New York State passed a law making marriage between two people of the same sex legal on Friday, June 24, just in time for New York’s biggest gay celebration of the year, and one of the biggest Pride events in the world. This has been a long road and finally we had a governor who took a strong stand for gay rights in New York and hopefully other states will take our lead and end their institutionalized apartheid.
But what does this really mean? Is it all that important? Why do the gay folks even want to be a part of an “institution” that the heterosexuals can’t seem to manage worth a darn?
It is important but it’s not the end-all-be-all of gay liberation. It’s a beginning.
We all need sexual liberation. We need liberation from many things. I actually think we need to be liberated from marriage, not trapped in it, but I think the latter is the more common, which is why the divorce rate is so high. Our entire approach to relationships needs to shift. I believe wholeheartedly that relationships are our greatest teachers. I’ve been working on my relationship PhD since before my own divorce! I intentionally call it a “divorce” because that word helps people understand the depth of the split, although we were not officially married, domesticated partners, or civilly unionized. What I’ve learned in my own divorce has been tremendous and is already helping me to help others in their own relationships.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating love. I love that gay and lesbian couples for which actual legal marriage is important can have it in my home state of New York. They should be able to have that. But I have never felt a need to have my nation state put their stamp of approval and validation on my personal, intimate relationship. It is an “institution” which has a history that is largely economic and that was a system for ownership of women. Why do I want that? I can have my own damn celebration without their piece of paper should I want to. But rights are rights and they are supposed to be fair, right?
There are so many rights people automatically get because they become married to another human being. People who are single really get the shaft on this one, and given they (we) have to do everything themselves without the help of someone else, it’s single folks who deserve more tax breaks and assistance. But our system isn’t fair and neither are relationships.
It’s a romantic myth that we can achieve equality. Even in the most equitable intimate relationships, equality does not exist. Each person brings something different to the relationship and we can be grateful for that and hope that it feels mutually satisfying and equitable, but it will never be equal. If we can’t do that one-on-one, how can we expect it from our statehood?
It will be lawyers, wedding planners, bakeries, florists, churches, event locations, chefs, ministers, and accountants that will benefit most from the gay marriage boon. This should be really good for the New York State economy! Obama might consider that as an economic strategy.
And now what? Let this open the door to working on achieving even more important aims for the L/G/B/T community, like parent protections and rights, medical care management and being able to visit our partners and loved ones in the hospital when they are “chosen family” and not “blood family”, safety from violence on our streets and in schools, freedom to express our gender however we want and access to sensitive, competent healthcare for all gendered people, getting our gay and transgender teens off the streets and lowering the outrageous homeless rate (40% of homeless teens are on the streets because of being kicked out or facing homophobia at home), custody rights for gay men, lesbians and transgender people, protection from job discrimination…there are so many more issues that affect our quality of life and livelihood.
This is a door. Let’s walk through it and open the many more doors that lie beyond it. Let’s be joyful for this important moment and then let’s get back to work to take the next steps towards protecting everyone on our communities, including those who want to marry and those of us who don’t.