For this class there were three readings regarding the topic of marriage. The first was a text providing some information by the Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org) about same-sex marriage and why people in same-sex relationships would want to marry, which seems somewhat obvious in that the author says “because they are in love, just met the love of their lives, or more likely, have spent the last 10, 20 or 50 years with that person and want to honor their relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer… etc). Primarily however, this article outlines the rights and protections that same sex married couples are denied by the United States government; including hospital visitations, health insurance, family leave, retirement savings, estate taxes, social security benefits, and immigration rights. It also discusses the reasons why civil unions “aren’t enough”, which is that, plainly, they are not the real deal, and are not protected throughout every state or by the same rights as married couples even under these state laws.
The second is a journal article, published in 2004 entitled “Queer parenting in the New Millennium” by Nancy Naples. She begins by outlining the ongoing conflict in the US government regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment. While many politicians believe that the Defense of Marriage act enacted by Clinton in 1996 “doesn’t go far enough in protecting traditional marriage”, others point out that its poverty and not marriage that contributes to the welfare of children and is a sign of society’s stability. Some people feel that same-sex marriage could diminish the importance or sheer existence of “legal rights from the institution of marriage”. However, overall, it seems that many members of the country feel passionate about this and other progressive issues in our country, bringing awareness to the constraints of marriage in our current heterosexist and patriarchal society.
Debates have surfaced regarding whether or not same-sex marriage would benefit only certain communities, however surveys have seemed to prove otherwise. And, in general, it seems that economic benefits would be enormous. Furthermore, it seems that the safety and security of children is often brought up as an issue. Many gay and lesbian couples have kids and some states such as Connecticut offer the option for parents to become “co-parents” despite the fact that they cannot be legally married. People feel that “queer” parenting weakens “gender essentialism” and other gender/sexuality, etc. “norms”. Nevertheless there are still many options for couples that wish to have children, although in some states lesbians and single women have been refused treatment. This author talks about her personal experience finding somewhere she and her partner feel comfortable in having their twins and her child birthing class. She also discusses how her partner, the biological mother, might feel more accepted and less “salient” in society now that she has given birth.
Naples details the difficult process of adoption here too, and furthermore the dispute between whether couples that marriages in Massachusetts, where same sex marriage is legal (now in other states it is legal too), will be recognized by their home states. This has led her to discuss civil unions in regard to adoption and the fact that this can make the process even more complicated.
The piece ends with a discussion of Naples feelings that she and her partner could go unnoticed in their lives without children, but will have to redefine once their children are born. She feels that this leads to the question of how politicians can curb their negative energy regarding same sex marriage and queer parenting. They feel that it will destabilize our society, but in reality how can anyone define what family can be and what is in the best interests of children?
The last piece is a short piece by Paula Ettelbrick entitled, “Since when is marriage a path to liberation?” This document discusses how marriage in our society is an institution that is “venerable and impenetrable” and “provides the ultimate acceptance in relationships in our society” and thus how it has repulsed females for quite some time. Because of the “ultimate acceptance” piece of marriage, many gay and lesbian couples want it, because honestly, who doesn’t want to be accepted?, she writes, saying that this would ease our problems and make everything easy and nice. Realistically, however, she knows that marriage won’t liberate gay couples, and it furthermore won’t change society from being as narrow-minded as it is now.
She feels that regardless of the fact that gay couples should have this right, rights don’t always equal justice, because ultimately, this would just set “an agenda for gaining rights for a few, but would do nothing to correct the power unbalances”, thus justice wouldn’t be achieved.
She links gay justice with female justice/liberation. She feels that the state nor another person should have control over her as a person, but our legal system supports this thoroughly. This is where there is a problem because realistically, gay and straight marriage would have to be equated and simply, they are not equal. She feels that this is a horribly terrifying thing, “de-emphasizing differences.” Our society should encourage differences. Gay marriage, she says, would hurt gay couples because it would outlaw all gay sex not in a marital context, and gay people would face further sexual oppression than they do already.
Her final point states that while we are all looking for acceptance and assimilation, marriage actually creates a system rather than destroys one. It will not address the unfairness in health insurance, etc. that this country places on many people. The benefits and rights that married people are allowed must be eliminated or offered at large if gay marriage is to really assist people. Right now (1989, when it was written) society lacks not only respect but legal protection. Now that the groundwork has been laid, to try and change society (perhaps she is implying through writings like this, etc.), gays and lesbians must have “broader goals than the right to marry”, and once they respect and accept the diversity that they bring to society, further progress can be made.