Setback for Marriage Equality in California, Next Steps for LGBTQ Rights?

The California Supreme Court decided to uphold Proposition 8 as a legal amendment to the state constitution. At the same time, the approximately 18,000 marriages that took place before the amendment passed will be remain legal.

The decision, combined with the disappointment in Barack Obama's LGBTQ agenda in the first hundred days, is dredging up bad memories of the November vote and sparking protests against the decision, possibly nationwide in scope.

But a lot has happened in the marriage equality fight since last November. When marriage was legalized in California, it seemed that the state was ahead of the curve on the rights of queer people. Now that gay marriage is legal in the heartland, this fundamentally irrational decision just makes California look backward. The fight for gay marriage, it seems, will continue in the courtrooms and in the streets for months or years to come, and seems to be making headway. With or without California.

While the grassroots backlash is brewing, some radical queer activists argue that it's time to pull back from the reformism of the marriage fight and focus limited movement resources on the bigger problems faced by the majority of LGBTQ people for whom marriage has never been the top priority.

I sympathize. As I sat down to write this, I received a message about an instance of hideous anti-lesbian police brutality that took place just three blocks from my apartment:

Hey ya'll...

I am writing today with a heavy heart. And for me no matter how much the world seems to disappoint me I always want to bounce back. But this time is a little different.

I and another lesbian in the community were involved in a BRUTAL BEATING by ALL MALE COPS the 77th PRECINCT of the NYPD.

It took place at the IFE LOUNGE, corner of Nostrand & Atlantic in Brooklyn. I know for a fact there were at least 100-200 woman outside at the time and I am hearing rumors of video footage. LOOK LADIES... IF YOU FIND CAN FIND A PARTY SO F-IN IMPORTANT, THAT YOU HAVE THE TIME TO TELL A FRIEND TO TO TELL A FRIEND TO POST BULLETINS TO EMAIL FLYERS. THEN I WOULD HOPE YOU WOULD HAVE THE TIME TO ASK A FRIEND TO ASK A FRIEND TO ASK A FRIEND TO FIND PICTURES VIDEOS, WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO SUPPORT THE FACT THAT TWO OF YOUR OWN WERE BEATEN IN THE STREET BY POLICE!!!

NOT ONLY WERE WE BEATEN, COPS HURLED ANTI-GAY STATEMENTS AS THEY RAISED THIER NIGHT STICKS IN THE AIR. LIKE "YOU FUCKIN BITCH ASS DYKE"... AND THEN HAD THE AUDACITY IN FRONT OF THEIR OWN SEARGENT AND THE REST OF THERE BROTHERS AND SISTERS SAY "WE ARE HAVIN SOME DYKE PUSSY IN HERE TONIGHT"

Really ladies... This crime wasn't about me or about the other female involved. As I laid there and I felt the night sticks hit me, I thought of Martin Luther King, and what he had to endure just for us to have the freedoms we do today. I immediately relaxed my body, put my arms up where they can see I wasn't resisting, and screamed at the top of my lungs for someone to hit record on there camera. As they pulled me into the car I knew then that they picked the wrong quote unquote "DYKE", to mess with.

TODAY!!! ITS TIME FOR US TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!! I don't know about you, but I am absolutely tired of the way police, club owners & bouncers treat us. If you didn't know what they think about YOU. I hope you RECOGNIZE NOW, what it really is.

THIS IS WHAT WE NEED:

1. VIDEO FOOTAGE 2. PICTURE FOOTAGE 3. WRITTEN TESTIMONIES W/CONTACT INFORMATION

PLEASE EMAIL ME ASAP!!!

DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT ISN'T YOUR BUSINESS, IT IS. IF YOU HANG WITH US, PRAY WITH US, IF YOU PARTY WITH US, IF YOU SHOW YOUR PRIDE WITH US, THIS CRIME WAS COMMITTED AGAINST YOU AND MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY.

Email me @ civilrights@LadiesLoveLadies.com

SNAIL MAIL
Triple L Network
315 Flatbush Ave
Suite 115
Brooklyn, NY 11217

PHONE:
718-350-4141

So if you have video, stills or memories of this horrible event, or can help bring these basher cops to justice in any way (legal advice), please contact the activists/victims involved!

But at the same time, as much as I support alternative families and communities amongst radicals and queer people and all people, and as sympathetic as I am to those pointing out that elite elements in the LGBTQ movement have put marriage first in an undemocratic and exclusionary strategy, I still think that we--radicals and radical queer people--can't ignore the still growing battle for marriage equality. I think its a classic case of "making history but not under circumstances of our own choosing," to paraphrase Marx.

My hope is that those with a vision that goes beyond the momentum toward marriage can help build a movement that grows and builds our resources, our communities, our power and our ability to protect and support our whole community.

Some thoughts about marriage & LGBTQ liberation

Last night there was a demonstration of about 75 people in Midtown Atlanta. We marched up and down Piedmont Park, the city's central greenspace that was, in the 1970s, a hub of the radical counter-culture including a militant gay movement. After WWII metropolitant Atlanta's growth as a cosmopolitan "island" in the Deep South attracted a gay community looking to encounter other queer people and escape the backwardness and bigotry of rural areas.

These days Midtown is a gentrified "gayborhood" - mainly middle class white gays active in groups like the HRC or maybe Stonewall Democrats (or Log Cabin Republicans!) At the same time, Atlanta has one of the largest African-American LGBTQ populations as well as one of the largest lesbian communities in the US. But these communities, by and large, were not represented at the march.

A conversation I had with some radical friends afterward touched on a few explanations for this. We were trying to synthesize the varying points of view within the GLBTQ activists (the Yasmin Nair article and BeyondMarriage.org have strong arguments that the marriage issue is a distraction; I believe Sherry Wolf of the ISO has best articulated the other point of view from an anticapitalist perspective.) Of course, we also wanted to figure out what we thought!

It was a good discussion, with folks presenting a variety of analytical takes as well as "gut" feelings on the issue.

Ever since hearing Chokwe Lumumba speak at a forum in November I've learned to think of social change in terms of "conditions" (for oppressed people) and "the position" (of oppressed people.)

With that rubric, my own take is that, within the larger body politic of the United States, and particularly for GLBTQ people who feel isolated or are even still closeted - or the thousands of GLBTQ people who chose to get married and have that choice under attack, winning marriage equality would be a significant step towards social equality and recognition of their humanity. Despite the frustration that radical queers feel toward the manipulation of marriage as THE issue by better funded organizations, it HAS become an important issue that frames GLBT inclusion in society in a basic way. So, if it's won, that will indicate that the wind is blowing in our favor. (And as Kate points out, it is being won - in places like Iowa, Maine, etc.) The CONDITIONS will have improved for the better, in terms of social equality.

However, the POSITION of the GLBTQ movement to advance for further gains may not be in much better shape. Given the spectrum of injustices heaped upon queer people, choosing marriage as a terrain to fight on was a strategic choice. And it's one that cedes ground to an individualized, private conception of rights. You can get health care (for example, and if your partner has it) through a private choice!

Like I said above, it's a no-brainer that everybody should HAVE that choice, but choosing to fight around that issue leaves a partial victory. Why not try to create a LGBTQ current within the single-payer health care movement that keeps queer health care at the front of the agenda?

Further, I read an interesting article somewhere that said that we're living in a period where even heterosexual marriages and families are under attack by neoliberalism (this is really a combination of the feminist movement that made powerful gains in social equality for women and the disappeared "breadwinner wage," erasing the material basis for mythologized Leave it to Beaver families.) The "family values" right wingers are a reactionary, defensive response to this trend. Certainly it's clear that fewer and fewer households are stable marriages. As the institution is, maybe not collapsing, but losing its prominence in society, do we really want oppositional movements to promote it?

Second, this represents a consolidation of influence and hegemony within the GLBTQ movement by the most politically and economically conservative (if somewhat militant, with recent rallies) wing of the movement. I don't have a lot of expectations that the cadre of a victorious gay marriage campaign will go on to fight for trans equality or queer sex ed in schools or multiracial/youth-of-color centered queer community centers or whatever.

Finally, and this is somewhat related to the last point, a victory here points in an assimilationist direction. It's ridiculous to make a fetish of oppression or celebrate segregation and enforced marginalization; it's another thing to take pride in the counter-cultural and radical elements of queer identity. The slogan has gone from Are Gays Revolting? You Bet Your Sweet Ass We Are! - queerness as inherently insurgent - to We're "Normal" and just want to settle down. I would much rather have the straights get more queer than the queers get more straight....

Two slogans I thought of to try and express this (within the movement - which has good, straightforward slogans, like "No H8") are:

This fight is about EQUALITY, not ASSIMILATION

Defeat the Heterosexual Agenda - no compromise on trans equality and gender self-determination

queer organizing and the gay marriage fight

Last December an Ecuadorian immigrant, Jose Sucuzhañay, was attacked while walking arm in arm with his brother on the street in Brooklyn. The attacker shouted anti-Latino and anti-gay epithets. Sucuzhañay died soon after the beating.

The aftermath of the attack brought together Ecuadorian organizations, gay rights groups and community organizations (the major one was Make the Road NY, one of the few organizations to that does grassroots organizing with poor queer people of color) to condemn the attack and call for unity against homophobic and racist attacks.

Despite the fact that the brothers did not identify as gay (at least not publicly), the attack showed the extent to which anti-gay violence continues to threaten the lives of poor people of color. Make the Road now uses this incident in its anti-homophobia trainings at local public high schools, where the majority of students are recent immigrants from Latin America.

I agree that it's important to support the fight for marriage equality, but it's really regrettable that organizing efforts like the one I just described are being backgrounded by media, funders and mainstream gay organizations in favor of gay marriage.

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