"Beyond Same-Sex Marriage"
Alternative to Same-Sex Union
By Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights movement has become too narrowly focused on marriage and needs a broader vision, a coalition of 260 gay leaders and straight allies said.
A statement the coalition released Wednesday "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships" offers "a new vision for securing governmental and private institutional recognition of diverse kinds of partnerships, households, kinship relationships and families."
Current and former leaders of national gay rights organizations, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, signed the 25-page statement, along with the likes of scholar Cornel West, Ms. Magazine founder Gloria Steinem, essayist Barbara Ehrenreich and novelist Armistead Maupin.
"(Same-sex marriage) is a limited goal, and to see that goal suck up all the resources and money has been very concerning to many of us," said Joseph DeFilippis, executive director of Queers for Economic Justice in New York and an author of the statement.
The statement lists relationships and households that would not benefit from marriage, including senior citizens living together, people in polyamorous relationships, single-parent families, extended families and gay or lesbian couples who raise children with other couples, among others.
"Marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others," says the statement, which lists eight central principles, including separation of church and state, access to health care and housing, recognition of interdependence as a civic principle and recognition of a variety of relationships.
You can read the full statement (and sign it if you like!), or read just a two-page summary of it, at the new BeyondMarriage.org.
Not all of the GLBT world agrees. The San Francisco Chronicle article quotes Shannon Minter of San Francisco's National Center for Lesbian Rights as saying the statement was "very poorly timed" because equality of marriage rights must come before other forms of relationship recognition.
And Chris Crain, executive editor of Window Media (owner of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and other gay newspapers), got very grumped out about it on the papers' blogs:
...Not only is the marriage equality effort losing out to the Hetero Right in the courts and at the ballot box, but now comes criticism from those on the Gay Left who say the institution of marriage itself unfairly privileges "conjugal relationships" over other types of family.
...Their manifesto marks the return of the gay liberationists of yore, whose predecessors since the time of Stonewall (and before) have seen battles over sex and homosexuality, gender and gender identity, as a way of liberating all of society from traditional ways of thinking that are inherently unfair, "-ist" and "-phobic."
...So what exactly do these anti-conjugalists want, other than the removal of special privileges for two-person conjugal relationships? The question isn't an easier one to answer because the manifesto often read more Pollyanna than policy.
Aside from some long-term progressive goals like universal health care, which the manifesto credits with helping bring about gay marriage in the countries where it's now legal, the aims read more like a laundry list of legalisms that boil down to "democratizing recognition and benefits."
The rights and benefits of heterosexual marriage should be extended to not just same-sex couples, but every other form of "family": senior citizens living together, adult children living with and caring for parents, grandparents caring for children, single-parent households, extended families, close friends or siblings who live together in "long-term, committed, non-conjugal relationships," and so on.
Also sure to raise an eyebrow is the inclusion of "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner" Pollyanna for polyamory!....
So what's the harm in the liberationists' approach? Plenty. By diverting attention from the inherent inequality of marriage for heterosexual couples but not gay couples, the anti-conjugalists rob the gay rights movement of the fairness claim that resonates with more Americans....
Grump grump. Somebody take him out for a friendly drink, okay?
See also the article on 365gay.com.