Friday, May 15, 2009

"...a band on iron which holds them so tightly together that it is as though their plurality had disappeared into One Man of gigantic dimensions."

Many of you know that I am not a supporter of "gay marriage," and while many would like to see the recent decisions in various states to legalize gay marriage (as though it were a contraband "substance"--the full metaphysical weight of that word implied) as cause for optimism, in fact, no, we are not yet equal citizens, even in those states.

As NPR contributor Nancy Goldstein recently wrote "The media's primary focus on the morality debate around same-sex marriage means that most of the public, gay or straight, knows little about the very real economic costs of inequality." This is because, she continues, the Defense of Marriage Act (1996--that's right, Bill Clinton! who didn't even both to veto the bill because "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered."--interview in the Advocate) Even Barak Obama is back-peddling on his position regarding the full repeal  DOMA, a crucial part of his campaign for wooing queer voter (but then, he could have said anything because we weren't voting for McCain, and Hilary made next to no overtures to our bloc). In hindsight, the spectacle of the symbolism of two fags or two bull dykes kissing at the alter gave him ample smoke and mirrors to remove that language from the White House's "Civil Rights" page.

Goldstein continues, however, noting that through DOMA "the federal government denies to legally married same-sex couples the 1,138 federal protections and benefits it extends to all other married couples." She cites the anecdotal example of Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez: "They've been together for 32 years and have paid nearly $20,000 more in taxes since their 2004 marriage than if they had been able to file a joint federal return." $20,000 in 5 years!? That's outrageous! (Fuck closeted congressmen--this is an outrage!)

Goldstein's point is well made: "DOMA doesn't just hurt our pride: It undermines our ability to take care of one another. Neither Joan [her partner] nor I have the right to take family medical leave from our jobs in the event that one of us becomes seriously ill. In couples where one spouse is a U.S. citizen and the other is not, the citizen cannot obtain a visa for the noncitizen or sponsor him or her for citizenship. And forget about inheritance. If you're in a same-sex marriage and your spouse leaves her estate to you — for example, the house you shared — you'll be forced to pony up as much as 50 percent of her estate's value in taxes. Price tag for federally recognized married couples? Zero."

The vapidity of so many queers who support gay marriage--"It's about equal rights..." and so on--is summarily exposed by this article: real equality isn't granted by a hostile State, nor does it come from symbolic but ultimately meaningless gestures, however proud we wish to feel about now having the right to be further embedded in the cultural rituals of heteronormativity.

I do, however, hold out some hope: there are some of us who see the real problem as the imbrication of Foucaultian bio-power (if you will) with Statist juridical authority. To not launch a political campaign that confronts both registers of this oppressive harmonics is a grave mistake: we wind up with marriage, but the band we get to wear is ever more constricting. The extent to which we can transform critique into actionable politics hinges on our willingness to assault the cultural assumptions that are reinforced in their here-to-fore uninhibited (re)production. Perhaps a good starting point might be by raising the question, Why is the State in the business of regulating our relationships--queer or straight--in the first place?

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