Tuesday, March 26, 2013

You Should Support Gay Marriage. Period.

In solidarity with the Human Rights Campaign's Stand for Marriage initiative, my Facebook friends list has been littered with these little red "=" signs:

I am finding it difficult to adequately express how much respect I have gained for a few of my friends and family members who I never thought I would see taking a public stand against bigotry and inequality. Seeing that some of them, especially the Christian supporters, got slammed in their comment sections by appalled social conservatives lead me to respect them even more.

Interestingly enough, social conservatives were not the only people who stood in opposition to the campaign. I few of my friends criticized the idea of gay marriage from a viewpoint on the left:

There are several different arguments being used here. The first is that marriage is inherently patriarchal and/or heteronormative, therefore LGBTQ+ community members should, as a matter of principle, not involve itself in it. Some people I saw even went to far as to call it "cultural imperialism" and "assimilation". I do not accept constructivist epistemology and I am not a cultural relativist, so these arguments mean little to me in the first place. I also strongly contest that idea that marriage is always and inherently patriarchal. Let's assume, however, that you disagree with me on all of these counts and you use these supposed facts to justify a lack of support for marriage equality. If you have done so, then you are effectively using the exact same arguments that social conservatives use to oppose gay marriage. Marriage is intrinsically X, which is inapplicable to members of the LGBTQ community. Therefore, members of the LGBTQ should not get married. The same objections that apply to the conservative variant also apply to the liberal variant. Marriage equality isn't about encouraging marriage between certain people. It is about giving certain people the right to enter into a specific legal contract. Marriage is currently a legal institution and it has specific rights and privileges that come along with it. It probably will remain so for a while. As long as it remains an important legal institution, all people, regardless of identity, should have the right to participate in it. Whether or not they choose to exercise that right is the business of the individual. Believe it or not, there are members of the LGBTQ community who want to get married. The people above who use the term "us" and assumed that all of the support for the campaign was coming from "straight allies" is pretty insulting and demeaning to members of the LGBTQ community who disagree with them and who want desperately to see their partnership legally recognized.

There is another argument against the overt support of gay marriage floating around that I would like to briefly address. The point has been made that marriage equality is somewhat of a first world problem. Compared to the plight of transpeople, for example, whether or not gay couples can marry is a small issue. While I can sympathize with the notion that there are worse problems out there for those of us who are LGBTQ, I still do not think that this fact diminishes the relative importance of gay marriage. 

Let me introduce you to the concept of the political opportunity structure. POS is topic that you might run across if you ever study the theory and practice of social movements. Political opportunity theory states that the political environment in which a social movement operates largely determines the success and/or failure of that social movement. That political environment is the POS. Right now, there is a huge political opportunity when it comes to gay marriage. It's a hot button issue, people are talking about it, the media is covering it, the political institutions are making decisions on it. While it may not be the only or even most important goal of LGBTQ activists, it is a goal that is in our sights. Focusing on gay marriage now is strategic because there is a political opportunity for change in this area. If the movement acts correctly, the achievement of this small goal could open doors for more opportunities in the future. Once LGBTQ people have the right to marry, people will slowly begin to realize that their presence will not lead to the collapse of society. Then we can take more steps in the direction of activism.

There is really no excuse for not supporting marriage equality. The issue at hand is not really marriage, per se. The issue is equality before the law. Heaven help you if your ideology causes you to stand in opposition to that.

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