Friday, April 3, 2009

Iowa Says Yes, We Can

Iowa's Supreme Court handed down an amazing unanimous decision striking down a 1998 gay marriage ban.
Equal protection under the Iowa Constitution is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. Since territorial times, Iowa has given meaning to this constitutional provision, striking blows to slavery and segregation, and recognizing women’s rights. The court found the issue of same-sex marriage comes to it with the same importance as the landmark cases of the past.”
This is great news. No doubt that the cultural zeitgeist is changing and Iowa is on the right side of history. This is the best thing Iowa has done since giving Barack Obama a big win in the Democratic Caucus.

Yesterday, I blogged about the disconnect between the American gay rights movement and the big picture. My argument stands that gay marriage shouldn't be at the top of our agenda. Bob Ostertag's brilliant piece on The Huffington Post is well worth a full read - but I'll give you a taste.
The fact is most of us won't marry even if we have the right to. We are putting all our resources into winning a right that only the few of us in long-term conventional couple relationships will enjoy. What's more, we are creating a social climate in which young queers are encouraged to recast their vision of the relationships they seek to favor the married couple. This is not only a loss for the vibrancy of queer culture, it is a disservice to young people who will not be well served by their nuclear family ambitions. Just consider the high number of gay and lesbian divorces (yes, the rate is already high despite the fact that we have not even fully won the right to marry yet).

It is no secret that marriage isn't working for straight people. That's why religious institutions are so up in arms about it. The institution of marriage is in crisis. On what basis does anyone imagine it is going to work better for queers?

Through years of queer demonstrations, meetings, readings and dinner table conversations, about gay bashing, police violence, job discrimination, housing discrimination, health care discrimination, immigration discrimination, family ostracism, teen suicide, AIDS profiteering, sodomy laws, and much more, I never once heard anyone identify the fact that they couldn't get married as being a major concern. And then, out of the blue, gay marriage suddenly became the litmus test by which we measure our allies. We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.

As Bob says, marriage is a largely failed social institution. We're talking 40-50% of marriages fail, no small amount. Marriage doesn't have anything to do with my life, I only know it as something my parents did before they got divorced.


  1. Ostertag is off-based, and short sighted in his opinion. As someone who has about a snowball's chance in hell of getting married myself, I often commented that the right to marry was minor in comparison to hate-crimes legislation, but I have changed my mind. Marriage rights are actually an ends to a means in the fight for widespread gay rights. Establishing legal precedence for the equality of gay couples, and therefor gay people, provides stronger legal standing for all other arguments for gay rights. Basically, in the act of establishing the right to marry, courts are dismantling most if not all the arguements used by those seeking to discriminate against LGBT individuals in all other arenas. The state of marriage as an institution, either religious or legal, is besides the point. What is important for those in the LGBT community who do not see themselves marrying, is to remember the fact that LGBT rights are being defined in the legal arena as basic human and civil rights, which completely blows "special" rights and religious freedom arguments out of the water (not to mention solidifying the separation of church and state). Gaining marriage rights is not merely a symbolic win, but has basic real pragmatic uses in all other legal struggles.

  2. Marriage certainly isn't the quickest way to establish that legal precedence. Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships/Non-Discrimination Legitimation all seem more politically doable than marriage.