The Case Against Gay Marriage

"2-4-6-8, smash the family, church and state!"It was one of those chants we used to shout during gay-rights demonstrations, back in the heady days before gay lib got commandeered by the assimilationists, the religionists, the queer moms and dads, the safe-sex professionals. I chanted those words, and believed them.Not in the sense of violent obliteration of those institutions, but in the sense of breaking them up, coming out so we could use our very lives to challenge their authority. As sexual minorities, we thought we were inventing whole new ways of loving, of having sex, of defining relationships, commitment and family. Then the vanguard became a rear guard.Marriage wasn't in the picture for us, and we didn't care. Some of us even figured that our rebellious message would inspire heterosexuals to cast off the chains of marriage, to opt out of having children, to explore such other possible structures as serial monogamy, promiscuity, sex without love, love without sex, love and sex without marriage, open relationships, bisexuality and celibacy.Now I open the pages of Out magazine and see gay militant Michelangelo Signorile, onetime king of the "outers," telling me I'm supposed to join gays and lesbians in the latest, greatest organizing tool -- the national campaign for gay marriage.Did I miss something?Signorile argues that gays who wed will transform marriage from within. But such transformation, I think, is unlikely to grow from inside an innately conservative social construct.Though I find it unfair that gays and lesbians who want to wed may not do so legally (unless Hawaii courts change all that), I also find it odd that so many now claim they desire marriage. Isn't that the key institution of heterosexual privilege that sexual liberation should continue to resist? I guess what it boils down to is that this is not my issue.It's not just that I'd love to avoid having to waste every weekend from May to August schlepping off to this or that gay nuptials (though I would).It's not just that I hold the same beliefs that I expressed as a twentysomething activist (though I sorta do).It's not just that I don't have spouse material in the house right now (though I don't).I simply am unwilling to get on a pro-marriage bandwagon, especially without more debate over its politics and its merits. Why, for instance, shouldn't gay and lesbian couples concerned about discrimination be urging an end to state-sponsored benefits (bereavement, inheritance, insurance) to married heterosexuals? Instead of saying, "We want what you got," we could be saying, "If we don't get it, neither do you." Conservatives who love bashing gays for seeking "special treatment" never pause to consider their own "special" status as married folk.We also could argue that bad relationships are more easily terminated when the couples are not married, and that good ones flourish over time even without marriage. We could stress the stress and money we are saving on divorce lawyers. We could sneer that we're way too good to fall for an institution with such a high failure rate.The thing about gay marriage that bugs me most is that it sells out a primary force that motivated a liberation movement. We shouldn't walk down that aisle too lightly.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.