The scene right now in San Francisco.photo credit: Steve Rhodes
There is nothing equitable about marriage, same-sex or otherwise. Equal, for sure, but equitable – no way.
Sure I’m disappointed about today’s ruling from the CA Supreme Court. Because what this really means is that even though marriage is at heart an inequitable institution, it has been framed by many as a fundamental right. Therefore, what disappoints me most is that the anything-goes-if-you’ve-got-a-few-million-dollars-and-a-right-wing-agenda California Proposition system (and I know this isn’t how it was supposed to be) has lost an opportunity for checks and balances. The slimmest of majorities now have greater legal precedent to take away rights, however they are defined, from a minority in California: queers, people of color, women, people with disabilities and so on.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Marriage equality is simply that – equal access to a set of rights and privileges that are otherwise unavailable to unmarried folks. Back in the day, when I was part of a group of folks fighting for housing and employment anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT communities, the right wing coined the term “Special Rights”: giving people legal protection just because of whom they are sleeping with. I posit that marriage is the ultimate Special Right. It gives privileges, rights and protections (1100 and counting) to people based on whom they are sleeping with.
So for me, while marriage equality is a nice idea, what I really want is equity. I want the Special Right of marriage completely eradicated, and the access to all of the legal privileges associated with it made available to everyone regardless of marital status. If you’re shaking your head right now saying that will never happen, think back to the early 1990s when everyone was saying that the whole notion of same-sex marriage was a pipe dream.
Eliminating the legal rights and privileges associated with marriage actually gives us an amazing opportunity to build bridges between the LGBT communities and many others working for equity and justice. It gets us out of our “me-too” mentality when it comes to marriage and broadens the Queer community’s perspective to a “we-too” framework – just the thing we didn’t do when opposing Prop 8 last year. I hope that in this moment, the assembled Queer community sees this point as well.