Beyond gay marriage; moving on to more pressing issues

June 21, 2011

Last weekend, I went to Iowa to perform and celebrate a heterosexual marriage. A friend of mine, on hearing the news, wrote me a quick note: “Are you already post-gay marriage?”

As my mother likes to point out, I used to be “against” marriage – or, more precisely, with marriage not available to me as an option, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time imagining what might have been. I signed on instead to the idea that if you love, you don’t need a piece of paper from City Hall.

Of course, marriage is more than love. It’s a contract, a deal to live a life together, openly; it’s also a tacit acceptance of membership into mainstream society – it says, we will abide by your rules in exchange for certain rights and protections.

Which is what brought me around, philosophically, to marriage, long before I signed on to it as a possibility for myself. If marriage is available to some – with its rights and protections – then it should be available to all. Isn’t that what democracy is about? (And, no, as sweet as Illinois civil unions have been, the state law is separate but equal – and not good enough.)

Some queer activists decry the prominence the issue has taken, derailing the focus on more radical societal change. Fighting for marriage, to some, seems like fighting to be a neutered domestic cat.

Recently, writer Charles Rice-Gonzalez, referring to the ensuing battle over gay marriage in the New York legislature, had this as a Facebook status: “I really want this to pass so that all those who want to get married can go do so and then they can join the rest of us to work on the other issues affecting LGBT people and the world.”

And there certainly are other issues: Consider, for example, the scourge of anti-gay violence. In Puerto Rico alone, 18 queers have been murdered since November 2009.

According to Rex Wockner’s international gay news service, police in Croatia were both unwilling and unable to protect a June 11 gay pride parade. Thousands of anti-gay protesters hurled bottles, flares, tear gas, eggs, tomatoes, glass, bricks, shoes, paint, cigarette lighters and flowerpots at the 200 marchers while the authorities stood by and watched, wrote Wockner. They also shouted, "Kill the gays."

This, in spite of the fact that Croatia is slated to join the gay-inclusive European Union in 2013.

These may seem extreme, faraway examples but they vividly illustrate the prevalence of a continuing, virulent and deadly hatred toward queer people.

For me, they also explain the need for gay marriage – to normatize, yes, and to protect – and the need to get past it, to move on to more pressing matters.

Love, as I helped celebrate this weekend in a gorgeous family wedding, is beautiful and necessary. But it’s not always an antidote to hate.