Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Gay Activists Against Gay Marriage

Compelling yet dangerous counterpoints.

“I don’t get why a community of people who have historically been fucked over by their families and the state now consists of people who want those exact same institutions to validate their existence,” wonders Yasmin Nair, a Chicago-based author, academic and lesbian.

Nair is talking about the LGBT (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, for those of you who’ve been living on the moon or in Orange County) community and its fixation with marriage equality. She is one of a host of contributors to a new book, titled Against Equality, that, as you may have guessed, lays out a series of arguments opposing gay marriage.

Their reasons for opposing what most LGBTs (and a large chunk of straight America, present company included) see as a basic civil right are as diverse as the authors themselves. There’s Nair, who in addition to the compelling argument you read above, believes that the struggle for marriage rights has sapped valuable resources that could be used to fight for other important LGBT issues.

“It has taken funding away from queer youth issues, homelessness issues,” she told Time Out Chicago.

There’s Kate Bornstein, a self-described feminist, Taoist, sadomasochist, femme, nerd, transperson, Jew and tattooed lady: “When lesbian and gay community leaders whip up the community to fight for the right to marry, it’s a further expression of America’s institutionalized greed in that it benefits only its demographic constituency. There’s no reaching out beyond sexuality and gender expression to benefit people who aren’t just like us, and honestly… that is so 20th Century identity politics.”

Kenyon Farrow, a black gay activist, asks if gay marriage is ‘anti-black.”

“I, as a black gay man, do not support this push for same-sex marriage,” he writes. “Although I don’t claim to represent all black gay people, I do believe that the manner in which this campaign has been handled has put black people in the middle of essentially two white groups of people, who are trying to manipulate us one way or the other.”

Seeing how straight  blacks, who are particularly staunch in their opposition to same-sex marriage, have been attacked for not supporting what is today’s equivalent of the 1960s civil rights movement, it’s not hard to see why Farrow is upset.

Against Equality is a fascinating exercise in what Ben-Peter Terpstra calls stepping “away from the groupthink strangling America’s white-majority gay establishment.” It is also a brash reminder that not all people in any given group share the same opinions on any given matter, even if it is one as monumentally important as marriage equality.

Still, it would be difficult to imagine black activists in the 1960s being opposed to the Voting Rights Act or women a couple of generations before that standing against their own suffrage. As demonstrated by Californians who flocked to the ballot box to rob same-sex couples of their rights and then demanded that the courts respect the “will of the people,” letting civil rights issue be decided by popular vote can have dangerous and discriminatory results. The very purpose of civil rights laws are to protect disadvantaged groups who lack the power to defend their own interests against an often hostile majority.

LGBT people who oppose marriage equality are fully free to do so and not get married. But fighting against the right to do so is as reprehensible as the actions of the Mormons who mobilized  against LGBT marriage rights as if the fate of the human race depended upon denying millions of Americans the very same rights they enjoy.

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