Is Marriage Liberation?

It’s a Queer Thing Now!
by Harry R. Freeman-Jones

Make no mistake, the queers have come to seize the institution of marriage. What choice do we have? Heterosexual stewardship has been abysmal. As any broadcast of “ET” or “Inside Hollywood” clearly demonstrates, “straights” debase, corrupt, de-sanctify, trivialize and distort marriage with appalling regularity. Our folks are vilified for presuming we are entitled to full marriage rights, while the nightly television entertainment “magazines” and “reality” programs mesmerize audiences with a vulgar parade of heterosexual marriage debacles. Meanwhile those queers who work hard to raise healthy kids in loving same-sex households are charged by papal utterance with committing “domestic violence” against them!

John Paul II, George W. Bush, the Southern Baptist Convention, and hordes of other self-righteous “marriage defenders” posture in rage to protect the “sanctity” of marriage from queer demands for justice while their own houses fester with disorder, hate, cover-ups, deception, and incompetence. If they actually gave a f__k about the sanctity of marriage, then they would cease their groundless demonization and bend every effort to cultivate the conditions that nourish and sustain loving, emotionally supportive life-long stable partnerships and families among all people. They would be fighting for human survival in a livable environment, for universal health care, for education, for seeing to it that folks have housing and a living wage.

Instead, they support policies that are blind to love and are spiritually and financially disastrous for real families struggling to survive. Their self-righteous certitude has a corrosive influence on the need for folks to think freely and live honestly. They patronize those whose vision of marriage embraces something more than a gender defined exercise in patriarchal hubris. Of course, marriage has never been an exclusively heterosexual possession. We queer folks have embraced it for centuries, hiding the reality of our marriages and the true nature of our living and loving out of fear of society’s wrath. Times have changed. After Stonewall, we’ve stepped out of the shadows. We have found our voice and we will no longer be victimized.

On the “straight” watch, marriage too often appears to be a relationship of jocks and bunnies. Hetero marriage culture seems to flourish less on honesty and mutuality than on this twisted “understanding” that “Dude, the MAN rules!” but the “little woman,” by stealth, cunning, and feminine charm gets her way!

Smiling, colorful, and courageous queers now stand in the public eye to inform the world that there is another vision for marriage. Despite minimal support from church and state, we’ve been bonding successfully in marriage—as diverse and mutually respectful individuals without the burden of gender expectations—for centuries. We have a lot of positive marriage lore to share. Let’s be clear that we want MARRIAGE! By denying us full marriage rights legally and culturally, critics expose their complicity with demonization and oppression.

Civil unions are a facetious attempt to veil deep-seated contempt with a veneer of liberal intentions. Queers are claiming our right to an institution we understand and respect. By experiencing obscene injustice, we have apprehended the importance and value of a basic human contract. Our choice to participate in marriage represents a redemptive mission that strengthens the fabric of human society. It is a gift to be cherished by all who understand the rich possibilities of committed human love.

Harry is an artist and activist whose first marriage in Boston’s Old West Church in 1973 helped launch the movement for same-sex marriage rights. He resides in Syracuse with his life partner Henry Yokel. This month they celebrate 26 years of marriage.



Beyond the Rite: Gay Marriage “Yes” or “No” is the Wrong Question
by Karen Hall

I continue to ask myself why two people having sex (or not) with each other should garner special rights or protections. While I understand why citizens would want to share some legal rights and responsibilities with others with whom they have intimate and caring relationships, asking the state to recognize marriage is the wrong route. It doesn’t make sense to me to struggle to have increased government intervention in the most intimate aspects of our lives. The Pro-Choice movement has long chanted, “Keep Your Laws Off My Body!” and I’m wondering why queer folk are not chanting, “Keep Your Laws Out of Our Intimacies!”

Our neighbors to the north addressed the question of gay marriage and gave themselves the opportunity to legislate it in a more intelligent manner. In January 2002, the Law Commission of Canada published their findings of a two-year study, Beyond Conjugality: Recognizing and Supporting Close Personal Relationships Between Adults. Rather than limit their thinking, and thus also their findings, by the simplistic question of “Gay marriage, yes or no?” they asked what role the state should play in the intimate lives of adults (regardless of their sexual orientation or whether or not they’re having sex).

Their answer was as minimal a role as possible. The state should stop trying to define our most meaningful personal connections. In their own words:

“Canadians enjoy a wide variety of close personal relationships that are important to them. Many marry or live with conjugal partners. Others have emotional and economically important relationships outside of marriage and conjugality. They may share a home with parents, grandparents or a caregiver. Sometimes it may be sisters. Other times, best friends.

“Making choices in one’s personal relationships is among the most cherished of values in Canadian society....The state cannot create healthy relationships; it can only seek to foster the conditions in which close personal relationships that are reasonably equal, mutually committed, respectful and safe can flourish.

“This requires a fundamental rethinking of the way in which governments regulate relationships.”

US Americans are no different than their Canadian neighbors in these matters. Legal protections and economic benefits should be extended to individuals who maintain a primary supportive relationship with each other regardless of sexual orientation. The state should ensure equal distribution of rights and privileges to all citizens and should stay out of the business of defining relationships established in spiritual institutions.

For at least three decades now, gay issues have served as a litmus test of liberalism. Knee jerk reactions against gay issues were an indicator of social and political conservatism. Currently, the gay marriage debate deploys the lives of LGBT people and the rights of everyone as pawns in the latest republacrat “political debates.” Under the guise of liberalism, republican/democratic politicians take a stand on gay marriage, the extension of an institution in a system of privilege, in order to display a surface level of liberalism that we all know will not carry over to issues of foreign policy or militarism.

Beneath its liberal veneer, fighting for marriage rights is a fight on the right: a struggle for the power — backed by state power — to define a conservative institution. It is a fight over which of our richly varied relationships deserve legal recognition and which do not. Nothing about it is liberating. Despite glowing mantras — Equality! Dignity! Choice! — avid demands for gay marriage have little to do with substantive equality, true choice, or dignity rooted in personal autonomy, freedom of conscience, and wider human justice.

Karen relied on queer radical Canadian Rick Bébout’s website to write this article. Check out ‘Gay Marriage? Wrong Question’ at <>.