Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gays Against Gay Marriage: Why They've Got It All Wrong

At some point, possibly within the next lifetime, if not in mine, people will probably look back at the gay-marriage debate and ask, " What were they thinking?" That gays were once legally barred from calling their civil unions "marriage" will seem as unfathomable as the idea of women not being able to vote or a world without Facebook.

In the meantime, the debate continues, with some unexpected players popping up on both sides. President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama have been openly endorsing it at least since last year's National Democratic Convention. And notice how many straight rappers now publicly support gay marriage, from Jay-Z to Eminem to 50 Cent to Snoop Dogg to T.I. to Macklemore, who along with his DJ/producer partner Ryan Lewis, recorded "Same Love," a No. 1 Australian hit, in favor of it.

As the United States inches closer to nationwide enlightenment and legalization of gay marriage -- on May 14, Minnesota became the 12th state to go there (13th, if you count Washington D.C.) -- some dissenters refuse to let their increasingly outdated opposition go. Shockingly, a significant number of them are the very people who would benefit from it, though those gay detractors beg to differ. I saw several attempting to explain themselves once on an episode of Rick Lake's talk show, and some prominent ones I've never heard of shared their points of view in the 2010 book Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage.

I know the title was supposed to be ironic. They don't actually think they are "against" equality, but really, by associating themselves with a movement that's long been a platform for homophobia and intolerance, they are. That's the point of this post/rant.

The first time I ever heard the anti-gay marriage argument coming from a gay person, it went a little something like this: In making gay marriage the gay cause, it sends the message that marriage should be the end game for any self-respecting gay person, creating a new generation of gay youth who grow up obsessing over it, thinking it's the only way to true human bliss. Opposing it is for their (gay youth's) own greater good. While the idea of hundreds, thousands (millions?) of gay bridezillas-in-training gives me a headache, it's a pretty weak reason to deny gay people access to the same deluded upbringing as straight people.

I, for one, don't want what I can and cannot do to be dictated by the psychological effect it may or may not have on young people I don't even know. By that same argument, should women's rights groups start lobbying against straight marriage because too many young girls grow up dreaming about their perfect fairytale wedding? I no more get that mindset than I do the institution of marriage in general, but it's not for me to get.

Someone I know once made the argument that gay people can enjoy more or less all the rights and benefits of married people -- all that's missing is the word "marriage." That's it exactly. If "civil unions" offer the same rights and benefits as "marriage," then why not just call them "marriages." Suggesting that they shouldn't be -- whether for reasons that revolve around tradition, history or religion -- is tantamount to suggesting that gay relationships are somehow less valid than straight ones. It's the principle that counts, and principles count.

It's like the episode of Frasier in which Frasier and Niles kept trying to upgrade their membership in an exclusive club. Every time they advanced one level, they'd hear about a higher one and desperately want in. Although at some point, the benefits between levels became fairly commensurate, only they were offered in different sections, Frasier and Niles wanted to go higher. Weren't they just as good as the people beyond the wall? They deemed the other side higher because they were restricted from it, and ultimately ended up in an alley next to a garbage bin.

I'm not saying that the state of holy matrimony is a bunch of trash (though, in general, I don't think that much more highly of it), but that's how gay people feel about the "marriage" that is still denied to them in 38 states and in countries around the world. It might be little more than a title at this point, but denying them that title suggests that they aren't worthy of it, and like Frasier and Niles, they are left stranded -- segregated -- on the other side. Why aren't all of these anti-gay marriage gay lobbyists carping about the damage that's doing to the collective psyche of young gay people? It's basically telling them that their relationships are inferior to straight people's, not worthy of equal recognition in the eyes of the law.

Where have I heard something similar before? In the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown Vs. Board of Education in which the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas, tried to make the argument that it was okay to segregate black students from white students in learning facilities that were separate but equal. That "separate but equal" spin didn't fly with black people then -- nor with the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently inequal" -- and it shouldn't fly with any gay person with any intellectual capacity.

I've also heard the argument that the nature and dynamics of straight relationships and gay relationships are different (duh!), and the straight institution of marriage simply doesn't fit into gay culture. Now let's consider this for a second. For decades, gay people have been saying to homophobic straight people, "What happens in our bedroom is none of your business!" So is what happens in those bedrooms, in those relationships, the concern of gay-marriage opponents, whether straight or gay? If you don't want your relationship to be defined by "straight" ideals, don't let it. But stay out of mine. In the end, it feels like politicking for the sake of politicking, with no discernible goal beyond distancing gay romance from straight romance, which feels like stepping backward instead of forward.

More and more people around the world are realizing that regardless of where you stand on marriage or on gay people, there just isn't any rational reason to continue denying gay people the same institution of marriage, along with the same title, that straight people enjoy. As Eminem once wisely said, "I think everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want."

Well, perhaps not completely miserable, for there are great benefits to marriage, which is the only reason why some straight people choose to enter into it. I might actually be able to get behind a general anti-marriage movement on the grounds that "marriage" discriminates against single people, who aren't afforded the same financial and immigration breaks as married people. It's an outdated institution whose symbolic significance has been cheapened by the sheer number of people who casually enter and exit it. But it feels unfair and wrong to single out gay marriage as the greater of two evils.

Those who are content with their "civil unions" and/or have no interest in walking down the aisle are free not to. I, for one, have no interest in ever being a groom, but that doesn't mean I won't dance at my best friend's wedding and maybe even catch the bouquet. If gay people are going to demand the right to privacy when it comes to what goes on in their bedrooms, they need to extend the same courtesy to what goes on in other people's relationships and how people choose to legally define them. In this case, hypocrisy and bigotry may be separate vices, but their end results are equally intolerable.
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