Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beyond Marriage Brouhaha

A straight man in a long-term marriage may seem naive and presumptuous commenting on last week's Beyond Marriage manifesto. First, let's point to this-but-that opinions in Bay Windows. There, one of the original 250 signers goes up against a firm same-sex marriage advocate. There stances pretty much mirror the instant conflict joined over the matter.

As all good manifestoes, this one has a long, explanatory title -- Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All our Families and Relationships. The summary is here and the full statement here.

The background is:
In April 2006 a diverse group of nearly twenty LGBT and queer activists - some organizers, some scholars and educators, some funders, some writers and cultural workers - came together to discuss marriage and family politics as they exist in the United States today.

We met over the course of two days for lively conversations in which there was often spirited disagreement. However, we do all stand in agreement with the statement entitled "Beyond Same Sex Marriage".

We offer this statement as a way to challenge ourselves and our allies working across race, class, gender and issue lines to frame and broaden community dialogues, to shape alternative policy solutions and to inform organizing strategies around marriage politics to include the broadest definitions of relationship and family.

And challenge is certainly the word. It is a glove across the cheek to some SSM advocates, a long-overdue call for inclusion to parts of the LGBT community, and a welcome escape hatch to those buffeted by the DOMA, amendment and court losses of the past two years.

In BW, Boston gay activist and author Michael Bronski explains his signing. He holds that anyone saying this manifesto denies the need for SSM isn't paying attention. He states that asking to broaden the whole issue to family rights for all, not just gay couples, does not play into right-wing hands, accurately reflects the complexity of human relationships, and in the long-run is what the larger society would benefit from and needs.

Very much opposed to these views is Richard J. Rosendall. He writes that "the document is far too radical, fails to focus on LGBT rights, is abysmally ill-timed, plays into the hands of the anti-gay right and reflects the old penchant of the gay left for building strategic bridges to nowhere." He also dealt with the underlying anti-marriage stance of some signers.

Some of his points can be seen in the manifesto's principles. For example:

  • Freedom from a narrow definition of our sexual lives and gender choices, identifies and expression
  • Recognition and respect for our chosen relationships in their many forms
  • Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households, and families, and for the children in all those households and families, including same0-sex marriage, domestic partner benefits, second-parent adoptions, and others.

The expansion from the civil-rights issue of SSM is disturbing to many others. Understandably, one is Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry's executive director. As BW reports, he views "the document as a direct attack on the same-sex marriage movement, and he accused the document's drafters of pushing an agenda different from that of the more than 250 activists who signed."

In contrast to the idea of winning SSM state by state, the manifesto promotes its "Winnable Strategy." This includes:

No movement thrives without the critical capacity to imagine what is possible.

Our call for an inclusive new civic commitment to the recognition and well-being of diverse households and families is neither utopian nor unrealistic. To those who argue that marriage equality must take strategic precedence over the need for relationship recognition for other kinds of partnerships, households, and families, we note that same-sex marriage (or close approximations thereof) were approved in Canada and other countries only after civic commitments to universal or widely available healthcare and other such benefits. In addition, in the United States, a strategy that links same-sex partner rights with a broader vision is beginning to influence some statewide campaigns to defeat same-sex marriage initiatives.

So, is this a challenge to the right or to SSM advocates, or both? Will this fuel the cries that what SSM folk really want is polyamory and polygamy endorsement, with a concomitant voter backlash? Is this simply the honest call for fair laws for all and recognition of current human relationship reality? Is this a path to fairness by providing many options for legislatures and courts to consider?

We admit that here, we are big SSM advocates. The call in the manifesto seems to roil already muddy waters and distract from clear civil-rights issues that should be addressed, or rather are long-overdue in redress.

Post Post Update: I see that QueerToday now has a post on the manifesto with numerous comments.

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1 comment:

Andrew Varnon said...

A very interesting idea. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I think coalition-building and thinking more broadly about the issue are both good impulses.