April 19, 2013 at 8:51 am EST | by WBadmin
Who does marriage leave behind?


Last month at rallies outside of the Supreme Court, the Human Rights Campaign asked protesters to move their trans pride flag from behind the podium and censored a speech given by the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) so as not to reveal the immigration status of the speaker.

Later, HRC, GetEQUAL and United for Marriage issued public apologies for “offending” those groups, and reminded them that they are committed to their issues. But this is more than a matter of unintentional “offensive” incidents. These are people being told that they must conform or get out of the way. These are people being told that their needs and experiences aren’t relevant to those making decisions in their communities. Yet this is nothing new for the mainstream gay rights movement.

Our most effective arguments for marriage equality have been ones that mirror the values of those who are in a position to give us access to the rights we seek. We seem overjoyed to explain time and time again that, just like them, we too believe in the supreme value of marriage and the nuclear family. In order to support this argument and present ourselves as a non-threatening community of good citizens, we’ve actively excluded and suppressed those of us who depart from the values of the heterosexual majority, leaving our most marginalized brothers and sisters behind.

The actions of HRC, GetEQUAL, and United for Marriage at the rallies last month reflect these strategies, and remind us that in selecting marriage as its priority, the gay rights movement has also told us what issues should take a back seat.

Talking about marriage as if it is the most important issue for the LGBT community silences those of us with needs that access to marriage will not address. Marriage won’t provide adequate health care to those of us who are without it. Marriage won’t address the domestic violence many of us face in our relationships. It won’t save the one in four LGBT youth who are homeless, and it won’t help those of us living with HIV as crucial assistance programs face budget cuts. It won’t address the routine violence faced by trans people and it will do little for LGBT people who are undocumented. And it will probably make things more difficult for those of us living outside of nuclear family formations.

As non-heterosexual people, our existence is a fundamental threat to the organization of society. For decades we’ve lived in the margins where we’ve drawn strength from our difference and from our diversity as a community. As we built families on our own terms, we recognized the necessity of fighting oppression in all of its manifestations, and we envisioned radical alternatives to a society that wanted nothing to do with us. How have we come to see our uniqueness and our diversity as blemishes we must cover up while we try to win the respect of our oppressors?

As a goal, marriage equality reflects the needs of the members of our community with the most power and privilege — those who have access to resources that allow them to emulate the heterosexual lifestyle. As HRC, GetEQUAL and United for Marriage demonstrated, the rest of our concerns are merely distractions.

The priorities of our movement’s self-appointed leaders reveal their self-interested motivations. You can’t help but wonder whether they’ll still be around to help the rest of us out when marriage equality becomes a reality. In their apologies, all three groups promised that they are committed to issues beyond marriage. In the weeks, months, and years to come, we must hold them accountable to this claim.

Drew Ambrogi is a student at American University.

  • I’d like to clarify one thing in respect to this piece — while the writer has included GetEQUAL with those who apologized, some of the folks who were directly impacted by the flag incident were GetEQUAL organizers and GetEQUAL pushed for a representative from QUIP to be a speaker at the rally. We are intimately aware that “we are more than marriage” and are fully committed to working on a wide variety of issues that impact LGBT equality.

    We didn’t feel as though the coalition statement went far enough in making commitments to the full inclusion of our community in our work, so we issued a further statement making clear what our organizational commitments are — and asking folks to hold us accountable to those commitments. [URL REMOVED]

    At least where GetEQUAL is concerned, we haven’t chosen marriage equality as a priority — it’s one of many things we need to be working on, but we’re much more focused on ending workplace discrimination and ensuring LGBT-inclusive immigration reform (and, on immigration reform, we’re working on issues of enforcement, asylum, and a direct pathway to citizenship, not simply on binational couples).

    This piece is a great reminder of the work ahead of us — I simply want to be clear about GetEQUAL’s organizational priorities and our vision for *full* LGBT equality under the law via a powerful, grassroots social justice movement.

  • Thanks for clarifying that Heather. I was made aware of that after I submitted this piece a few weeks ago. My apologies for lumping GetEQUAL in with the others regarding these events.

    • When these orgs say they are fully committed to full equality – you have to ask yourself and them. How much did you spend on marriage in say NY and Maryland?

      How much are you spending on nondiscrimination legislation in Arizona? Pennsylvania? In completing the work to cover the entire lgbt community in nondiscrimination laws in NY and MD?

      But – who gives a damn. The Ken Melhman’s of the world can get married and have their rights. That’s HRC for you – making the world better for the Mehlman’s of the world. The rest of you peasants who didn’t actually make a pile off of hurting lgbt people in the hinterlands – have some cake?

      When it comes down to it – their logo shouldn’t be an equal sign. 1% > 99%

  • I know same-sex-headed households with children in which the love of two adults, for each other and for the children, could teach hetero households a thing or two about family. I also see far too many single-parent households, mostly single mothers who are mostly overwhelmed by trying to support their kids. Why do some heterosexuals insist on making marriage “primarily” about procreation and children only when it applies to same-sex marriage–whereas heterosexuals can get legally married on a whim and never have children yet still be considered legally married? That is called a double standard.

    As for Mr. Ambrogi’s point about HRC et al pushing for marriage equality as the be-all of LGBT equality, those groups have shown their true stripes–white, privileged, craving suburban respectability. As historian John D’Emilio has pointed out, this rush to jump on the marriage bandwagon at a time in history when even heterosexuals are abandoning “traditional” marriage seems to show the desperation to be accepted as “just like everyone else.” There are so many other more pressing issues affecting far more LGBT people than marriage equality. It’s unfortunate that those given the privilege of serving the LGBT community have hijacked the movement for equality to advance their own need to be accepted as “no different than” heterosexuals.

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