The Grassroots Demand Marriage

In Emmaia Gelman’s “Rebuilding Queer Community, Beyond Marriage,” in last week’s Gay City News, the writer expresses the wish that “the Marriage Gays would stop telling me how to live my life.”

It’s funny, in a disturbing sort of way, that in an era of faith-based funding, so-called compassionate conservatism, and a war on terror, Gelman would fail to draw a clear distinction between the unprecedented level of contempt and threat we are enduring from our foes, both within the government and outside it, and the efforts of people, both LGBT and LGBT-friendly, of all colors, races, and classes, who are simply seeking an end to the most profound and ugly system of family injustice, discrimination in marriage. Unfortunately, Gelman borrows from our foes in employing language that draws on stereotypes and is both hurtful and ignorant.

The term “Marriage Gays” smacks of the narrow-minded way in which anti-gay extremists have referred to and dismissed us. Does the use of terms by our adversaries such as “liberal,” “gay agenda,” “activist judges,” and “special interest groups” carry any resonance for Gelman? Apparently, she finds it appropriate to cookie-cut other queers simply because we’re for a cause that she’s unfortunately against.

Has Gelman considered that perhaps same-sex marriage advocates can be anti-war, anti-corporate, anti-Bush regime, pro-sexual liberties, environmentally conscious, women-loving, of many religions, atheist, or agnostic, and of any or no political persuasion?

Gelman is all too eager to write off a movement as having been born from the top down rather than from the grassroots. Had she done a tad research she would have learned that the national organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, did little during the mid-‘90s when the marriage battle was brewing to lobby and organize around civil marriage equality. In fact, it was organizations such as Marriage Equality, the Wedding Party’, and the Civil Marriage Trail that had to fight tooth and nail to get the national organizations, and the queer masses as well, to forcefully support same-sex marriage.

Gelman refers to exit-polling data during anti-marriage referenda to dismiss as futile our efforts at “chasing respectability.” She seems to criticize us as a people driven by concerns over who’s “for or against us,” a meek flock of sheep overly eager to pursue an agenda dictated by the national organizations. This does nothing more than demoralize and further fragment our already bruised communities.

We may—or may not—have “lost on marriage in state after state;” Gelman has chosen to call the game prematurely at a time when our opponents perhaps have already had the chance to throw the worst they have at us. To the extent that we have endured serious setbacks, we need not place the blame only at the most obvious targets, the Christian right and their acolyte in the White House. We need to place blame everywhere it’s due—with elected officials past and present, local and national, across the spectrum who have failed to stand with us. We blame people such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who stated that “marriage is a traditional institution that should remain that way,” even as he moved to marry a third time. We blame former President Bill Clinton who signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act only to admit to having an “inappropriate affair” while in the White House. And, we blame Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bought his re-election for mayor despite his public opposition to the February same-sex marriage court victory, the Equal Benefits Bill to give gay and lesbian employees of city contractors a fair shake, and the Dignity for All Students Act that would protect queer students and staff from harassment in public schools.

Gelman shares a disturbing propensity with other foes of gay marriage, her instinct to lump together huge masses of people—”raging feminists, junkies, pier queens, and others”—into helpless victims. Despite the noble efforts of her under-appreciated mother, the overblown leadership role handed to HRC, and anyone else who wants to “mold us in their image,” Gelman fails to recognize and acknowledge that the advocates for same-sex marriage are a diverse and powerful lot.

A few words of advice for Emmaia: Shed the “boot-stomping dyke with an authority problem” bit, get past your arrested development, and join the continuing movement for marriage equality. We’ve got Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, Massachusetts, and quite possibly New York. We don’t need to assert or demand the right to be different, we are! It is arrogant to profess to know this more than the rest of us. Apparently, the problem you have is accepting that we are different and that we are deserving of marriage equality nonetheless. We’re merely demanding our due. It’s called self-esteem. And, contrary to yet another implication of yours, we don’t need corporate-sponsored ads to secure it.