As longtime readers of the Radical know, gay marriage has never been our top political priority. Nor do we have fantasies about getting gay married. Although we are all for civil rights wherever we find them, we are more focused on policy objectives like health care, quality education for all, and full employment. However, I don’t sniff at the way structural discrimination has been partially lifted for my people under the Obama administration. For example, we are now no longer drummed out of the military through McCarthyite investigative tactics. In addition, Barack’s “evolution” on gay marriage — obscuring (or retracting) the support he voiced for it back in the 1990s, temporizing about it as a presidential candidate and as president, and then allowing his support to be ventriloquized by others — seems to be complete. Gay marriage, the President has decided, is just fine. And now the First Circuit Court of Appeals seems to agree, setting up a showdown in front of the Supremes for the Defense of Marriage Act next fall.
As Cindy Patton once said, Tremble Hetero Swine!
As I pointed out over a year ago, every little queer vote matters. By working to end officially sanctioned homophobia, the Obama administration is socking away a lot of queer votes, and even more importantly, votes from friends of queers. He is also taking a big step toward disabling an important conservative get-out-the-vote strategy: queer bashing ballot initiatives and referenda. The mean-spirited, cynical ballot measures meant to reverse gay marriage laws and, better yet, to prevent we queers from enjoying any of the rights, privileges and sources of happiness attendant to the family relation, have long been used to get conservative zealots to the polls in disproportionate numbers If pro-gay marriage campaigns have been a money suck for progressive dollars, and they have been, anti-gay marriage referenda have been a massive political vulnerability for every other progressive issue that is at stake in an election.
I dislike the self-esteem arguments linked to gay marriage: the idea that all of “us” would be better citizens if we could aspire to a wedding seems bizarre when you consider how badly most straight people, married and unmarried, behave. I dislike even more the plaintive cry that the children of GLBT families might suffer mockery due to the fact that their parents aren’t married. Believe me, kids, if reports on bullying are any measure, even after your momz tie the knot, the cool kids will find some way to make you feel horrible about yourself. They’s start with the fact that your mothers are lesbians, and then they’ll take it from there.
(As I write this in BWI airport, John Edwards has just returned to the court house to hear the jury’s decision to let him walk on the federal charges stemming from his wild extra-marital ride. Maybe John could now get us some of that Bunny-money to fight the anti-gay marriage referendum that is almost certain to be on the ballot in Maryland in November?)
What conservatives fear about gay marriage is exactly what I want: that marriage will cease to convey moral status, legal rights or economic privileges to anyone. I hope that by opening marriages to gays and lesbians, the power of the institution itself will become utterly meaningless except in the private ways that individuals choose to honor each other and their families by entering it. And mostly I hope that the end of DOMA also ends the pernicious political practice of taking rights away from citizens by allowing other citizens to vote them out of existence.