbian couples will still face the same problems you mentioned (e.g. adopting children, being allowed to keep children from previous marriages) because some of those in gay/lesbian couples are also people with disabilities. "Recognition of homosexual relationships through marriage AND domestic partnerships" would not equally humanize alternative relationships. It wouldn't even come close to doing so.

You said, "denying the most basic fundamental rights of free association via marriage to one group is definitely NOT the way to promote genuine social equality". Well, guess what? That's also true when these fundamental rights are denied to two groups or three groups or four groups. There's simply no excuse for expecting people with disabilities to put our relationship needs on the back burner any more than there's a valid excuse for expecting lesbians and gays to put their relationship needs on the back burner.

As far as your supposed solution for my needs, I have another five words that can solve this situation even more effectively:

Equal rights for all

Anthony Kennerson said...


All of your points are certainly granted and are legitimate....but you are missing what I was trying to say.

I am NOT saying that gay marriage should be privileged over all other issues concerning equal rights and equal protection across the board.

Nor am I saying that disability rights should be shoved under the bus any more than gay/lesbian rights have been.

My main point was that while the main goal of "equal rights for all" is the fundamental goal that all should be pushing for, it's still important to realize that different groups have different conceptions of how to acheive that goal..and that their own issues will color that perspective. It's easy to fall under a generic notion of equal rights, but in the long run, the devil is in the details and what directly affects certain groups. Just as GLBT activists should be open minded about the causes and issues of disabled folk, I believe just as strongly that to dismiss the legitimate concerns of GLBT folk about being denied one of the basic rights taken for granted by others is a sign of massive dissention...and a major detriment to all human rights movements.

I'm so sorry, Bint, that you took my comment to be an attack on disabled folk, which it was NOT intended to be.

And I never said that legalizing gay marriage and domestic partnerships would single-handedly humanize alternative relationships...only that that would be a beginning to that goal.

I no more want disabled persons to be thrown under the bus than I want Black folk or GLBT folk or sex workers or any other disadvantaged group to be cast aside.

Hopefully, that clarifies my position.


queen emily said...

Yeah, Bint absolutely. I think the thing is that there's all these rights that spring from marriage, and accessing them *shouldn't* be conditional on being married. It's all a bit weird, fighting for something that only helps part of the community--especially when there's all these other rights we could do with.

Actually, Australia recognises de-facto (common-law) marriages and I think that makes things easier--after you've lived together for 6 months, you've got legal rights. So I think that avoids a lot of the things that people want marriage for.. NOT that we shouldn't be able to marry, but though it'd be nice to marry my girlfriend someday it's really not my *primary* fight as trans woman.. The T is silent in GLBT innit.

Btw, I find American health-care really bewildering and shockingly bad. Why's insurance linked to your employer? That's stupid. I pay $40A (prolly 30US) for my insurance, who needs an employer to cover that?

belledame222 said...

Why's insurance linked to your employer? That's stupid.

Because lazy people who don't/can't work don't deserve luxuries like health care, duh.

Yeah, it's fucked. Maybe it'll start to change now...not holding my breath, but wth.