Yasmin Nair: Gay marriage, as framed in the United States, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy, in that it allows for a politics of the personal to masquerade as a necessity for policy change. In the process, it serves to distract us from the very real issues facing millions of U.S. citizens and residents.
Yesterday the President of the United States, leader of the free and democratic world let a middle-aged black woman from network TV know his personal opinion of…what they call here in the USA (divisively call) same-sex or gay marriage.
For many gays just listening to the President say gay and lesbian and marriage and agree in the same sentence was enough to have them wildly screaming with joy. Heading to their local bar and ordering martinis and Brazilian wax jobs…
You know, I’m an old fart, I’ve heard many politicians from all manner of countries embrace their gay electorate. The ones I remember best are Paul Keating in Australia who gave an impassioned speech about anti-vilification and inclusivity (made me cry) and of course Tony Blair who charged Waheed (Ali) with his far-reaching UK gay equality bill. (did not make me cry)
It seemed to us, during the grim Thatcher years, that gay rights would never materialize…that we were not welcome in our own country…but I put my faith in activists like Peter Tatchell who steadfastly turned up outside the homes of homophobes, the offices of homophobic organizations, held incendiary Outrage! placards, got arrested and generally caused trouble where ever he could so that our enemy never felt like they could get away with discriminatory behavior.
The gay elite sneered at Peter. They hated him for his trouble making, they called him insane, they denigrated his direct action. Recently, Elton John famously said that he was scared of Peter Tatchell but now (decades later) understands how important people like Peter are.
Peter is a national treasure, brain-damaged from repeated police beatings, poor from dedicating himself to our equality…thankfully he has been embraced by the same elite who once scoffed at his anarchic antics.
He taught me: never accept anything a politician says at face value.
So, when President Obama, flagging in popularity amongst his own, wants a boost? There we are…the convenient truth.
Today, I managed to incite the ire of my friends and foes alike by sneering at President Obama’s ill-judged and badly timed personal opinion about marriage equality.
The day after the 39th state in the union denounced same sex marriage and civil unions…North Carolina…he decides to ‘bravely’ come out for the gays.
Not everyone bought the president’s evolution.
“Waiting until AFTER the vote that divested NC’s gays of their constitutional /civil rights to speak for marriage equality is cowardly NOT heroic.” Roseanne Barr
“The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don’t see much of a distinction– beyond that.” Joe Biden
Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the scenario had been planned.
The President merely said what any intelligent, liberal, modern man in his position must have thought for some time. I doubt whether his position had ‘evolved’. All that had ‘evolved’ was the moment his pro gay position could be revealed for maximum impact.
He was described as ‘brave’ his decision as ‘risky’ and his few words as ‘historical’. The interview applauded by gay groups and liberal straights alike.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
@jessetyler @duncaninla change takes time. It’s impossible to please everyone. Especially those who make it impossible to please.
Within minutes of the president’s pronouncement his liberal apotheosis began.
I was bombarded with fund raising requests from organizations like the HRC who shamelessly picked over the bones of the ‘unexpected’ Presidential LGBT patronage. The Obama ‘evolution’ will net millions for his campaign from traditionally very generous LGBT donors.
The gays reacted with unbridled and unquestioning enthusiasm, as a community we seem addicted to good news and paternalistic validation.
Upon hearing the Obamamessiah’s announcement Andrew Sullivan, the gay pundit had ‘tears in his eyes’. President Obama, according to Sullivan, has ‘let go of fear’. In Sullivan’s sentimental one issue world he succumbs, finally to the President’s change he could believe in.
Sullivan guesses that Obama has owned his blackness is the same way we must own our gayness. (I had tears in my eyes when I read that)
Andrew Sullivan gushes along side our friend Jesse Ferguson: The President’s endorsement will make young gays feel better about themselves, gay parents will know their kids have a place in the USA. In Sullivan’s exciting new world of Presidential fearlessness there’s a great deal of…expectation…I hope he isn’t disappointed.
Unless…of course, you’re the parents of children killed in drone attacks in northern Afghanistan…or find yourself out of a home or a job because the President is still fearful of the banks and his own military.
I found myself wondering what young straight people were thinking. Those who have supported the abstract notion of marriage equality but now peer at it cautiously…startled by the Presidential candor…like it’s a real issue and not something they have patiently listened to their gay friends bang on about.
Straight people might agree in principle with marriage equality but when ever we find this issue on the ballot…we lose.
Black voters, led by black churches, have played key roles in blocking same-sex marriage in states like California, where 2008 exit polls indicated about 70 percent black opposition, and Maryland, where black Democrats were part of a statehouse coalition that stalled a gay marriage bill in 2011.
Which brings me to this: The nub, the thorny question of style.
I have never liked the word marriage. It is steeped in heterosexual tradition.
I have never felt like I wanted to own this non secular word. It has nothing to do with me or the language and traditions of the gay life I evolved along side other men and women if the UK.
Yasmin Nair: “The fight for gay marriage, in granting that institution so much importance, is slowly eroding the possibility that the rest of the population might get rights and benefits without marrying each other. The fight over gay marriage has emerged as a progressive cause that all progressive straights should join when, in fact, it’s a deeply conservative movement that strips our movement of any imagination. Instead of asking for one way to grant rights and benefits, we ought to be advocating for a multiplicity of options.”
It is my understanding that when Waheed Ali was given the choice…he chose (after consultation) civil union as the way forward for British Gays and Lesbians. Now, 15 years later, those words are once again being re-evaluated. British gays are demanding the word marriage. Not my choice but, thankfully, they are fighting from a position of power.
Their equal rights already assured the word marriage is merely the icing on the equality cake…nor thankfully are the LGBT community in the UK hankering for the Queen to validate their position.
Once upon a time Civil Unions were mooted then tentatively offered to the LGBT community here in the USA but…they turned them down flat.
Even George W Bush thought Civil Unions a good idea. The LGBT community said they were not prepared to be separate but equal yet in the same breath tried convincing the skeptical that incremental baby steps toward marriage equality was the only way.
Civil Union might have been a great baby step…no?
Now, even Civil Unions are being outlawed for gay people. Since Bush left office the right wing has become insanely entrenched, enraged, intractable….and unbelievably…more right wing.
Later, in the ‘historic’ interview President Obama made it clear what he considered important elements of a marriage: Commitment and monogamy. I nearly choked. So many of my gay friends do not rate monogamy highly on their list of per-requisites for a good gay marriage.
We are entering uncharted moral territory.
Yesterday, my educated American friends were baffled and confused when I said: Capitalism discovered that the LGBT community was generally well educated and affluent…and could be bought.
It is indeed a very interesting time to be gay in the USA. However, I’d like to see less simpering, fewer baby steps and more activism. Less cowardice and ass bleaching and more brave souls willing to be arrested and stand up for the rights they expect others to win for them.
What we do with this presidential approval is up to us.
The only time I have ever felt proud of American gays in my life time was when prop 8 was ratified. The people took to the streets, they ensnared the traffic of Los Angeles, stormed Mormon churches and caused mayhem in the city.
It was a night to be proud to be gay and I urge you all to remember the anger you felt that night because you must feel that anger every night until you are equal in every way.
Jeanne Cordova: “At the time, selling out our radical underpinnings made me very sad. We egg-throwers had to morph into omelet makers. Unhappily, I was left with the realization that all social movements start with radical ideology, but unless they progress to a blood and guts revolution, like a socialist overthrow, movements must inevitably adopt a civil rights and assimilationist stance or die out.”
- Rep. Steny Hoyer Comes Out For Marriage Equality (thinkprogress.org)