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Marriage protection

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Despite best intentions, I never did post anything for National Coming Out Day on Saturday. Last Wednesday, Diana and I wandered around the Tufts campus (it's a very nice campus), and found a large number of chalkings about Coming Out Day; apparently they were celebrating it a few days earlier than most. A lot of fun stuff, including a big cannon on campus that I suspect isn't usually painted in rainbow colors. There were also a few odd chalkings that I suspect were intended as support but came out sounding kind of anti-gay. (Like one showing footsteps leading into a closet.)

This week, apparently, is Marriage Protection Week. The Human Rights Campaign has some opposition info. Lady Sisyphus () has a whole bunch of info, including all sorts of helpful and interesting links. Most interesting to me is a site about same-sex marriage in Canada, which includes some discussion of a way to challenge US laws that I hadn't thought about: a Canadian married couple (both men) attempted to enter the US recently, and because they're a family, they tried to use a single customs form. They were told that to enter the US, they would have to file separate customs forms, even though (according to a DC lawyer) "The regulation does not require that you have a marriage recognized in the United States in order to [use a single form]."

The site also provides some interesting same-sex marriage stats for Toronto for June through September.

I'm guessing that the new Canadian laws won't have any particular big effect on marriage as an institution. It'll be interesting to see whether, in five or ten years if marriage is still going strong in Canada, Americans continue to use the "marriage is being attacked" line of argument against gay marriages.

I'm inclined to think that the US isn't really ready for gay marriage, and to feel that activists should wait a little longer before trying to force the issue. On the other hand, the Federal Marriage Amendment is worrisome; certainly waiting too long to force the issue might result in letting that amendment pass. On the other other hand, the FMA people claim that they're pushing for it in reaction to the Massachusetts case (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health) filed by GLAD.

Mind you, I'm 100% in favor of providing the same legal benefits and protections to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples. I'm inclined to think that same-sex marriage will pretty much inevitably become legal in the US in the long run. I'm just not convinced that now is the right time to push hard for it.

But maybe there is no good time; maybe striking while the iron's hot is the best approach. We'll see.

3 Comments

It'll be interesting to see whether, in five or ten years if marriage is still going strong in Canada, Americans continue to use the "marriage is being attacked" line of argument against gay marriages.

Will Americans in genral know more about what's going on in Canada in 5-10 years?

What *do* you think will be different in 5-10 years? What was different 5-10 years ago? 1993-1998... Hm.


p.s. re "I'm inclined to think that the US isn't really ready for gay marriage"

I think it's not the sort of thing one shoudl wait until others are ready. If people are against it, waiting won't change. If it doesn't occur to people to think about equal marriage now, waiting won't change that. For people who are ambivalent, I don't know what waiting will acheive. For those that are being screwed by the current legal set-up, waiting is a harm.

If by waiting, you mean the US as a whole isn't ready or willing to accept equal marriage, then yes, that I think is true. But this is true about all social movements, from who gets to vote, to the Equal Rights Amendment. Push to make equal marriage available locally, or state-level: those places comfortable will bring into the present. Let it grow where it can, and see what happens next, as people move here and there, and the other types of marriages (including the common male-female sorts, with and without procreation, with varying numbers of legally recognized wives) *don't* disappear and *don't* become less important and less valuable to the people in them...


Yup, I was talking about the US as a whole. And I do think people will change; I think our whole culture has been moving steadily toward greater acceptance of gay and lesbian people for a while now. Look at TV and movies. Fifteen years ago, the female lead's best friend in a romantic comedy was invariably female; these days, it's practically compulsory for that character to be a gay man. Ten years ago, I suspect a show like Will & Grace would have been pretty much unthinkable (and I doubt it would've been popular), and I have no idea what a 1980s audience would've made of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (The first lesbian kiss on TV may've been in a 1991 L.A. Law episode, and that was considered very daring at the time.) Sure, those contexts often go out of their way to use gay stereotypes to render gay people (especially gay men) safe and cuddly and definitely not sexual in any way, but we've really come a long way in the past ten years in terms of mainstream public acceptance in the US, earlier gay-related cinema notwithstanding.

So I think that straight Americans are slowly coming to more widespread acceptance of gays and lesbians, and I worry that pushing too hard and too fast will take a lot of straight people out of their comfort zone, rather than expanding that comfort zone. Going from first lesbian kiss on TV to attempts to legalize gay marriage nationwide in twelve years seems awfully quick to me.

Some things I'd rather see come first, in terms of pop culture: queer characters in TV shows and movies who are in happy, committed, long-term relationships; a family with queer parents casually appearing in a TV ad, with no particular comment or fuss made about them being queer; overtly but not flamboyantly queer characters in action movies; etc. All of those things would be boundary-pushing right now, but I don't think any of them are nearly as boundary-pushing as same-sex marriage. I guess what I'm really getting at is that I think acceptance in mainstream America (whether reflected or guided by pop culture) can build social change, but it takes time.

(Disclaimer: yes, eventually I want bi and trans and poly characters too, and I want gay characters to be so common that it's not a problem to have gay villains, and gay characters who sleep around all the time, and so on. I certainly don't want to only allow happy stable gay people on TV. But in the short term, showing happy stable gay people would be a big step in the right direction, imo.)

Making local changes does seem more reasonable to me, but I'm not sure localities below the state level can make laws about marriage, and things have already gone awry at the state level a couple of times, in Alaska and Hawaii. (In Hawaii, having the law declared unconstitutional resulted in a constitutional amendment, which will make it awfully difficult to change things later. I'm not clear on what sparked Alaska's similar amendment, whether that was preemptive or in response to a legal challenge.) Vermont's approach seems to me to be great progress, but it doesn't provide the "marriage" label, and so a lot of people are dissatisfied with it for not going far enough (while others are dissatisfied with it for going too far, of course). And Massachusetts seems to me to be headed in the same direction as Hawaii, though I don't know whether there's a movement to amend MA's constitution or not.

...But I would have said the same about Canada not being ready, and as far as I can tell things seem to be going fine there, so I may just be completely wrongheaded about this. I hope so. I'll be extremely pleased if, by this time next year, same-sex couples are getting married regularly in MA, even though the DOMA means that other states won't have to acknowledge such marriages.


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