by Rich Broderick | 5/6/09 • Let me start by saying I have no objections whatsoever to the idea of allowing gay and lesbian people to enter into legally recognized marriages.
I can think of no reason why two people should be denied this privilege on the basis of sexual orientation any more than on the basis of race, ethnicity, property-ownership, or any other barrier that might stand in the way. Claims that somehow gay marriage will “destroy” the institution of marriage are little more than hysterical ranting on the part of the Republican base or cynical demagoguery on the part of those who simply want to manipulate the base. Ditto the equally hysterical claims that it somehow poses a threat to Western civilization as we know it.
And therein lies the problem, at least as far as elevating the issue into a transcendent cause, perhaps _the_ transcendent cause, of our time. Would that gay marriage did pose a threat to Western civilization as we know it, at least as it is practiced in the United States! God knows, that version of WC deserves to be threatened.
In recent weeks I have heard the push for gay marriage referred to by supporters as the Civil Rights Movement of our day. At times, supporters have even seemed to suggest that gay marriage is the most pressing issue of any kind facing us and the rest of the world. I put down such talk as reflecting the heat of the moment and the desire to score political points. Nonetheless, it does lead me to raise the following questions:
1. Will the legalization of gay marriage in the United States help end the gross and growing discrepancy of power and wealth in our society?
2. Will the legalization of gay marriage slow, halt, or reverse the inexorable destruction of the global ecosystem at the behest of a rampant consumerism practiced by, at best, a little more than 20 percent of Earth’s entire population?
3. Will the legalization of gay marriage block the path to complete domination of the world economy by those who believe in the Total Market – the subordination of all aspects of life to the dictates of the marketplace and the concomitant elevation of that marketplace to the ultimate source and arbiter of valuation, including the value of human life?
4. Will the legalization of gay marriage check this country’s insane militarization, our heedless expenditure on ever more destructive weaponry, our reckless misallocation of resources that might otherwise be directed toward improving the nation’s health, transportation system, and general infrastructure? Will its legalization hasten our departure from Iraq and Afghanistan or help prevent similar imperialist ventures in the future?
5. Will the legalization of gay marriage advance the cause of racial justice and racial healing in our country? Will it help reduce the white fear of minorities and immigrants (at least brown ones) that is the real reason why we boast the highest rates of incarceration – in both absolute and relative numbers – of any nation in the world?
6. Will the legalization of gay marriage challenge the now all-but-complete transformation of the mass media, including the news media, into the first for-profit normative institution in history — an institution whose ultimate purpose is to help perpetuate the discrepancies of power and wealth, the ecological havoc, the militarization, and other self-destructive behaviors cited above?
Answering “No,” as we must, to these questions is certainly not an argument for opposing gay marriage. But it is an argument for perspective, don’t you think?
When I was coming of age at the end of the Sixties, there were calls in the Counter Culture not to _extend_ the right to marry to previously excluded categories of people, but to _eliminate_ marriage on the grounds that it is just another oppressive institution within the matrix of a society grounded upon oppression.
I never thought much of that idea, but the old radical calls to abolish marriage do offer an interesting perspective when applied to today’s perception of gay marriage as the _ne plus ultra_ of radical causes.
As a legally binding contract, marriage confers certain rights, privileges, obligations and protections that should unquestionably be extended to gay couples.
That’s the rational part of the argument. But another, less examined, motive behind the drive for gay marriage appears to be a thirst for the “respectability” – i.e. social approval – marriage confers on those who enter into it.
Given that in the U.S. “respectability” must be conferred by a society that is utterly dysfunctional, self-destructive and – well – simply lunatic, I wonder if such “respectability” is really worth the candle on the altar?
So, gay marriage? Yes. But, ideally, within the context of a much broader and more urgent campaign for social, economic and environmental justice for everyone on the planet, rather than as an end in itself.