May 1, 2011

Queer Issue: The Problems of Marriage Equality

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 16th Annual SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference. I have been a part of this conference for some time, starting 5 years ago when I joined the 12th Annual Conference planning committee with the mere thought of fulfilling the "public speaking" gen ed requirement I needed for my bachelors degree. I had no idea that it would lead me to becoming a philosophy major, plus 2 more times on the Philosophy Conference Committee, concluding with me chairing the committee two years ago. Last year, after I had graduated, I came back to serve as a discussant on a paper by David Naples which he discussed the subjective grounds that arguments for and against marriage equality are based upon. The abstract can be read here.

This year, Naples was the discussant for another paper on gay marriage by Kirk Schneider and the abstract for his paper can be found here. I was glad when Naples claimed that Schneider was not radical enough, as Schneider's arguments were limited to same sex marriage, and argued this year, that the entire issue of marriage needs to be analyzed and questioned, particularly when it comes to issue of societal approval.

To put it another way, Naples was arguing for a point of view that closely resembled one adopted by Against Equality: Queer Challanges to the Politics of Inclusion, as well as the viewpoint adopted by the editors of That's Revolting! Queer Stratagies for Resisting Assimilation.

According to Against Equality:
Gay marriage apes hetero privilege and allows everyone to forget that marriage ought not to be the guarantor of rights like health care. In their constant invoking of the “right” to gay marriage, mainstream gays and lesbians express a confused tangle of wishes and desires. They claim to contest the Right’s conservative ideology yet insist that they are more moral and hence more deserving than sluts like us. They claim that they simply want the famous 1000+ benefits but all of these, like the right to claim protection in cases of domestic violence, can be made available to non-marital relationships.

On the most general grounds that marriage ought not to confer rights that should be guaranteed to all, I agree with Against Equality. However, I feel that are still situations which are being ignored here by Against Equality that need addressing.

In general, I feel that term marriage should be left to religion and not given any special legal standing. However, civil unions between can and should be given legal recognition and considered the same as any other legally binding contract that can be made between two or more consenting adults. This civil union contract would then be used in cases when issues or questions regarding custody of kids, medical decisions when one partner no longer has the capacity to make those decisions, and inheritance of property when one partner dies.

Notice how all of those cases can be decided without the need to engage in a civil union, the simple advantage of them being recognized by a civil union contract would be a bundling effect. That is, rather than having to decide each item separately, this civil union contract would have defaults that would come into play whenever certain situations arose.

To conclude, I would like to point out that a general philosophical issue that I had with Against Equality was that its purpose, as far as I could tell, was defined in the negative. That is, while Against Equality, was objecting to broad problems within the LGBT rights movement, specifically the problem of the push for marriage equality, I did not notice that many specific solutions being proposed. In fact, a lot of what I read had a negative attitude in general. I should point out though, that I did not do a thorough investigation of the site, so I cannot make a definitive claim here. However, I would argue that Against Equality raises enough valid points that they should not be ignored or dismissed out of hand simply because of this negativity.

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