Gay Marriage: Civil Right or Civil Wrong?

Marriage Is Still the Opiate of the Queers

Kate and Deeg, April 2004

“We want the abolition of the institution of the bourgeois nuclear family.
We believe that the bourgeois nuclear family perpetuates the false categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality by creating sex roles, sex definitions and sexual exploitation. The bourgeois nuclear family as the basic unit of capitalism creates oppressive roles of homosexuality and heterosexuality….It is every child’s right to develop in a non-sexist, non-racist, non-possessive atmosphere which is the responsibility of all people, including gays, to create.”
--“Third World Gay Liberation Manifesto,” New York City (circa 1970)

“The struggle for civil rights within the context of this society can, at best, result in second class status and toleration by a wretched straight society. The struggle for democratic or civil rights assumes that the system is basically okay, and that its flaws can be corrected through legal reform….We demand the right of all lesbians and gay men, and children to live in the manner we choose.”
--“Gay Liberation, Not Just Gay Rights!” LAGAI, Lavender Left (Los Angeles) and Lesbian and Gay Liberation and Solidarity Committee (New York), 1987

A specter is haunting Amerikkka.

The specter of gay marriage.

Every few years, it seems, we have a new wave of push and counterpush on the marriage issue, and we are always in the same unpleasant position. We demand all civil rights for queer people.

But marriage isn’t a civil right. It’s a civil wrong.

Just because George W., Pete KKKnight and the KKKristian RRRight don’t want us to get married, doesn’t mean we have to want to.

In 1996, we held our legendary First Ever Mass Gay Divorce on Castro Street, where a good time was had by all at the dish breaking booth and the Go Your Separate Ways Travel Agency. At that time, we wrote the following flier (remember that great Toaster Head graphic):

"Remember us? We are lesbians and gay men, the people who choose love, and sex, over societal acceptance, over physical security, over the almighty buck.

"We pursue our love into the cities and towns where we find each other. What a wonderful variety of relationships we have - from anonymous or casual sex in baths, bathrooms and beaches, to long-term monogamy and everything (and everyone) in between. We say, "the state can't tell us who, or how, to love." We say, "Get your laws off my body." So how exactly does that become a plea to the state to marry us? Will having state-defined relationships make us better lovers? It hasn't done much for hets.

"We always thought that one of the good things about being a lesbian, or gay man, is that you don't have to get married. Many of us have parents who are or were married, and really, it's nothing to write home about.

"The heterosexual nuclear family is the most dangerous place to be. A woman is beaten every 15 seconds. One girl in three is sexually molested by the time she reaches maturity. According to the National Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, one million children were abused last year, and 1,000 were killed. 46 percent of the murdered children were not yet one year old.

"We're here today because we were lucky enough to survive these odds.

When our gay leaders talk about how gay marriage will support the institution of marriage in this society, we have to agree. We would oppose it for this reason alone. It is interesting that while assimilationists clamor for gay marriage, the right wing is trying to hold straight marriages together by eliminating no-fault divorce. Strange bedfellows?

"Gay marriage might give some married gay people access to health care, tax breaks, and immigration rights. But shouldn't our community be fighting for us all to have access to health care, whatever our "marital status?" The same for immigration. Somehow, in these right-wing times, money, goods, and jobs are free to flow across the border, but not people. Shouldn't everyone be able to live where they want to, who made these borders anyhow? And why should any married people pay less taxes? What assimilationist gays are really asking is that the heterosexuals share some of their privilege with queers who want to be like them.

"There is a basic conflict here, between those who see the gay movement as a way to gain acceptance in straight society, and lesbians and gay men who are fighting to create a society in our own image. A decent and humane society where we can be free. We do not want the crumbs from this society's table, and we are not fighting for a place at it. We want to overturn the fucking table.

Assimilation is NOT liberation"

We couldn’t have said it better. Oh, yeah, we did say it.

The origins of the LGBTQ movement are revolutionary. The rebellions at Stonewall and San Francisco City Hall were led by drag queens and butches who rejected heterosexual roles and restrictions, who were inspired by the revolutionary example of the Black Panthers and the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH). Now, some of the same people who participated in those fabulous outpourings of anti-establishment rage tripped over each other on the way to City Hall to have their love blessed by gavin newsom, successor to dan white and dianne feinstein, darling of the developers, persecutor of the homeless, and cause of Gay Shame getting beaten and busted by the cops on more than one occasion.

For many older lesbian and gay couples, who recall the days when they could not go to a bar without fear, the chance for official sanction of their love feels like a chance for acceptance after a lifetime of oppression. We respect their choice. But we continue to demand that we honor all our relationships, not just the ones that mimic straight capitalist society.

We remind queer people everywhere that we did not survive the early days of the AIDS epidemic because of the relationships between one man and one man, but because of the strong love of our communities: the health care teams of gay men, lesbians, fag hags and chosen families who spent days and weeks hanging around the ICUs of Kaiser and PPMC, refusing to leave when told “family only,” fighting bitterly with biological family members who showed up trying to cram their loved ones into a box and whisk them back to Iowa or New Jersey to be buried with crosses or tallises.

According to a 2004 General Accounting Office report, there are 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities that are automatically accorded to married people. Why should we fight for 1,138 rights for some people, instead of all rights for all people? If Freedom To Marry and the Human Rights Campaign Fund (of course, what can you expect from the folks who brought you the equals sign?) put the resources they have already spent on the “right” to get married into fighting for health coverage for all residents of this rich country (not “virtually all Americans” as “promised” by future president john kerry) and housing for all the queer youth kicked out by their families and living on the streets, we would have a much better world by now.

Every so-called communist organization in town is suddenly joining the battle cry for marriage. Huh? Have they forgotten their Engels? It is testimony to the fundamental homophobia of the left, that they are only comfortable fighting for the most puritan of queer rights. Where were they when the bathhouses were being closed? The left has never recognized queer liberation as the truly revolutionary movement that it is. It is time they did.

The right wingers say marriage is a sacred religious institution. We agree. The state has no business getting involved in religious institutions, from sanctioning personal unions to legislating what schoolgirls should wear on their heads (though we don’t really recommend the toasters).

Of course, we too will be fighting to defeat the anti-queer marriage amendments. How can we not? But we resent having to do it, and we will not allow it to distract us from our real needs: equality, justice, self-determination and self-actualization for ALL. Just because you are not someone’s significant other, does not mean you are insignificant.

  More classic anti-nuclear family articles:
United We Fall, June 2000
Speech at the American Sociology Association, August 2004
Racism, Marriage and the Queer Community, November 2008