8.10.2006

We're all queer now

Moderate liberals love civil unions because it's an effective counter-argument to the belief that marriage is so exalted a state it must not to be sullied by the presence of “teh gays”; if we can create a separate, though ostensibly equal[1], institution to mirror marriage, but without the extra special steeped-with-history-and-glorious-meaning name, gays and lesbians can live their lives and have a few rights without troubling our would-be moral martinets. Sounds nice, doesn't it? You give up hope of the 1,000+ federal benefits immediately bestowed upon (straight) marriage, and in return, we'll let you file joint (state) taxes, offer minimal estate protection from homophobic relatives, and be secure in the knowledge that you'll have to register your union (for a fee, of course) in every jurisdiction where you will ever live.

Amanda at Pandagon has a brilliant analysis of the classist and racist implications of the culture war: her argument, briefly, is that attempts to retroactively[2] define traditional marriage as the union between one working man and his homemaker wife with their adorable little tow-headed tots are based on bigotry toward the poor, people of color, gays, and anyone who doesn't fit into a narrowly-circumscribed definition of a "real family." Even I, a heterosexual, middle-class, white woman, am an object of scorn because I refuse to allow anyone to define my family for me; I don't want children, I'll never change my last name, and if I ever marry, I can guarantee I'll never be a wife. Should I choose to live my life with a partner (of either sex) without the benefit of a marriage license, I can look forward to costly legal fees to secure powers of attorney, medical proxies, estate planning, joint ownership of property, health insurance, ad nauseum. I can look forward to spending thousands of dollars to get one-third of the rights and privileges that would be immediately and unquestionably conferred to me for the bargain basement price of $20 with a marriage license.

I've argued loudly and frequently that the debate over gay rights isn't about Leviticus, it's about lasciviousness. The far Right embodies an increasingly fascistic worldview that seeks to turn over to self-appointed moral arbiters decisions about what we do with our bodies. And for the straight young things out there who think you're immune, I've got news for you, baby: we're all queer now. From birth control and condoms to tattoos and piercings, our rights concerning our own bodies are under attack. Even something as banal as how many roommates you have is under siege:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a family that was denied a permit to live in the city of Black Jack because of a law that prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by “blood, marriage or adoption.

“The City of Black Jack’s behavior is both pompous and unconstitutional,” said Brenda Jones, Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Black Jack’s attempt to criminalize people’s choice to live together as a family has earned international ridicule for Missouri.”

Fondray Loving and Olivia Shelltrack live in a 2,300-square-foot home in Black Jack, a suburb of St. Louis, with their three children. Because Loving is not the biological father of Shelltrack’s oldest child, the city has denied the family an occupancy permit for the home that they purchased. The family now faces fines of up to $500 every week for living in their home without an approved occupancy permit.

Fondray Loving [3] has been acting as a father to their oldest child, Alexia, since she was two years old (she's now 15) and the couple have other two children together. For thirteen years, Fondray and Olivia have lived as a family, but for the city of Black Jack, their love for and commitment to one another is nothing without a marriage license. And since the law limits household sizes based on relation by “blood, marriage or adoption” you can forget about spending your golden years like the Golden Girls; those brazen hussies would be drummed out of Black Jack. Remember folks, it's not just marriage they're after, it's your right to define for yourself what constitutes a family.

Currently, nineteen states have amended their constitutions to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry. The amendments, however, all have eerily similar language: the second clause always denies the recognition of any situation that approximates marriage. While moderate liberals and conservatives of all stripes will tell you that these only apply to civil unions, not domestic partnerships, Alaska and Wisconsin have already declared open season on domestic partner benefits for state and municipal employees and Ohio batterers found in their gay marriage ban a convenient loophole to get out of felony assault charges. Rhea County, Tennessee nearly banned not only gay marriage but gays in 2004, introducing legislation to criminalize homosexuality. It starts with gays and lesbians because people are squeamish about anal sex and dildos [4], but it ends when all of us queers are neutralized.


[1] We all know how well separate but equal worked out.
[2] You should really read this book: Marriage, a History
[3] Loving vs. The City of Black Jack could not be more appropriately named; in 1967, the Supreme Court decision in Loving vs. Virginia declared anti-miscegenation laws and interracial marriage bans unconstitutional. Ironically, Fondray Loving and Olivia Shelltrack are also an interracial couple.
[4] And this already affects us straight ladies: Georgia, Alabama and Texas all have laws banning the sale of sex toys—even if you're married!

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annamaria at 9:01 PM

7 spoke

7 Comments

at Friday, August 11, 2006 12:51:00 PM Blogger ID said...

Sweet. I think I actually fit into AM's implied definition of queer.

You can keep your kids and your picket fences! I'm here and Im queer!

 
at Friday, August 11, 2006 1:00:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

Actually, it's Kerri's definition of queer. And according to her, both your wife and I fit that definition! :)

 
at Friday, August 11, 2006 1:49:00 PM Blogger Wake of the Flood said...

I've read the Coontz book. Her take on how the notion of love and marriage came to be united, and how romantic love as the basis of marriage is an historical anomaly, should give second thoughts to both of the main protagonists in our American marriage culture war. Shows how the amendment crowd has no concept of history (of course we already KNEW that!), but it also suggests that another group really has the wrong name. They should be Property Makes a Family. As Deep Throat advised, follow the money....

 
at Friday, August 11, 2006 2:09:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

It was the Coontz book that solidified my opinion that the state really needs to get out of the marriage business. I'm not saying do away with marriage, but rather that any two (or maybe even more!) consenting adults that want to tie their futures together should be able to do so regardless of the presence of a sexual relationship. I'm a big fan of Boston Marriages (in the old sense and new!), and recognize that for many people it just makes sense to be able to provide for mutual care. And the state should see that as a benefit to society, particularly as concerns the elderly who might draw less from public resources if a viable, personal option were available to them.

Of course, and I really shouldn't have to say this but I will anyway, so long as marriage exists in its current legal sense, it absolutely has to be open to all regardless of sexual orientation. The system isn't perfect, but we can certainly make it more equitable.

 
at Friday, August 11, 2006 6:53:00 PM Blogger Wake of the Flood said...

Everyone better head for cover, the sky is falling for sure -- Annamaria and I are in agreement on something! I can not see, nor has anyone given me, a coherent rationale for why same gender marriage is not legal. And this from someone who is called a homophobe by some because of my religious beliefs.

 
at Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:10:00 AM Blogger Dane meets Simone said...

Man...we're all one big happy family. ;)

 
at Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:50:00 AM Blogger Wake of the Flood said...

Dane is including me in the family? The sky REALLY is falling!

 

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