Wednesday, November 4, 2009

From Erica: in the gay news

So, readers, in the last week we've had some interesting things crop up in the news, especially as they pertain to LGBTQI folk and their civil rights. I thought I'd link a couple of them here.

First, after his talk to an LGBQ pride group- during which he was criticized for not making good on his campaign promises for our civil rights- Congress passed and Obama signed the revised Hate Crimes Bill, which now identifies sexual orientation and gender identity as categories under which someone can be targeted for a hate crime. This has been a long time coming, folks.

Second, the Ryan White Care Act, which provides a lot of funding for HIV- and AIDS-based programs throughout the country, including treatment for about 500,000 folks who can't afford treatment on their own, was reauthorized in the House last week and should be headed to Obama's desk soon. Is the bill perfect? No. It doesn't provide a lot of the medical subsidies until a person's immune system qualifies them for AIDS, at which point treatment becomes a lot more expensive and complicated. By way of contrast, Canada's medical support system starts treating those with HIV much earlier in the diagnosis, which significantly slows the virus's progress through the body and reduces costs in the long term. At least the law in the US will increase funding somewhat, rather than cutting it back as has been happening for the past several years.

Finally, the sad news I woke up to this morning: Maine voters turned out against gay marriage yesterday, overturning the bill that had been passed earlier in the year. I can't even begin to tell you all how sad this makes me. In the LGBTQI camp, there's a lot of discussion about whether marriage is something "we" even want- it perpetuates discrimination against polyamoury, it's a system set up by a heterocentric society, it expects us to buy into the "one perfect person for everyone" line- but beyond these arguments, I think, is the most important fact that underlies the whole debate: whether or not we "need" our relationships validated by the state, having so many people turn out against us is disheartening because that's representative of how many people think our relationships are wrong, are worthless, aren't good enough. That's the number of people who believe it's okay- or, in some cases, morally right- to deny us access to legal rights and parental rights that should be ours as people and as citizens. I'm confident that the Supreme Court will eventually overturn the laws that bar us from getting married, but I'm getting tired of waiting for that day.

That's all I have to say for now.


  1. Earlier today I noticed on facebook (I've been on there a lot, looking for WRI updates) that some people are becoming fans of something to the effect of "remove tax-exempt status from churches that become politically involved."

    And while I understand that kind of sentiment, I think that kind of statement fuels the fears that so many traditionally religious people have about what will happen if gay marriage is legalized.

    For me, the saddest thing about this issue is that there appears to be no trust on either side of the spectrum - those opposed to same-sex marriage for religious reasons don't believe LGBTQI folks when they say they won't take away religious rights or parental rights. And then those campaigning for same-sex marriage often don't believe opponents of gay marriage if they say they're opposing it for non-hateful reasons.

    What a mess - I kind of wish we'd switch to a new system altogether where the government is only involved in property ownership and child custody, and then religions are only involved in marriages.

  2. The thing is, the government has been involved in determining marriages pretty much from day one. The debate really can't be about "marriage is a religious choice" because the facts of marriage, in any religious community in the US, are in part determined by what the federal government will permit and recognize. We see this with polygynous marriages, where the state recognizes the first marriage but not the next one(s), that you can get a religious marriage from here to kingdom come but the rights you get as a married person- to make medical decisions with your partner, to have custody of children, to share health benefits- can only be granted by the state.

    What bothers me is we've got government doctrinethat recognizes marriage as a fundamental right- in Loving v. Virginia (1967), for example, the Supreme Court ruled that "the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to te orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival." The Court was writing about interracial marriage, which at the time was regarded in the same terms and language as same-sex marriage is today, and I think the principle holds in today's debate.

    I think proponents of same-sex marriage have every right to be suspicious of the offer for a "separate but equal" set of conditions, based on how that has panned out for other marginalized groups in other settings in our country in the past, and often I don't think that opponents of equal marriage rights understand that.