Elisabeth: Why Get Gay Married?


by Elisabeth Snell, Contributing Editor

Elisabeth: Why Get Gay Married? | A Practical WeddingElisabeth: Why Get Gay Married? | A Practical Wedding“I don’t want to have to marry you
cause it’s the heteronormative thing to do
I just want our love to be free
like queer love was meant to be”

—The Traveling Millies

The other day K was walking me to the train in our liberal little Brooklyn neighborhood that people often call Sesame Street. We were holding hands and discussing (arguing) about who would take the volunteer shift at our CSA when I noticed the couple coming towards us. It was a man and a woman, pushing a cute little kid in an umbrella stroller, unremarkable except for the glare on the mother’s face. She looked at K and then she looked at me, and the hatred just oozed out. Bad. Wrong. You make me feel sick. She didn’t have to say anything—her stare said it all. And she kept watching as we passed her, which I know because I turned around to meet her gaze, just to confirm that her neck would crane that far. “That’s the first hate-stare we’ve gotten in a while,” I said breezily to K, who snorted in agreement and kissed me as I hopped on the train. I try not to let this stuff bother me, but I kept thinking about that kid. That little guy trusts everything his parents say right now, and in fifteen years he is going to have to do all kinds of unlearning, or is going to be throwing hate stares of his own.

Homophobes. You baffle me. A college friend of mine, also gay, and married, wrote recently, “I Wish My Life Were As Interesting As Homophobes Think It Is: I spent Friday night giving my cat a sponge bath.” Which, right? Lady, you’re shooting a death stare at someone who makes their own yogurt and buys organic cat shampoo. That’s where you want to direct all that hate?

As we all know by now, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases related to gay marriage this month. These decisions will greatly influence me and my queer friends (and our extremely clean cats), but I haven’t spent much time thinking about the verdicts, which surprises me, since I’m a professional worrier. This is in part because the idea that the Supreme Court would opt not to afford me and other queer Americans protection from discrimination seems so ludicrous that it’s hard for me to engage. But I also feel conflicted about the staggering amount of funding and attention that the gay movement has directed towards marriage equality—even as K and I start to plan our ceremony.

One of my wedding mantras that promptly turned into a life mantra is, “It’s something, but not everything.” Finding the venue, the right ring, sending paper invites or electronic ones; these are all something, but not everything. While the right to marry is a very big something, I’m still thinking about whether marriage is the key to my personal safety and freedom to live as a queer woman.

For one thing, the very concept of marriage is limiting. Most Americans, gay or straight, don’t live in married households. This statistic, and how quickly our household compositions have changed in the past four decades, blows my mind. Even though I myself don’t (yet) live in a married household, nor do the majority of my friends, I just assume all the married people are in Queens (or something?). But that’s not really true. People don’t get married for a million reasons—maybe they’re polyamorous, or maybe they’re single women who decide to live with their best friend. Maybe they run a multi-generational household with their mother, or maybe they just don’t want to live with their long-term girlfriend. Or maybe, they just plain don’t want a partner, long-term, live-in, or otherwise.

So, if most people—gay and straight—don’t live in families headed by a married couple, that means there are a whole bunch of us missing out on the considerable benefits of marriage. Which brings me to the maybe-not-that-obvious question: why are we privileging that relationship model? Why are those 1138 rights reserved for married spouses, anyway? Friends of mine have decided to co-parent their kids, which is working out famously for everyone involved. But because they’re not married, can’t get married, and don’t want to get married, they aren’t able to take Family and Medical Leave when the other one or the other one’s kids needs help or care—even though they’re fully participating second parents for each other. Not to mention the fact that by prioritizing two-person, long-term, romantic partnerships, we’re buying into the argument that two is better than one. We’re agreeing that it’s better to be coupled; that if you’re single, it’s time to get with the program already.

The problem with focusing all of our efforts on gay marriage and making it our top advocacy priority is that we haven’t been focusing on a slew of other equally pressing other stuff. What about other basic protections, like workplace discrimination? What about economic redistribution, rights for transgender folks, and immigration rights? Why is marriage more important than any of those? I love K, but I need a paycheck and a job more than I need a wedding. In many places, if you’re gay, you can be fired by virtue of your sexuality. In twenty-nine states, your employer doesn’t need another reason. Being gay is enough. A longtime teacher was fired in Ohio, because her partner’s name was included in her mother’s obituary.  Being able to get married is important, but if we shrink justice and equality to “marriage for gay people,” we’re missing an awful lot of civil rights. I worry that once we’ve won the gay marriage fight, we’ll become complacent, and marriage alone doesn’t solve all the big and little ways that gay people constantly experience discrimination.

Phew. All those arguments always gets me worked up. This is why I carried a box of chalk around my college campus, just in case I needed to chalk something political. But! All that said, I still think gay marriage is going to help. That’s why K and I have decided to get married, for a bevy of practical, personal, and political reasons. For starters, we’re looking at the same reason god-knows-how-many-straight-people-get-hitched-these-days, i.e., even with all the controversy over the Affordable Care Act making people do crazy things like get preventive care (no!), one of the few paths to health insurance in our country currently comes through spouses’ employers. And K has the Cadillac of health insurance. Of course, we’ll be paying for it in post-tax dollars (instead of pre-tax like straight couples do), spending thousands a year on our big gay health insurance. And on the personal and political front, we’re getting married because we believe in visibility. I think of Harvey Milk, and how he entreated gay people to come out, every time I pass as straight (which happens a lot, even when I wear a “dyke drama” pin on my tote bag from my friend’s lesbian musical). If what has marked the gay movement over the past forty years is waves of gay people coming out, then gay participating in the well-accepted institution of marriage pushes the dialogue further. Every co-worker who asks about my boyfriend, and then gets an earful from me about wedding planning, is seeing, hearing, and thinking more about the gays.

And, of course, we’re getting married because we make each other laugh the most. That is worthy of a big old party, with clams, and cocktails, and singing in the round. It’s going to be a time. All of those people who love us and are really excited to support us on that day and every day, all in one room! Those potential wedding dresses are still hanging out in my closet, and I get excited every time I see them.

“Gay marriage came to Iowa…and nothing happened,” K likes to say about her home state. What she means is, that while gay marriage can seem like a revolutionary act, it hasn’t created the waves of destruction that gay marriage opponents feared it would. If anything, we might be helping to contribute to a better version of marriage. Yes, we are getting married, and we also are so boring. We say hello to the co-op checker; K always tells them when they accidentally undercharge her for organic dried mango from the bulk bins (DAMN YOU K, GAME THE SYSTEM!), and we help pick up our neighbor’s overturned granny cart like the decent people we are.

In fact, given how small our neighborhood is, and how much people like to talk to each other here, there’s a fair chance we’ve run into the hate-stare couple before. Maybe we’ve made small talk about apartment-sized chest freezers while schlepping frozen compost to the farmers market, maybe I let them go ahead of me in line at the Duane Reade when their kid was having a meltdown at dinnertime the other day. I hope that eventually they will see how little we threaten their lifestyle. I hope that they’ll see that we should be allowed to do more than just marry; we should be allowed to work openly, and trans folks should be allowed to enlist in the military if that’s what they want, and immigrants should be allowed to apply for citizenship for their partners. I hope they’ll realize that expanding the marriage model is only going to improve it. For everyone. But just in case they don’t, I’m still waiting on the Supreme Court, and trying not to worry. I have a cat to sponge bathe with organic cat shampoo and a wedding to plan, after all. I’m busy.

Photo by APW sponsor Emily Takes Photos.

Elisabeth Snell

Elisabeth is an MPH working in public health in New York City. Her old okcupid profile said she’s really good at: fixing socially awkward situations at parties, return trips to Ikea, whipping up excellent mac and cheese on camping trips, leaping into the ocean, being chronically late, and having Friday night adventures all over Brooklyn. In September 2013, she married her introverted, punctual K.

read the comment policy before you post

  • Lib

    First of all, I am sorry that you had to deal with that hate-stare and I hope the child has enough other positive influences in his life to over come his mother’s bias.

    Thank you for this piece! I got engaged on Sunday (yay!) but prior to dating my boyfriend I was single into my late 20s, and planned to be so forever. When I was single, and as a part of a couple even more so, I find it troubling how much we privilege couple-dom. Single status is usually seen as something to remedy, both socially and legally. I hate how being married is seen as some confirmation that a person is trustworthy or an upstanding citizen.

    I loved being single, and not in a “casual dating” kind of way (which also assumes that having a companion is the preferred state) but in an “I have full determination over my own life” kind of way. My plan was to be single forever and adopt children. The more aware I become of the legal benefits I will receive as a straight, married woman, the more I understand how difficult it would have been for me to become a single mother, without a co-parent.

    Relationship status is not a reflection of a person’s worth, their character, or their ability to parent. Falling in love, which is an emotional state, should not be in any way tied to a person’s legal or social standing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn M

      Seriously! Reminds me of this article I read yesterday on Huff Post. It’s so shocking how much being coupled up changes people’s perception. Even with nothing else being different!

      Why You’re Not An Adult Until You Tie The Knot: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/life-before-marriage-why-_n_3386714.html

      • Elisabeth

        Oh I am so excited to read that post. Well-said, LIB, that we should separate the falling in love from the social standing. And I too loved a lot of the parts of being single. Ah, those days of wearing a holey Take Back The Night 2002 t-shirt and eating Morningstar Chik Nuggets for dinner while watching back episodes of Pretty Little Liars. That was a wonderful kind of freedom, and while I am excited that another person is invested in my life now, I miss those days too!

  • Parsley

    This is an awesome post! I am really proud of the gay and lesbian couples who are saying these things – that we need to do more. I agree, and had similar musings before my wife and I got married. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/NoPants_McGee Christina McPants

    By the way, Elisabeth, just be aware that in addition for K paying for your healthcare with post-tax dollars, she’ll be taxed on part of it as additional income as well. It sucks.

    But yes, I hate that marriage has become the only part of the debate and that we don’t even have basic workplace protections. People seem to think that state based marriage and repealing DADT have fixed all gay problems and they haven’t. I hate that the current governor of Virginia removed protections for gay people at its universities. (Unrelatedly, I recently went. off. on my company’s HR department because of a harassment class everyone had to take. The only example of gay people was girl on girl harassment as an illustration that sexual harassment does not have to be guy-girl only. What’s far more likely? That someone in an office will be harassed for being gay or perceived as gay.)

    Forgive me if I’m being a judgmental jerk, but I do think if you’re going to co-parent kids, you should make sure you have some kind of legal connection to the kid – second parent adoption, that sort of thing. That way if circumstances change, you have legal recourse to ensure that you have access to your child (which should also allow you to take family / medical leave if they’re sick). There was a case in New York a while ago (I read in the NY Times a while ago, so if I’m wrong, I’m sorry) where an unmarried (hetero) couple were trying to conceive, but for whatever reason had to use donor sperm. They broke up a few years later and then she died tragically. Since they were never married and he had no genetic connection to the kid, he has no legal recourse for custody. I think the kid’s in foster care.

    • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

      fyi on the tragic situation of a kid with people who would care for them being stuck in foster care: a lot of states have something called “fictive kin” which basically means that anyone who has a relationship with the child (as in, personal connection, not shared genes relationship) can apply to be the kid’s foster parent through “kinship” care. sorry, kind of tangential, but *so* important that states are starting to recognize relationships outside of legal ones, especially when it keeps a kid with people who they know and love (also, my state *just* passed this, so it’s a thing i’ve been thinking about). may or may not have any relevance specifically, and is super subjective, so it’s not a replacement for legal custody, but…

      • meg

        Fictive kin. Sometimes legal terms are so fluffy and illustrative.

        Anyway. God, this whole thing is such a problem. The fact that our friends in New York (before state marriage passed, so I don’t know what the deal is now), had to have one of them adopt their son, and it took nine months for her to have legal status as a mother? What if something had happened before that??? This is fucked up you guys….

    • http://jpnadia.blogspot.com jpnadia

      This breaks my heart.

      We’re poly and trying to figure out how legal protections for non-bio parents go, and we’re a little worried. We’ve been putting off going to a lawyer because we’re working through what we really want first and seeing a lawyer is a big scary step. From what I have casually read online (I am not a lawyer), there’s not a lot we can do that is completely legally binding and if something tragic happens to the bio parents, we are worried that bio grandparents might make a bid for custody.

      My wedding to Partner One is July 27 and we can’t decide if we’re going to get legal married. “Adultery” is still on the books in our state.

      We’re also not completely out yet, which doesn’t help.

      • Elisabeth

        JP — that is a boatload of stuff to think about it. Maybe before a lawyer, is there someone you know online or otherwise that you trust who could help you think through it all? Isolation generally makes me feel much more overwhelmed (but then again, I am an extrovert).

        • http://jpnadia.blogspot.com jpnadia

          Slightly more background now that I’m not having OMG feels during my lunch break:

          So, first off, there are three of us on our team.

          Second, we’re not completely closeted. Most of our friends know we’re together, the three of us. (It doesn’t help that I have a proven track record of failure at staying closeted starting with my very first serious relationship, starting with finding out I wasn’t straight ). But our families don’t know (or don’t officially know– I have a suspicion my mother has guessed in the same way she guessed that my eighth-grade hickeys were not, as advertised, giant mosquito bites). That’s kind of a big deal when we’re talking about kids, and we have a plan to come out before I actually get pregnant.

          Third, we’re kinky, so we’re good at negotiating. I, in particular, as the extrovert of the three of us, talk about everything with everyone (see also: my failure to remain closeted).

          And finally– we can pass as hetero couples. Even when we’re out as a trio, people look at us, see that we look like two guys and one girl, and figure they know what’s going on. They’re wrong, but we don’t get glared at.

          So, I’ve talked the legal thing through with our officiant, who’s also the founder of our co-ed fraternity, who also has some legal background (and is not a lawyer either). He told me: “it’s tricky. Go see a lawyer.”

          I’m just concerned we’re going to run into the same problem we had when we tried to find pre-marital counseling: we called some people who told us they Disapproved of our Life Choices but would be perfectly happy to take our money and “help” us.

          It helps that we have all mostly decoupled wedding from marriage (the promise to start a family together) from legalmarriage (the state-sponsored institution) in our heads, me more than the rest of them. (I’m the queer one and they’re both hetero, so growing up I knew that there was a fair chance I’d end up in a family structure that wasn’t legally recognized, and I’ve given it buckets of thought over the years that they never had to think about). The point is: we have time to figure it out– and at least another three to six months after I get pregnant to figure out what we’re actually announcing with respect to kids.

          So while I’m somewhat worried about the legal contingencies, I have to recognize how very, very lucky I am to have two partners willing to work through this, both with me and each other. We’re lucky that Partner One has a job that will let him sign Partner Two onto his health insurance as long as they live together and care for each other. (My benefits specifically exclude same-sex marriages, and it makes me want to quit, except it pays well, the job market sucks, and it doesn’t actually apply to us.) We’re lucky that we have a support network who support us, even if they’re not all completely on board with our relationship. (Our officiant tried to have a very earnest heart-to-heart with each of me and Partner One after we brought Partner Two on board about how we didn’t have to get married, and it took a sober conversation to get that sorted out.)

          TL;DR: things could be a lot worse, and we’re lucky that we have non-legal ways to get community support for our relationship, but it sucks that the law wants to define who we can sleep with and start families with, particularly when we’re trying very hard to make sure we’re doing the best right we can by our future children even before we have them.

    • Elisabeth

      I read that article too! Those stories were so sad. This “fictive kin” business that Lady Brett references is fascinating.

  • One More Sara

    Elisabeth, I think I love you. I also really admire how gracefully you handle the hate-stares (I didn’t realize people still did that? and in the city? whoa.) and how you deliberately do not want to perpetuate the “Us vs. Them” mentality that this woman has obviously adopted. And that you want to treat her with the exact same kindness as you would have before she hate-stared you. So, KEEP IT UP you great specimen of a human being, you.

  • Class of 1980

    If it weren’t for this:

    “Homophobes. You baffle me. A college friend of mine, also gay, and married, wrote recently, “I Wish My Life Were As Interesting As Homophobes Think It Is: I spent Friday night giving my cat a sponge bath.” Which, right? Lady, you’re shooting a death stare at someone who makes their own yogurt and buys organic cat shampoo. That’s where you want to direct all that hate?”

    I wouldn’t have laughed all morning, and I needed a laugh. Thanks! The “gay lifestyle” homophobes rant about, hilariously (to me) consists of the same boring chores everyone has!

    As far as marriage, if you think about it, your family already has some rights by virtue of being related to you. They are already next-of-kin without a ceremony.for instance. There are already inheritance laws in place for family members.

    You need marriage because when you have a non-relative you build a life with, how else is the establishment supposed to know that you consider them next-of-kin, with all the legal protection that implies? Marriage is how.

    Anyway, I also can’t fathom how the Supreme Court could knock down gay marriage. There is no rational basis. Once it becomes something that must be recognized in all states, at least no one can legally fire you over it.

    • Cleo

      “There is no rational basis”

      Exactly!! I’m hoping they see the light and repeal DOMA on those grounds.

      I’m holding out even more hope that sexual orientation becomes a strict scrutiny class, but because gender is an intermediate scrutiny class (say whaaat?!), and given that there’s controversy about including sexual orientation in that class (again, say whaaat?!) my guess is that no.

      also, I can see Originalists/Conservative justices citing the 10th Amendment and it being a 5-4 decision upholding Prop 8 (booooooo!). This could also happen in part because they wouldn’t want to overturn a law voted by the people.

      I hope to the depths of my soul that I’m wrong, but my legal education and discussions with my lawyer/law clerk friends tell me that this is a likely outcome.

  • http://letsbeamie.wordpress.com Amie Melnychuk

    Maybe the hate stare was because she saw how affectionate you were, and wished her husband still looked at her the way K does at you. Or maybe she is exhausted from baby schlepping and misses the young and baby-less days of when her and hubby were free from said child.

    • Class of 1980

      If she would give someone a hate stare over any of those reasons, she’d still be a jerk.

      Sounds to me like she purposely meant to send a message of hate because of the extremely overt way she went about it … right down to turning her head as they passed to continue the glare.

    • The Dilettantista

      Yes–if she’s really homophobic then she has picked the *wrong city* in which to live. Not like NYC isn’t full of the gay. So maybe she is homophobic (and she probably needs to move if so, because she’ll be seeing a lot more of it while living in NYC), or maybe she was just having a really shitty day, or maybe she just didn’t like what shoes you were wearing?

      Either way the whole thing is weird, and lame, and she…she should still probably gtfo of NYC.

    • meg

      It’s sort of touching (really) that you think so, but y’all, that’s not how the world works (still). Yes, Manhattan is a super safe place to be gay (relatively speaking, at least). Parts of outer Brooklyn? Not so much. It’s funny, I know what street this happened on, and I was shocked. That said, if it had happened one major street up down or over (or farther down the same street), I wouldn’t have been shocked in the least. SADLY. Super super sadly.

      Damn it. Now I’m depressed.

      • http://asashaparty.blogspot.com Sasha

        Also Manhattan extends above…wherever you want to put that line. 123rd st? 110th st?

        I have heard hateful language spewed at same sex couples on 14th street too. No where is safe from hate.

        On the one hand I ma glad people are surprised. Because it is surprising that people are so horrible. But on the other, I am mad, because people are acting like this is a solved problem. Not the people here, people everywhere. It’s kind of exactly what Elisabeth is saying–people look at NY where we have a big awesome pride and recognize marriage equality and a lot of people are out and we have very accepting people and think, done. But we are not done. As pointed out above, hate crime happens here. Hate happens here. There is a lot of fighting left to do.

        And, both relatedly and unrelatedly, the word lame is also a form of discrimination and hate that we don’t notice. Beind physically disabled does not equal being bad. it’s something I am working on in my own speech. I am just calling this out to show how dangerous and insidious the kyriarchy is.

    • Ari

      The head-turning is actually how you can kind of tell that it wasn’t jealousy, lack of affection, or baby weariness (three glares I’ve worn myself. Sorry world, sometimes I am a huge jerk, it’s true). Turning-plus-hateful-look usually indicates watchfulness or wariness, which are more active feelings than misery and self-pity.

      That said, your instinct to consider her case compassionately isn’t a bad one! I believe that it’s important to recognize and address hatred and injustice unflinchingly but compassionately, not making excuses for anyone else’s behavior and not letting an unpleasant interaction become an excuse to behave in kind (which Elizabeth seems to have nailed in her response to the situation).

  • Laura C

    This makes me want an “exactly” button on posts, not just comments.

    I’m actually going to a 20th anniversary party next month, of a friend of mine from way way back. They’ve been together since high school, which is what the 20th anniversary dates from. Somewhere in there they got married. But they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage and where it’s legal to fire them or deny them housing because they’re gay. Having their marriage recognized in their state would be helpful in some ways, but it sure wouldn’t mean equality under the law.

  • http://thedilettantista.com The Dilettantista

    Thanks, Elisabeth, for acknowledging that the focus on marriage equality–while important–can sort of distract from the host of other more damaging issues impacting gays in America today. I have several (very outspokenly gay and liberal) friends who storm around angrily while declaring that marriage equality is the big popular issue now because the power gays–ie: the attractive, usually white men in snazzy suits with great interior decorating skills and a big sway in organizations like the HRC, who were likely the basis for the hilarious SNL Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings sketch from a few weeks ago–have made it so. And they’re more or less correct.

    I am a straight ally, and marriage equality is incredibly important to me, but we can’t forget the issues that you raised above–that in many states you can still be fired for being gay, for instance. And, additionally, tying the issue into the larger issue that marriage is afforded a privileged status in our society.

    A good, well-thought out post, thanks for sharing.

    • One More Sara

      While I whole-heartedly agree that here are way more rights to fight for than just marriage, if we can get marriage rights for gay Americans, a HUGE chunk of currently marginalized people will gain access to the 1000+ rights tied to marriage. While it certainly isn’t the Final Frontier of gay rights, I think it’s a damn good place to start. Hopefully after these SCOTUS decisions, HRC and other big money organizations will be able to focus their resources on other gay rights (which is also how they operate. They target a couple specific states hard every year, and then move on. I imagine when gay people have full access to all marriage rights, HRC won’t just disappear, they’ll just move on to the next pertinent issue)

  • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

    What a great post. What a great writer you are.

    • http://www.soulwanderings.com/ ellemarcheseule

      I came to say just this, but Lisa got there first.

  • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

    Woo, holding it down for the homos! I think it’s easy for well-meaning allies to forget that LGBT equality is not just marriage and DADT. It kind of reminds me of the people who think we’re in a “post-racial” America since we’ve elected Obama. Not that I’m equating being a racial minority w/ being LGBT, there are lots of different issues and struggles to each, but that sense of premature self-congratulation. Like, “whelp, looks like we’re done! Good job everybody, you’re equal now!” Le sigh.

    Anyway, another excellent post; I’m loving following your thoughts and journey to being-marriedness. Rock on.

    • BSW

      “whelp, looks like we’re done! Good job everybody, you’re equal now!”

      Unrelated, but this totally reminds of me of Bush’s “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner in regards to the war in Iraq. Another thing, you know, we’re not finished with.

    • meg

      Oh Meigh, I love you. I was just feeling sad about all this, and then you made me laugh choke.

      • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

        Just doin’ my job ma’am. ::hat tip::

        • Rose

          I love how this piece critiques the marriage equality movement while also being pro-action. Elizabeth is very clear that she wants marriage equality and that working for it is a good thing, but she also questions the priorities of activists who focus on marriage equality. However in the past few weeks I have seen so many people who refuse to participate in protests or petitions because they have criticisms of the marriage equality movement. For instance, a friend of mine didn’t change her profile picture on fb to an equal sign, because of criticisms of HRC. This same backbiting occurrs all the time in feminist circles and I can’t help but wonder if it is holding us back. It is so much easier to justify inaction than it is to justify action.
          Among social conservatives I never see this kind of in-fighting. For instance I can’t imagine one of Santorum’s supporters saying “Legislators should stop trying to defund planned parenthood, because the real evil here is birth control. Let’s all focus on birth control”. They want it all and they want it all right now. And trust me there are really deep divides between different factions in the social conservative movement, for instance Baptist theology condemns Mormons to h-e-double hockey sticks. Maybe we should take a page out of their play book.

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            “This same backbiting occurrs all the time in feminist circles and I can’t help but wonder if it is holding us back.”

            This. I get so frustrated with this. Yes, there are so many issues that need attention. But because there are other issues that require attention doesn’t make any of the gains that are made mean less. It’s not a zero sum game. Likewise, because something gets passed doesn’t mean we stop worrying about everything else. If anything, it means we have more attention left to devote to the remaining problems.

          • Lena

            Slightly off topic, but oh goodness this happens in conservative circles just as much. Most likely you just aren’t talking/listening to those people on a daily basis. The in fighting can be ridiculous and petty on all sides it seems like.

  • Karen

    This post is exactly why I was having trouble coming up with something to write when the call for submissions was posted. There is nothing that exciting or dramatic about my life (we cook, pay bills, etc the same way as everyone else!). What’s different is the discrimination we face. I live in a state where, at least as of right now, and probably for a long time to come, my relationship isn’t recognized no matter where we would get a license. So we got wills, durable power of attorney, healthcare POAs, etc. How romantic! (not)

    In the long run these documents help with property and possibly healthcare (if the provider you are using chooses to recognize them) but they don’t mean a thing in terms of laws like the Family Medical Leave Act. You can’t *buy* protection under the law, no matter how much money you spend. You can’t buy tolerance or acceptance. People, everywhere, give you the hate stare.

    I just keep hoping that one day we will be seen as equal citizens under the law who only want to live the same ordinary boring lives as everyone else.

    • Elisabeth

      Karen — I think there’s a post in there somewhere about the process you went through to replicate the legally binding protections of marriage. I am certain that K and I have only the vaguest notion of what we’ll need to do AFTER we get married, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

      • Karen

        Thanks for the encouragement. To me, the legal papers are far more important than the ceremony (not that the ceremony isn’t, btw, it just doesn’t give us gay folks any legal standing). Especially for us because we didn’t know until recently when our ceremony would take place it was really important to me to get this legal work done as soon as possible. Life is short and unpredictable.

  • http://juliahalprinjackson.com Julia

    I want to email this post to the world. You are terrific writer and this post is so spot on. Thank you for your visibility and your transparency and your compassion.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    yes! thank you.

    i have so much trouble with gay marriage as a political grand issue because of so many of the things you said. logistically, legal marriage would be beneficial to us, yes. but i am not actually sure if i would do it at this point, because it is such an exclusive club – and if they extend the club to include my wife and i, it’s an exclusive club i’m on the inside of, rather than the outside, which makes me queasy. i can’t really bear the idea of legal rights discrimination against single people, cohabiting people, poly families, co-parenting, and everything that is currently outside the “norm” (and still will be when gay is inside the norm).

    of course, i also understand that the practical benefits of it will have huge real impacts on real people’s lives (like my friend whose wife is chronically ill and can only get the bare minimum of treatment because she lacks insurance, which she would have if they could legally marry, so, yes). but how sick is it that you have to be related (through marriage or otherwise) to someone successful in order to get basic health needs met? and of course, my idea to banish the legal side of it to strictly legal things (like having kids or owning property with someone, rather than who you sleep with or marry) is so off the deep end of what is politically feasible that it’s almost irrelevant – but i can’t shake my disgust, even if i get the politics.

    • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

      I get frustrated, though, when people argue against marriage as being oppressive to single people. Most of the protections afforded by marriage are the same protections afforded to other familial relationships, like parent-child or sibling relationships. And I can’t see how recognition of marriage as a family bond discriminates against single people. Regarding health care, yeah, it’s fucked, that’s obvious. I have a chronic illness, I know how terrible and expensive the system can be. We should turn to a single payer system so everyone can get the treatment they need, but that’s a whole other thread.

      As someone who grew up in a toxic family of origin, having my husband be legally family incredibly important to me. I don’t want to depend on them for health care, or anything else. I don’t want them entitled to any money I have. I didn’t want them to be relevant to my college information, my FAFSA, my student loans, or anything, yet I was still forcibly tied to them until about the time I started graduate school. Being able to have my husband considered my family is very important me, because often I feel he is the only real family I have. At the very least, he is the only family I have that I actually want to be my family besides my maternal grandmother. It’s hard to put into words, but having these people that constantly hurt me, take from me, and emotionally drain me considered family, that I can’t escape legally no matter how much I’d like to, and not have my husband under those protections would be incredibly painful.

      • Elisabeth

        AMEN to the thread about single payer health care! You make a great point; my hope would be that the protections from marriage could be expanded to those who are not in familial or romantic relationships (like two friends that decide to co-parent).

        • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

          I think that its absolutely fair to have legal protections for such things (co-parenting, co-habitating, poly families, roommates, etc) that are specifically relevant to the nature of the arrangements. For example-childcare protections for co-parents, property protections for roommates/cohabitants, and whatnot.

          However, I’ve seen a lot of marriage abolitionist arguments since the DOMA hearings that marriage is bad/archaic/discriminatory/non-feminist in general and should be gotten rid of. And that, frankly, makes me sad and uncomfortable and doesn’t speak to my life experiences.

        • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

          The thing is, EVERYONE deserves health care. Not just married people with jobs that provide it for them and their spouses. ALL OF US (single, queer, employed, unemployed, etc).

          Heather, I’m not sure what marriage abolition information you’re reading. But there are some radical queer critiques of marriage which seem totally valid to me, even if it’s not what I ultimately believe.

          In the 90s, when I was coming out, a political lesbian group printed out a bunch of postcards of two women wearing wedding dresses and having crazy expressions on their faces, with the logo, “Is it worth being boring for a blender?” It was really funny.

          To be honest, we lose some elements of queer culture as we gain more rights. Of course we need rights! But it’s ok to be critical of the institutions we are embracing too.

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            I stated in my above post that regarding healthcare, I believe single payer is the way to go. That means that everyone has their medical needs taken care of regardless of marital or employment status. I never said people didn’t deserve healthcare, or that only married people deserve healthcare. Again, I have a chronic illness. I take medication that, if paid for at full cost, costs more than my rent. I know how terrible the healthcare system in the US is.

            Regarding the postcard you mention: I don’t see how marriage means you’re ‘being boring’. The ins and outs of a marriage are what you make of it, the only givens are a promise to work together toward common goals in life and the establishment of a family unit. This is part of why the argument for marriage abolition frustrates me: much of it is based on ‘traditional’ marriage arrangements and doesn’t allow for the ways the institution has changed and grown, and can continue to change and grow.

            As for what I’ve been reading, I tried to find the articles I read but could only find this one:

            http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-inc/201303/what-if-gay-straight-marriage-is-bad-most-americans

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Hi Heather, Can’t reply to you directly.

            I was basically (emphatically!) agreeing with you about health care.

            As for the postcard: maybe it’s a sense of humor thing. It was funny to me, because in the 90s, gay marriage was so not on the agenda. It did not seem like a realistic option. But it was a gay critique of focusing on marriage equality at the expense of other issues. And i guess the idea of being “boring” is, what are we giving up as a queer community when we fight for gay marriage? It is the other, radical parts of being in a marginalized community. Which, it sucks to be marginalized. But gay sex workers, transgender people, undocumented immigrants and homeless youth — the most “outsider” members of our community — won’t be able to fit into the married monogomous status quo. Even if we do win marriage equality.

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            Oh! Sorry that I misinterpreted your comment re: healthcare, then! My bad!

            “And i guess the idea of being “boring” is, what are we giving up as a queer community when we fight for gay marriage? It is the other, radical parts of being in a marginalized community.”

            That’s something to think on, but as a feminist I think changing an institution from the inside out is pretty damned radical. Critique it, fix what’s wrong, keep what works.

            “But gay sex workers, transgender people, undocumented immigrants and homeless youth — the most “outsider” members of our community — won’t be able to fit into the married monogomous status quo. Even if we do win marriage equality.”

            Absolutely agree! And these are all huge examples of why intersectionality is important, because most of these groups are marginalized in multiple ways. And we absolutely need to work on legislating protections for these groups of people, because they’re exceptionally vulnerable. But I seem to be getting the impression in some corners of the blogosphere that people view marriage rights and the rights of the groups listed above as ‘instead of’ scenarios (lobbying for this instead of that), where I think the really need to be ‘and’ scenarios (lobbying for this AND that).

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Actually I totally agree, Heather.

            Feminist Hulk said it best: https://twitter.com/feministhulk/status/316565626359533569

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            Oh, I’ve seen that tweet! Pretty much expresses my sentiments perfectly!

      • Angry Feminist Bitch

        What if you’re, like me, a single, only child? What about when my parents die?

        • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

          I’m not sure what you’re asking. Could you rephrase the question?

          • Angry Feminist Bitch

            “Most of the protections afforded by marriage are the same protections afforded to other familial relationships, like parent-child or sibling relationships. And I can’t see how recognition of marriage as a family bond discriminates against single people.”

            What if you have NO familial relationships? Legally recognized biological or marriage relationships?

            What if you only have friends? Either by chance or by choice? Do these people not deserve rights, and access to the same benefits?

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            By extension of that, what if someone has no friends OR family? What happens to those poor souls?

            Also, I daresay that married people can end up with no familial relationships left. Older widows and widowers who have lost their spouse, siblings and parents, who never had children or whose children died, exist.

            You seem to be arguing that, because single people don’t have certain rights that are afforded to married couples, married couples shouldn’t have them either. That’s not the answer. You can improve the lives of one group without taking away from another.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            We can’t in this space go through all the laws affecting every personal relationship recognized in the laws. But however we frame the laws, being in a minority situation will take some extra work. For example, I’m in the minority in that I want my parents, not my husband, to make my healthcare decisions if I can’t. I therefore went through some paperwork to make that crystal-clear and legal. If I had no family, that paperwork would be even more important, but it’s out there.

            As a woman lawyer, I hardly ever feel real discrimination in my work life. But it is harder for me to find work clothes that fit than it is for my male colleagues to find them.

            Single or married, if I’m claiming an unusual tax deduction, the form is going to be hard to find.

            Should we have laws against real discrimination? Yes. But there also has to be some efficiency to our laws.

      • Katie Mae

        “Most of the protections afforded by marriage are the same protections afforded to other familial relationships, like parent-child or sibling relationships.”

        Yes, but only if those familial relationships are biological or through legal adoption – and many of the marriage benefits are much easier to access than benefits for siblings or parents.

        I would really like to see commitments to another person recognized and supported by institutions regardless of the sexual, romantic or biological relationship. Keep benefits for married people, even keep some special social significance for married people, but open it up so committed roommates, inter-generational households, siblings, etc. can access protections to support their joined lives. Like power of attorney, but more.

        As Lady Brett says, this will probably never happen politically. But I can dream.

        • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

          The problem is that most of the critiques I’ve seen suggest the removal of benefits from married people, because they’re unfair to unmarried people. I would support laws which outline protections for other types of relationships with either shared property or care responsibilities (for either children or pets). I think that laws outlining property protections is an excellent idea for anyone with a shared living arrangement, especially, whether they be roommates, romantic co-habitants, or whatever.

        • Class of 1980

          “Keep benefits for married people, even keep some special social significance for married people, but open it up so committed roommates, inter-generational households, siblings, etc. can access protections to support their joined lives. Like power of attorney, but more.”

          This is something I need. Like right NOW.

          My business partner and I are joined at the hip. He would be the main person to make medical decisions for me now, and vice-versa. We are going to have some legal hoops to jump through.

        • Angry Feminist Bitch

          Amen.

      • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

        on the one hand, i feel like you hit it on the head – i think you should be able to remove your legal ties to your family of origin in much the same way that anyone should be able to create legal ties to their family of choice.

        as far as the idea of outlining protections for different types of relationships, well, yes. but they should be about outlining protections for the legal aspects, not for the relationship, so no, i don’t think that marriage should be a legal institution. it’s nothing against marriage or married folks (hi, that’s me, and being married is awesome). it’s that our society has reached a point where marriage is far more complicated that it once was, and other non-marriage arrangements far more common, and the legalities should reflect the complexities of that. so that raising kids together is a single legal tie unconnected to the parents’ personal relationship (oh, the problems that would solve!). same with property, finances and debt.

        it’s not about taking rights away from married people (well, some of them, yes, as with the universal health care discussion on which everyone seems to agree), it is about separating those rights from marriage and from each other. so that rather than getting a “marriage license” that confers all these rights, sure, you might need to get a “joint custody arrangement” that confers a stack of them, another “joint finance arrangement” and another “joint property arrangement” as well as having a wedding, and together they confer much the same privileges. but it gives people the chance to choose, without taking anything away from the folks for whom the current system works.

        (caveat: this is all super theoretical, of course, and law is not something i am very knowledgeable about. which is, in fact, one of the reasons i am passionate about this. i think the great advantage – and perhaps danger – of a marriage license is that it serves as a huge legal shorthand for things which are near-impossible for lay-people to figure out how to replicate otherwise. i think this sort of legal shorthand is imperative, i just think they should exist in more discreet chunks so as to assist the most variety of citizens.)

        • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

          “so that rather than getting a “marriage license” that confers all these rights, sure, you might need to get a “joint custody arrangement” that confers a stack of them, another “joint finance arrangement” and another “joint property arrangement” as well as having a wedding, and together they confer much the same privileges.”

          The nice thing about legal marriage is that it does all of this at once (rather than filling seventy billion forms). It’s convenient. Also, the nature of the different relationships that can be legitimized are very different-for example, roommates are often a temporary arrangement, but still involve joint property where other arrangements, such a co-parenting and marriage, are usually permanent. Hence, I think that having a set of contracts with privileges and protections for each of type of these situations would be more ideal than single contracts for each aspect. I also think calling marriage a legal institution or not is largely an issue of sematics as long as childcare rights and property rights are protected.

          It gets complicated with polyamourous arrangements if only because everyone seems to do things a bit differently. In that case, your system probably works better.

          “it’s not about taking rights away from married people (well, some of them, yes, as with the universal health care discussion on which everyone seems to agree)”

          I really wanna know who thinks making sure everyone can receive medical treatment is taking away rights from married couples. Or, on second though, maybe I really, really don’t.

          • Angry Feminist Bitch

            But, in reality, marriage *isn’t* “permanent,” legally or statistically. (Thank you, no-fault divorce!)

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            Most people enter into marriage with the intention of it being permanent.

          • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

            ha, that last bit is just bad phrasing on my part! i just meant that with universal health care you could potentially “lose” the benefit of spousal coverage – only relevant in the counting game (you know: marriage confers #### rights).

            “It gets complicated with polyamourous arrangements if only because everyone seems to do things a bit differently. In that case, your system probably works better.”

            i guess that’s my thing – i’d rather make it a teeny bit harder on everybody in order to make it work for way more people (because i think polyamory only scratches the surface of relationships that could use some good legal standing, really). but also, i don’t terribly care about the naming, you could keep marriage and add this stuff on top, but the editor in me finds that messy and redundant =)

          • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

            “the editor in me finds that messy and redundant ”

            Ah, see, the immunologist in me is used to messy and redundant, and building around and adding to existing paradigms rather than tearing down the entire thing even when new information turns what we knew on its head. =)

          • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

            ha. love it.

            edited to add: i also cannot express my love for even being able to have this kind of intelligent conversation on this sort of subject. at all, much less in a comment thread.

  • Beth

    THANK YOU! You hit the nail on the head when you said “The problem with focusing all of our efforts on gay marriage and making it our top advocacy priority is that we haven’t been focusing on a slew of other equally pressing other stuff. ”

    The trouble is, I have a hard time saying that without sounding like my straight self doesn’t know the troubles, and am negating those struggles or devaluing them in some way. Which is NOT AT ALL what I mean when I say it. But imagine the tremendous change and forward movement this country could make if we could just fix and move on from the gay marriage debate and use the time, energy and passion that has been focused on this for more good elsewhere.

    Congratulations on your coming wedding! A toast to you and K and your happiness!

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    oh, also, i love getting the hate stare.

    i can’t help it; they *always* make me laugh, and they always make me want to kiss my wife, which, hey, are both things i can always use more of. i guess it’s just that i find it so amazing that someone can really spare the energy to care about me that much (like the harvey danger lyric: “when you base your whole reality on reaction against somebody, it’s the same as being in love”).

    • Karen

      I know, right? Imagine all the good that could be done in the world with the time, energy, and money that people are putting into making sure that gay folks can’t get married. Imagine the people who could be housed, children who could be fed, healthcare people could receive…it’s just shocking what we could do if we as a society really thought about our priorities.

  • js

    I want to get all rant-y, self-righteous and soap box-y about this topic but there are people who do that much better than I ever could. I just want to say, I support you and your right to marry whomever you want. I’m only one voice but if my daughter were gay, I would want her to have the same rights. I am, however, not a cat person, and believe the world should only like dogs.

  • Catherine

    First of all, I am really excited about your cats. I’m just imagining the great life they have…

    And I did love this post, and as an engaged (on May 6!) lesbian in Los Angeles, my partner and I are really hoping we get some good news from the Supreme Court this month!!! I’ve been a little discouraged after hearing all the different ways they could rule, and I’m trying not to dwell on how stupid and sad it is that we are even having to wait for this…

    I know marriage isn’t everything, but when that’s what you wanna do , it kinda becomes everything. Just can’t wait to be just as official and clear and no-buts-about-it as a straight marriage. So I don’t have to explain all the time (I am very girly and pass as straight to strangers) – I want my engagement ring to be followed by a piece of paper linking us together forever, as silly as that sounds. No, it’s not everything, but it IS something. I want to be able to say “my wife” and not have it be some type of pet name or have to clarify any further.

    • http://twitter.com/NoPants_McGee Christina McPants

      UGH, why do people feel the need to comment on these things?! ‘Oh, you’re engaged? What’s his name?” “Her name is ________” “… wait, how does that work? Is that even legal? Does that make you her husband?”

      Usually the questions are coming from a well-meaning place, so you can’t *actually* smack them about the face, but oh, oh I want to.

      • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

        Getting asked if you were my husband, even though that person knew you were a woman and had actually *spoken* to you before, was probably my favorite ever.

      • Corrie

        I am straight, and even *I* get annoyed when people ask me these questions about my friends who are lesbians. It takes a lot of energy for me to keep from rolling my eyes – which I try to avoid – and calmly educate them. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who aren’t in heterosexual relationships and likely get these questions all the time.

        • Elisabeth

          This is tangential, but on the topic of the well-meaning and misguided question game. I am dreading — DREADING — the questions if/when we decide to have a miniature. I get the curiosity, totally, about who’s going to carry and if we used a donor or a friend and did you use a turkey baster. I’d be curious too. But that’s what the internet is for — you too can figure out how to ship fresh sperm across the country without asking ME. Imagine saying to straight couples, “congratulations! So, did you use yourself or a donor?” AIYEE!!

          • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

            Preach. I went to a women’s college and was involved in the vagina monologues for many years, so my sense of what is appropriate to talk about in public is kind of skewed, but my wife is always vaguely mortified whenever anyone asks us about the mechanics of our (not even happened yet!) conception. She has this great, “did they just ask me about sperm?” look on her face; it’s priceless. I try to be gratified that people are interested and willing to be educated, but sometimes people are just being nosy.

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    “Lady, you’re shooting a death stare at someone who makes their own yogurt and buys organic cat shampoo.”

    Oh, she knows. She actually is psychic and she *really* hates cats and dairy. Or something. Yup. That’s totally it.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with bullshit like that. And thank you for the reminder that marriage is definitely not the only think we all need to be fighting for right now.

    • marbella

      But surely only a person who hates cats would attempt to wash one??? Unless it is some sort of suicide mission…

      Brilliant writing Elisabeth, and ‘in case I needed to chalk something political’ made me chortle out loud!

  • Erin E

    Posts like this are why I respect this site more and more each day. It’s beyond refreshing to see a wedding blog where people are having an intelligent, supportive discourse on marriage – how novel!

    I, too, have long wondered why society puts so much stock into the institution of marriage – gay OR straight. Why are we continuing to revere a setup that fails so many – are our heads in the sand (my own included, since I’m newly engaged)? Why has this society decided that marriage is the “right way,” even when it’s pretty often not?

    Thank you for your awesome piece, Elisabeth. I enjoyed reading about why you felt marriage was the right choice for you. I’d be interested to hear more about why others have chosen the marriage route as well.

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      That’s a really important question, and really hearkens to the individual vs. institution circle. (Individuals create institutions, but institutions create rules for individual behavior.) Personally, I view marriage very individually, because at the heart of it, it’s a relationship. (So when someone brings up “marriage” in a general or casual sense, I think of a personal relationship before I think of the legal aspects.) Obviously, it’s a nuanced thing, so there are plenty more perspectives to take.

      But to me, given that a personal relationship is the essence of marriage in my mind, I don’t think of it as a failing institution. My parents divorced after about twenty years of marriage, but I don’t think the institution failed *them.* I think the dissolution of their marriage was based on very individual characteristics- their particular choices, personalities, behaviors, and beliefs- not because marriage, as a type of relationship, is flawed.

      When I think of how prevalent divorce has become, I don’t see that as a judgment call on marriage, but rather a symptom of other ills in society, where we have gotten out of touch with our communities (however we define them) or placed wealth over people in our priorities, or failed to keep up with the changing nature of modern families, or a host of other societal trends.

      So there’s my two cents- our heads may be in the sand, but on a different beach :-)

      • Angry Feminist Bitch

        Or… people, or a majority of people, or a minority of people, or some people under certain circumstances, just don’t want to be sexually and/or emotionally monogamous.

        Why is everyone so afraid of the elephant in the room?

        I guess this is a stupid question to ask on a wedding site. Confirmation bias and all that.

        • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

          It’s not a stupid question- we’ve had conversations about non-monogamy on the site before, it’s just not part of my personal relationship behavior so I can’t speak well about it.

          I will say, however, that in terms of the perspective I laid out above, I think if you choose to have non-monogamous marriage, it can still be a marriage. I don’t think that makes the system flawed, I think that’s more a matter of the institution being slower to change than the individuals within it. I’m sure there are plenty of other sharp perspectives on this, though.

        • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

          what’s that have to do with marriage? i mean, it has a lot to do with a lot of people’s marriages – and it has a lot to do with our societal/institutional ideas. but as a point of interest, there are very few versions of even traditional marriage vows that preclude non-monogamy – at which point it’s really up to the individuals in the marriage.

          (vows generally preclude stuff like lying about it, which is a respect thing, but i can’t think of any common vow excepting the “forsaking all others” line (which to me sounds hopelessly lonely, in a way very unrelated to non-monogamy) that says anything monogamy.)

  • priscilla

    What a brilliant, well thought out response to why you’re making your decision and why to ignore the hatemongers… And all I can think about is, they sell organic cat shampoo? Am I supposed to be shampooing my cat??

    • Rebecca

      And, crucial detail, how do you shampoo a cat and not get your arms clawed off?

      Also, as someone who will quite possibly never work in a company with more than 50 employees, FMLA falls short in so, so many ways. And a serious WTF? to all the governments on the workplace discrimination thing. Sure, the Boy Scouts get pressure- what about the federal government, no?

      • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

        The answer is, very carefully, hold onto the scruff, and don’t believe him if he yowls unless you want his teeth in your wrist. I only know this because our dude cat had food allergy issues and was poopy and stinky til we figured out the trigger, so we had to bathe him semi-regularly for awhile.

  • http://www.jalondraadavis.com Jalondra

    Such an absolutely needed, necessary, important conversation. I support marriage equality, but I also found myself uncomfortable with the way in which it was framed in Obama’s inaugural endorsement (partly, by the phrase “our gay brothers and sisters” positioning queer people outside of the general population of an American “us”) and its elevation as a civil rights issue that may be considered an end in itself-while realities like the large numbers of murders of Black transgender women (and the lack of huge, visible activist response from either the LGBT or African American organizations and media) seem to be silenced. It reminds me of the way in which the sanctioning of liberal forms of antiracism and Civil Rights legislation have supported the continuity of racial discrimination in intensifying and less visible forms which the myths of post-racialism make difficult to combat. I look forward to gay marriage being fully legal, but will that usher in an age where we think that we are post-sexual politics? Being critical of marriage as a system that affords certain protections and access to life from the state to people who align with normative visions of family can be difficult when you are engaging in that privilege, but realizing our own positions and complicity in unjust institutions should not prevent us from making these critiques.

    I’ve been getting a lot of comments lately from family members who are glad that I doing it the “right way” by getting married. It is hard to ignore the fact that I am proud to be getting married (I wrote in an earlier post about the specific histories and representations of African American women in this country which engender pride in having these markers of heteronormativity and respectability) and it has been hard to reconcile these feelings with my growing certainty that there is no “right way” and the implications of that pride for those who cannot, don’t want to, or will not get married. Realizing that there is nothing necessarily natural about marriage or even monogamous pairing makes me more deeply examine my motivations, and take more seriously the amount of work that it is going to take to make this institution work.

  • Rebecca

    I just wanted to note that the woman fired in Ohio, was fired from a catholic school, not a public institution. The city in which that school is, Columbus, does indeed have legislation to that is in place to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, since it is a religious institution (which are exempt from many laws in the first place), it makes things more complicated.

    I certainly don’t agree with discrimination in any regard, but I wish Elisabeth would have used a different example or more accurately represented this one. I know it wasn’t the whole point of the article, but I felt like I had to speak up because it concerns my hometown and I have been following the story pretty closely!

    That being said, I’m curious as to what you other APWs think about discrimination legislation and religious institutions, aside from marriage.

    • Class of 1980

      As distressing as it is, I think a religious institution should be exempt if the discrimination is part of their religion. If you start making laws against it, you are denying people the right to practice their religion.

      Plus, religion is a private matter. No one is forced to belong to a religion.

    • Lesley

      Thanks for pointing that out, as a Columbusite, I was coming down here to comment on that!

  • Jessica

    I love this essay. It’s thought provoking and touches on so many points I hadn’t considered in the fight for equality. Thank you Elizabeth!

  • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for using the word “queer!” I get hate stares for using that word in a political and inclusive manner. I want to make sure we’re not limiting the conversation to “gay” when really, we need to be saying it should be anyone who identifies as queer. It’s so delicate to say because it is a political term instead of a PC term. Sort of like how I was schooled in college when many of my friends who once identified as hispanic then became informed and/or educated to a political position and subsequently began identifying as Chicano. It’s really tough, and I have to explain that it’s not hateful, it’s political. I just want to make sure I’m including everyone when I demand rights.

    Anyway, thank you for using powerful language and taking the taboo away from that word by simply using it.

    Also love that you were respectful enough to carry chalk to get your message out. I used to just draw boobies and peepees on hateful signs in college. You win!

  • ms.nak

    Thank you for this very well written and thought provoking post. It is scary to think of all the other fights that still need fighting before true equality is reached (many that are arguably more important than marriage). When I start getting overwhelmed about how far we still have to go, I think of the Macklemore lyric “A certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start,” (Same Love). I think this best sums up how I feel about the whole situation. We’ve gotta start somewhere, and if same sex marriage is the first battle in the war for equality, so be it.

    If you haven’t heard this song yet/seen this video, I highly reccommend it:  
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  • http://www.mylifeasherbst.wordpress.com AutumnE

    This has always been my argument.
    But beyond agreeing with you can’t say how awesome it is to see the word polyamory on a wedding website!?!?
    So awesome!