I’m a progressive, out lesbian, but I’m not doing a happy dance about President Obama’s support for gay marriage.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think we (the country, the society) should be giving rights, privileges and protections to anyone — gay, straight, bisexual or other — based on their sexual or romantic relationships. I think most of the rights and privileges gay men and lesbians are seeking by pursuing marriage rights should be granted to human beings because they are human beings, whether or not they find one person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
A few examples:
● Everyone should be able to designate who they want to be able to visit them in the hospital. Everyone should be able to take leave to care for a sick loved one.
● Everyone should have access to health insurance. If you’re self-employed, unemployed or work for a place that doesn’t provide health insurance, you shouldn’t need to have a romantic partner who has a job that provides health benefits to get coverage.
● If a couple with a child splits, married or not, all parents should be eligible for visitation and responsible for child support.
● Everyone who pays into Social Security should be able to list who is financially dependent on them and who should get benefits when they die. Our current system shortchanges any dependent who isn’t married to a wage earner.
What about single people? Are they less deserving of the legal protections couples get? Why should rights, privileges and protections be based on anyone’s ability to find “Mr. /Ms. Right” and maintain a sexual/romantic relationship? Do other kinds of relationships (like parent-child, or adult siblings, or single best friends who live together and rely on each other financially and emotionally) not deserve protection?
I don’t think we have to aspire to some narrow ideal of family/couplehood to deserve rights. We deserve rights because we’re human beings, not because we’re achieving some level of similarity to the heterosexual ideal.
So you might be surprised to hear that I also love the idea of marriage. I love the idea of commitment, of getting community and family support for a relationship, and of the accountability to that community and family. I think anyone who wants to should have a ceremony and make a commitment and throw a big party. But that shouldn’t affect whether they then get health insurance, or get to take time off to take a sick person to the doctor, or are able to sign a permission form for a field trip.
I’m not fighting for access to marriage, and I wish that wasn’t where the gay rights movement was putting most of its effort and resources. (Violence, housing, employment, education, anyone?) But (with apologies to Groucho Marx), if someone is trying to keep me out of this club, I want in. How dare anyone say that I don’t deserve access to marriage and all it brings? How dare they say I, and my relationships, aren’t good enough?
I’d just prefer that LGBTQ people be recognized and accepted for being human beings, period. And that all human beings, regardless of relationship status, are assured their rights. That’s why I’m not celebrating the president’s “evolution.”