Alright queer kids, it’s official blog time!
I’d like first to thank everyone who gave encouragement to this project and who have submitted comments or ideas about content. Following their suggestions, the first blog of Forever the Queerest Kids will be…. A congressional watch!
In December, New York joined 31 other states by shooting down legislation which would have legalized same sex marriages. The vote, which came out at 38 to 24 against gay marriage, is nothing remarkable. But the proceedings did bring to the forefront an outspoken LGBT-positive senator Diane Savino, whose speech on the senate flood I have included below.
If you’re looking for a breakdown of where same-sex marriages are legal, I’ve got that too.
Here are the highlights:
- The District of Columbia passed a law legalizing marriages on December 15th, 2009, although it did not begin to take effect until early March of this year
- In California, gay marriages were legalized under a Supreme Court ruling in 2008 (by striking down an earlier CA law prohibiting them). HOWEVER, the infamous Proposition 8 referendum which passed during the 2009 election made them illegal once again. The Supreme Court has just heard closing arguments on June 16th for the challenge to Prop 8’s legislation in the trial Perry v. Schwarzenegger, however it is unclear when a verdict will be delivered
- Iowa, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont are holding strong to their commitments and all allow same-sex marriages
- Maine, unfortunately, was subject to a California-like referendum during their senatorial elections and Proposition 1 made gay marriages illegal once again
Now for the editorializing. My question- which has been posed by queer historians, critical theorists, and everyday citizens alike- is this: why do we need the state to legitimize our relationships?
The two primary arguments are-
1. It validates the love and commitment that gay couples express and shows that LGBT are inherently equal to straight people and deserve equal rights.
2. Marriage offers legal protections like adoption rights, hospital visitation rights, and social security benefits that all couples are due.
Now I agree with both of these, so let me address them in turn. I believe (and I think most people do) that it is exceptionally important for a legal rights like inheritance, medical benefits, insurance, and hospital visitation to be protected, and under the current US statutes, they are most certainly not. If you’d like to learn more about the different rights denied to same sex couples, I highly recommend equalitymatters.org and check out there 1138 reasons Equality Matters. HOWEVER, the interesting paradox I find is in those people who use the legal rights argument, but who are opposed to civil partnerships/unions. Speaking from a purely theoretical perspective (as many civil partnership bills have been poorly crafted and strip away as many rights as they afford), civil partnerships should provide all the same benefits of marriage, only under a different name.
This of course, loops to the second argument for gay marriage: namely that separate but equal is an inherently discriminatory standard and undermines the legitimacy of gay relationships. Once again, I affirm. Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case which legalized racial segregation, was overturned for its inherent discrimination, and legal distinctions between gay and straight marriages should follow suit.
However, I disagree with the argument that a different name for gay marriage somehow undermines its importance and legitimacy. Shakespeare wrote in his timeless classic Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.” I stand with the bard regarding petty distinctions and categorizations of marriage. As long as the person I care for is protected, they can call our union cow dung.
As for the second keystone argument for marriage, I will take a slightly differential tone. While there is some legal validity in a law or court case which says, “Yes, you are equal and in your right to be married,” the idea of putting my relationship on trial before the masses of society is not any kind of social validation, but rather degrading instead. A pro-equality group in Ireland made this touching video expressing this sentiment:
In terms of love, commitment, and validation, I don’t think the act of marriage proves anything. I have been in a relationship with a magnificent woman for the past 9 months, and though we’ve spoken about marriage (which is legal where we live in DC), it is not a high priority. I have all the assurance I need about her commitment to our relationship, and it has nothing to do with a ring on my finger, a license from the Marriage Bureau, or a ceremony with flowers and cake.
The day before my girlfriend left for her intensive language program in Vermont (which enforces an honor code where she cannot speak in English for the duration of the program except in very strict, exceptional situations), we spoke at length about the future and our plans for life. There have been financial troubles in my family lately, but she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she would do all she could- emotional, financially, and spiritually- to help me achieve my dreams. She said that what she truly wanted was for both of us to go after the experiences in life that matter, even if it separated us for a time. And she wanted to be able to make those experiences possible for us.
My girlfriend has made a commitment to living her life with me, financially assisting in sending me away from her to do aid work on the dark and not-entirely-safe continent of Africa, and emotionally supporting whatever I want to do with my life. All this after only knowing her for the course of an academic year. What in the world do I need a marriage certificate to tell me?
But every relationship is different, and I have the luxury of living in DC and being able to choose whether or not to marry. So what are your thoughts? Marriage, civil unions, social legitimacy? What have your relationships taught you? What are your thoughts politically?
And most importantly, what else do you want to hear about? As it comes closer to time for college, I’ll be putting the spotlight on some youth organizations that may have chapters in your area. If you are going somewhere that you’d like specific information about, leave me a comment, and I’ll collect some resources for your school or city.