wedding bells ring again

October 26, 2006

On Monday night I attended a fantastic event at NYU-Wagner (Graduate School of Public Service) called “Beyond Marriage: Towards a New Policy Agenda for the LGBT Movement.” The panel discussion was the first in-person event following the release of the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement that I wrote about back in July, when the statement was released. You can also read my own long post about my issues with the same-sex marriage discussion that I wrote in June. The panelists were 5 of 20 of the co-authors of the statement. They all came from remarkably different ideological places and talked about their own issues with the gay marriage debate as it currently stands. They also shared some of the highlights of the painstaking process of writing the statement. They were:

– Terry Boggis, Director, Center Kids, the family program of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
– Joseph N. DeFilippis, Executive Director, Queers for Economic Justice
– Lisa Duggan, Professor and Director of American Studies, New York University
– Kenyon Farrow, Co-Editor, “Letters from Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out,” and Author, “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black?”
– Amber Hollibaugh, Senior Strategist, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

I don’t want to reiterate the main points of the statement – I did that in July and if you’d like to know them you should read the statement itself. I would, however, like to share some of my favorite points that were made that helped me better frame this discussion.

· Only 25% of American families fit the traditional nuclear model (one mother, one father, child/ren). The ideas contained in the statement are not for the protection of polyamorous queer folks alone – in fact, they suit more American families than current idealized notions of family do. (Terry Boggis)

· The statement was necessary because so many people were frustrated by having to make a choice between two mutually exclusive sides of a complex discussion – you are either in favor of gay marriage or you are opposed to it, end of story. Many people, given a third option, would choose one that benefits not only the middle- and upper-class monogamous heteronormative gays and lesbians, but benefits all types of families. Liberals/lefties/PC folks/etc. (straight or gay) support gay marriage because their only other option is to be a homophobic bigot!

· This statement is not anti-gay marriage: rather, it envisions gay marriage as being one of many ways “family” is counted.

· The writers of this document disagreed in so many ways. They all agreed that the current discourse was problematic, but for a lot of reasons. The two main things that they wholly agreed on:

1. The definition of “family” in this country needs to be expanded

2. Benefits should not be determined by marriage

· Marriage used to be about the acquisition of property and a means to reproduction. And now it has come to mean something else. But what does it mean? Historian Lisa Duggan: “Marriage is an instrument of neoliberal privatization.” The non-academic version: marriage, as it exists now in this country, serves the purpose of replacing (and therefore privatizing) the welfare state. Marriage is the new anti-poverty program.

· Citizens’ backlash to social services being cut: voting for Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs) because clearly the gays should be blamed for the erosion of the American family. (Oh man – this totally made sense when I heard it and now when I write it out, it’s hard to explain. I hope people get this.)

· Amber Hollibaugh: “If you think equality is what you’re aiming for, you’re starting in the wrong place.” We should be seeking liberation, not equality.

I’ve had some thoughts brewing since Monday night about my own notions of queer family and why I feel so strongly about this. I’m hoping I can write some of them down before the weekend. I really wish more people could see this document and use it to spark discussions with their families and friends (however that’s defined!). This stuff is important, and it’s all happening as we speak.



  1. Thanks for writing about this. I am sorry I missed this forum. I would like to figure out how this statement could look if it was a campaign -> queer movement… this I have been wondering for years. Any ideas?

  2. Interesting. Wow. I would love to be part of such a movement/campaign but somehow the issues just feel too huge (and there are too many of them). I wonder if any of the gays and lesbians with power/money/race privilege would ever want to get behind such a movement. And I wonder if the issues are too broad to bring people together on one platform. Even among the 20 authors of the statement, there were 40 different perspectives on the issue.
    In all of our free time (ha) we should have a LRG with our friends and see if we can put our heads together. I might be really nice to have an evening with all our friends to talk about all of these important issues and ideas. One of the strange parts of the evening for me was being there alone – like I felt validated in my thoughts but also confused by not having members of my own community around. The great thing about this statement is that it can give frustrated queers a place from which to start. We should talk about this more.

  3. […] on Gay Marriage (June 2006) Beyond Rhetoric (July 2006) NYTimes on Those Rebel Gays (July 2006) Wedding Bells Ring Again (October 2006) Potlucks, Purim, and Gay Marriage (October 2006) Blame it on the Gays. Seriously! […]

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