Equality Does Not End at Gay Marriage

Kenyon Farrow, ex-Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice, wrote an amazing article recently. It dives more deeply into the meanings of New York’s passage of marriage equality and its effects on future politics.

He points out that, “[m]any progressive queer activists have long argued that the marriage equality movement is fundamentally a conservative movement,” and goes on to write:

If the same-sex marriage advocates, straight or queer, can use a family values framework, then what is to stop large-scale incorporation of gay and lesbian identity into social conservative logics, especially if LGBT people who desire to have their relationships (which is to say, sexuality) defined by the norms of the mainstream, can continue to demonize people whose bodies and sexualities have always been seen as deviant (black people, street-based urban queer communities, non-monogamous couples, transgender and gender nonconforming people, etc.)? Many of the gay donors who raise money, even for LGBT equality organizations, are “progressives” only because of marriage, and actually do not support most of what the rest of us would call a left agenda (single-payer health care system, collective bargaining, public education, and end to massive imprisonment, reproductive justice, etc.).

Farrow also asks the question: “What does it mean when so-called progressives celebrate a victory in large part won by GOP-supporting hedge fund managers, Tea Party funders and corporate conglomerates—the oft-spoken enemies of progressive causes?”

I’ve been wondering myself. The day after the passage of New York’s marriage equality legislation, the New York Times ran this photo:

NY gay marriage signing

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a same-sex marriage bill into law late Friday in his office at the State Capitol. Photo by Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times.

Not the most progressive-looking crowd. And the accompanying article was quite illuminating.
“[T]he billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb” were successfully lobbied by Governor Cuomo’s aids to “cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.”

The article adds:

[B]ehind the scenes, [legalizing same-sex marriage] was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

When it comes to brass tacks, I personally do not trust financiers, social or fiscal conservatives, or the organizations of wealthy white gays to have my interests at heart. For a host of reasons, in this specific instance, and as Farrow points out, a specifically conservative instance, our goals may match. But I can imagine few other times they will. I think plenty of non-marriage relationships are valid and should not be treated as less-than because they do not involve 2 married individuals. I think everyone should have access to things like health care, not just the spouses of well-off gay workers. I think single parent households still deserve community approval and support. And I think trans and gender non-conforming people need more support in combating discrimination and archaic laws that prevent their access to basic human needs such as housing, health care, and dignified work.

I don’t want the government to define acceptable relationships and genders. I want the freedom to be me, I want to contribute usefully to society, and in return I want society to protect me from indigence should American capitalism fail me.

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