Thrill, Critique, Marriage, Equality: A Reconciliation
For as long as I can remember, I've been suspicious of the calls for legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Not because I'm conservative, but rather because I think marriage is conservative. For early advocates of gay marriage (notably Andrew Sullivan), this was exactly the point. I've found the critiques from the queer left — from the likes of John D'Emilio, Michael Warner, and the folks at Against Equality — really compelling. Of course things are complicated and contexts are always shifting, and none of these tidy positions will ever be sufficient. But I found myself having to do a little reflection and reconciliation on the morning of the big ruling. Below is what I ended up posting on Facebook, among a sea of jubilant posts from Friends. Perhaps it wasn't the right time to be critical, but this was the best way I knew how to join in the revelry.
Ok fine. It is absolutely thrilling. This is me being thrilled. Really. I am grateful to those who fight so hard for equality and justice, and also grateful — equally grateful — to those who continue to critique the terms on which that equality is offered. Marriage is a conservative institution that works hardest for folks who already have a good degree of privilege. It protects property. It prioritizes some kinds of love and kinship over others. It can't in any sense be about "equality" so long as it affords rights to the married that it denies to the unmarried. If the expansion of marriage allows more people to live and love the way they want — and I know it does — that is wonderful. Obviously and beautifully wonderful. If it risks limiting other ways of living and loving, enshrining normativity where there could be radical queer possibilities, radically queer equalities — and I know it does — then it deserves our continued suspicion and scrutiny. Let there be room for it all, equally — loving and thinking and celebrating — as fully, as colorfully, and as imaginatively as we can muster. xo.