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Genderless marriage, or, What’s in a Frame?

March 27, 2013

HRC Equality Red

Yesterday (and today) have been interesting days. I noticed earlier last morning (like, 2AM early), that around 7 of my friends had changed their profile pictures to a pink-on-red variation of the Human Rights Campaign’s equal sign logo. It seems that as with sports and holidays (“March Madness” does not seem real to me…and I had to google just to confirm that it is pretty much happening right now. I completely missed St. Patrick’s Day whenever that was), I am also living under a rock when it comes to politics — I know the Supreme Court would be hearing cases on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, but I didn’t know when.

Well, the profile pictures clued me in.

The main reason today has been interesting is because so many people I know have shown their support for marriage equality/gay marriage/same-sex marriage.

Like, I am aware that my friend group is assuredly not a random sampling (let’s put it this way: I have the greatest number of friends in common with John Dehlin, followed closely by Joanna Brooks. After a gap comes my own brother in third place.)

Nevertheless, the 7 early birds ballooned out to a much larger number…I haven’t counted them all, but here’s one thing I’ll say: I’ve seen several Facebook discussions where every commenter has a red equal sign.

Is it so strange that support for gay marriage/same-sex marriage/marriage equality has spread so quickly?

Sorry for the unwieldy terms here…but that gets me closer to what I wanted to talk about today. What do we even call this?

Perhaps I’m just not critical enough in my use of language, but the term I naturally move to using is “gay marriage.” Many of the articles I see describe it as “same-sex marriage,” but that leaves a similar taste (at least in my mouth) as “same-sex attraction” — yet I doubt that the origins of both phrases are anywhere near the same, so maybe the connotations aren’t either?

I see a lot of activist and supporter types using “marriage equality”, and while I find this somewhat unwieldy, I like the gist of the framing here. (As supporters and proponents will often point out, gay marriage is just marriage, so why not treat marriages equally?)

I don’t know the data on who is most likely to use which term — I think it would be cool if it maps out regionally like the soda-pop-coke difference does…but if I had to guess, I would say that these three names (including same-sex marriage) are neutral to supportive terms to frame the concept.

So, then, what is the opposition fighting?

Cue the title.

I have seen this a few times, but the term boggles my mind: genderless marriage. The most recent time is in this Meridian Magazine post: “The Inequalities of “Equal” Marriage”. (Note…this is a Meridian magazine article…if you don’t know what that entails and are at risk of having high blood pressure, you might want to pass on it…and probably skip this article, since I’ll have quotes below.)

I guess the basic issue for me is that the term “genderless marriage” just doesn’t make sense. It reminds me of when people say that gay people are just experiencing “gender confusion.” While I could maybe understand if that were a confusion of gay issues with trans issues (considering in the QUILTBAG or LGBTQIA [so many letters!] umbrella, trans- and gay/lesbian/bisexual are usually included together), but to the contrary, it’s usually not even nuanced enough for that to apply.

…but let me just put this out there. No matter how problematic gender or sex terms might be, with sexual orientations, sex and gender do matter. Being gay isn’t being “confused” about one’s gender. It’s a guy knowing he’s a guy who likes other guys, or a girl knowing she’s a girl who likes other girls.

…of course, the reason why it comes out as gender confusion or as genderless marriage is because of paradigm mismatch. I understand that what they really intend to talk about is a mismatch, redefinition, or renegotiation of gender and gender roles.

The problem is that our gender role expectations haven’t been a perfect match for plenty of people for ever. (It’s just that more and more, these people are speaking out about it instead of hiding for their safety.) [Note, one can feel the gender role expectations mismatch without being transgender. But put this in the box of “the difficulty in even establishing gender in the first place.”]

We have also been redefining and renegotiating gender roles for…ever.

This, by the way, is why the concept of traditional marriage doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It just seems to me that people who use the term 100% unironically are not aware enough of the shifting goals both in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Fortunately for our purposes, the Meridian Magazine article gives a great example:

Besides children, women who carry the burden of pregnancy are obviously at greater risk than men in the childbearing process. Historically, gendered marriage has tied men to their children and to the mothers who sacrifice to create them. This arrangement not only overcomes but also compliments the biological differences of men and women.

Finally, gendered marriage addresses the rights of fathers. Fatherhood is the most fragile biological relationship in the father-mother-child triangle. The bond between mother and child is obvious. The father less so. Marriage closes this gap by legally binding a father to a mother and child, giving him both rights and responsibilities in a relationship that, by the way, dramatically affects the successful socialization of children.

I interviewed a lawyer once and asked her to imagine a world without legal marriage. She abruptly responded: “It would be chaos. Women and children would be chattel. They could be abandoned without the slightest thought. They would have no legal recourse.”

By traditional definition, marriage is the protective sanctuary that allows children to have a relationship with both father and mother. That relationship provides them with the stable and long-term care and nurturance they deserve. “Without this public purpose,” Dr. Morse explains, “marriage would cease to exist as a distinct social institution.”

From the start, I recognized the general thrust of this argument…probably because Seth R has posted the basic idea in several venues across the internet (including with a defense of the origins of patriarchy as giving men a reason to become involved in society [comment 10 {also, to be fair, he’s trying to separate his own personal views from his reporting of sociology/history/psychology}]. I know there’s at least one person who calls Seth a rape apologist, but if she saw that comment…)

…And if you check out the main post to which Seth was responding (see link above), Nathaniel also hashes out (in far more eloquent language) the Meridian article’s basic contention that the bond between father and child is asymmetric and tenuous contrasted with the  bond between mother and child.

But then you have an anonymous lawyer who throws around the word chattel.

…Well, see, the funny thing about the word “chattel” is that it has a history. If you google for “chattel” and “women,” you’re not going to find results about an “imagined” world “without legal marriage.” To the contrary, you will find instead that women as chattel is a tradition embedded in the legal understanding of marriage.

So, by traditional definition, marriage isn’t quite the “protective” sanctuary that allows children to have a relationship with both father and mother. It’s protective in that the man has his best interests in making sure his property and livestock are well-taken care of — considering that part of it will be his food, part of it will be making his food, and part of it will inherit  and continue his legacy. And maybe that’s what matters to traditionalists (because the presumably capitalist traditionalist might not see any other reason for a man to stick around if there aren’t legally defined and socially-enforced economics around it.)

Here’s the thing…most folks simply don’t want to go that traditional (although, there are still people who nevertheless want exactly that and understand that to achieve that, you have to roll back quite a few other things that the rest of us would consider necessities of modern living, rather than degradations of society against tradition.)

Like, we simply moved aware from the gender role expectation of women not seeking education, or not seeking to work wherever they please with that education.

I’ll re-emphasize: we moved. It’s done. It already happened. For people who want to roll it back, everyone sees it as a roll-back. And most don’t see it as a rollback worth making.

When you have women who can seek education and who can seek to work, then you have women who have economic power — and these women, suddenly, have a degree of independence. They do not need a husband to give a “protective sanctuary”. Believe it or not…they are not at risk of becoming chattel, because they are not owned in the first place. (Think about what the lawyer quoted in the Meridian article is saying: without legal marriage, [women] would have no legal recourse. But why is legal recourse for women dependent on her being tied to a husband?)

This is just one change of many — and note that this change in particular does not overtly seem to have anything to do with LGBT people or even marriage in particular. Nevertheless, it was a change that renegotiated the expectations of the tradition. Again, past tense. The tradition has already been renegotiated. When someone talks about “traditional” marriage they have to square that.

And I’m not saying that because changes happened in the past, we must change everything that comes along as it comes. Instead, what I’m saying is that the changes that have led us to the point where my Facebook is inundated with red equal signs have already arrived. We are already here. Going back is just that: rolling back.

…But of course, these things aren’t inevitabilities. And even if we could make this a line, this isn’t the end of the line.

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23 Comments
  1. I still can’t change my picture on Facebook from my phone. When I apologized to several friends, they said that while they loved the solidarity, it can be hard sometimes to remember who said what in a discussion or thread.

    I have been thinking about that a lot, and I think it is actually pretty great that so many people are in solidarity of having another step forward, *instead* of stepping back, that makes it great. People who want to see marriage extended to all citizens of “legal age” has always seemed to me a basic right. To emphasize that, most of the people I know use the term marriage equality, because we hope to fight this only once. If marriage rights are granted to everyone, then marriage equality should extend to Trans and Queer citizens, no matter which letter in the QUILTBAG you fall under. (I don’t think same-sex marriage, when used by supporters carries any of the baggage that same-sex attraction does for Mormons, but most Mormon activists choose different words because we know what wounds have been left on our non-heterosexual brothers and sisters.)

    I agree that we have already moved far beyond the point where heterosexual marriage can be claimed to be a stabilizing force, since we see many countries who have gender-queer equality, and society has not broken apart. I have a friend who spent a number of years living in Sweden as an ex-pat. One of the first Sundays at church, they were talking about culture shock. Several members of their ex-pat ward reminded my friend that they were now living in a culture old enough to know how to change well, when change was both good and inevitable, and to fight that which could destroy the culture. While as Americans we like to both feel superior to others, and brag about the “peaceful” way political power changes hands according to the will of the people, the reality is that most people do not change how they think about the world, just because an election is lost. I think this is a case of some that that is good, and inevitable, that will be something where those who fight it to the death, will wake up after there is nothing left to fight, and realize they have been living with this fight lost already.

  2. Seth R. permalink

    Andrew, I’m tempted to suggest you go rent a few episodes of Girls Gone Wild and get back to me on whether women are chattel or not in our modern society.

    How many dates is it now before the woman is required to “put out” for the guy in order to keep dating?

    And don’t talk about the security afforded women in our modern social context of free relationships until you’ve dealt with the aftermath of divorce. I’ve seen too many households financially devastated by divorce, where the women had no leverage to get much of anything from their husband (except custody of the kids). I can’t honestly say these women are better off in the aggregate than their ancestors were.

    Actually, genderless marriage is a perfectly apt term.

    Because we are talking about an institution. It’s a term describing an institution, not people.

    Your response was “well these gay men and women aren’t confused about their genders.” It misses the point entirely. Because we weren’t talking about gay individuals in the first place. We were talking about the nature of the INSTITUTION. And the institution, under this reform, becomes genderless. The description is completely accurate. You performed subtle sleight of hand in your analysis of this term. You quickly shifted the focus to gay individuals, and seemed to assume that these individuals were all the term was referring to. It wasn’t even considered that the institution might be a separate identity all of its own. That an institution is capable of taking on a life of its own beyond the circumstances of the individuals you’re making examples of. If you talk in terms of the institution, the effect of this reform is to render gender irrelevant to marriage. Thus “genderless marriage.”

    Unwittingly (I presume) your attempt to challenge the term with individual examples highlights a recurring theme I’ve seen in the gay marriage movement. They are always, always, ALWAYS thinking at the individual level, the anecdotal level, the micro level. That’s where their pleas are directed, that’s where their arguments are directed. And rarely ever do they show any interest in the institutional level, the societal level, the macro level.

    So someone is claiming that marriage is an institution meant to foster the biological creation of, and raising of children?

    Respond immediately with individual anecdotes of childless couples.

    Is someone talking about how – on the aggregate – gay marriage will collapse the paradigm of child care giving in society?

    Respond again with anecdotes of caring gay parents and immediately boil it down to your own personal response – “well, I personally would never treat marriage as less about children because of this.”

    Always avoid and deflect making this a question about society, social links, the big picture, population trends, and the question of what we want the ENTIRE society to look like 100 years from now. Don’t ask those questions. Instead focus it on the plight of individuals and how this would make them individually happier.

    I’m more convinced than ever Andrew that the gay marriage movement frankly doesn’t give a damn about the INSTITUTION of marriage. They only see it as a package of personal social perks that will presumably make them happier as individuals. It’s a symbolic crux issue in their quest for personal acceptance from society. It’s not about children, it’s not about society. It’s about them. Every argument I’ve heard from the gay marriage movement solidifies this conclusion. It’s always in terms of individual goods, rarely ever about societal goods (unless a conservative troll on the Internet grudgingly forces such lip service out of them).

    My comment on Times and Seasons was primarily making the point that before you should be allowed to knock something down, or redefine it, you should demonstrate that you understand the value of why its there. I have no confidence whatsoever that the gay marriage movement has such understanding, or is even interested in gaining it. The relentless focus on individual self in these debates just solidifies that impression.

    I’m quite confident that once the gay movement has secured marriage classification – they will, in the course of only a couple decades (if even that long), join with the rest of society in casting marriage off entirely in favor of cohabitation arrangements and fluid sexual bonds.

    Once this little marriage fad has had its day, it will outlive its novelty, and the gay movement will move on to something else. The rest of heterosexual society is already trending heavily away from marriage – either through the divorce rate, or through cohabitation. These trends will likely be even more pronounced in the gay population – since it’s just a brutal situational fact that they have less reason to be married or stay married than heterosexuals do as a population. I imagine I’ll be listening to an NPR news report ten years from now with analysts taken aback at how high the gay divorce rate and unmarried rate is. We’ll see a spike in marriages after legalization due to the temporary euphoria. Then the reality will set in, and much of it will crumble, and the honeymoon period will be over.

    You can call gay marriage historically inevitable if you wish – that doesn’t make it particularly good news.

  3. Seth R. permalink

    Sweden, by the way, is a bit of a child-rearing hell from the accounts I’ve seen. It’s a good example of a society that has pretty-much abandoned its children to a mandatory daycare system in favor of adult rights. It’s a very adult-right-centric society. Where idealized phrases like “right to work” mask a culture of relentless persecution of stay-at-home parents. And the country has paid the price with alarming rates of teen depression, violence, misbehavior, falling academic performance, and young adult unemployment.

    I wouldn’t want to be Sweden for any money.

  4. Julia,

    Unfortunately, it seems to me that even if it’s framed as marriage equality, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the end-all be-all for all groups. I don’t think this is just a one-time-only fight.

    I think your expat friend’s Sweden story is really interesting.

    Seth,

    I’ll pass on Girls Gone Wild, but one thing I would say is that for all of the issues with Girls Gone Wild, i don’t think that is an issue of women being treated as chattel. For that, I think you would look at the custom of men having to ask for a girl’s father’s permission before dating/marrying her — as if the woman does not really have self-determination of her own interests, but really, it’s a transaction of property/services between the father to the prospective son-in-law. *That* is chattel.

    How many dates is it now before the woman is required to “put out” for the guy in order to keep dating?

    Note that the scenario you raise up is one reason to oppose patriarchy. I think something that is kinda related to this (but that shows a “flip side” as it were) that keeps coming up is the “nice guy” phenomenon. The “nice” guy comes along, treating women well and being nice, and then is offended when his niceness doesn’t equate to currency for sex (after which, in his frustration, he decries those frigid [insert derogatory term].)

    Reasonable people, of course, speak out against “nice guys.” This isn’t an issue where the woman is required to “put out” for the guy in order to keep dating. This is an issue where women have the power to cut off the relationship or not pursue a relationship to begin with if those are the expectations.

    So, it seems again that you’re looking at this from the PoV of women needing a man, and thus the man having the power to stop dating if the woman doesn’t “put out.” The women didn’t need a man to begin with, so they can be choosy about men who have crappy attitudes. It’s traditionalist and patriarchal elements in society that are supposing otherwise.

    Actually, genderless marriage is a perfectly apt term.

    …if you want to be misunderstood by everyone outside of your (increasingly unpopular and incompatible) worldview.

    Because we are talking about an institution. It’s a term describing an institution, not people.

    I think the issue is that people want institutions that serve people. So, people are talking about people. If you want to have an institution divorced from people, their needs and wants, then you’re not going to get very far.

    OK, but I see you have spent quite a few paragraphs on this point, so let me try to say more about it.

    What would it even mean to say that marriage is “genderless” or “not genderless”? What does it mean to say that the institution of marriage is genderless or not genderless? Because the only thing I can think of is that the participants therein are gendered or genderless.

    So, we might say that a non-gay marriage is gendered because it is between a man and a woman. The participants have gender.

    …but we wouldn’t say that in marriage equality, marriage is genderless. Because it still features men and women, even if the combination might not be one man and one woman, but rather two men or two women. Because the partners *still* have genders, the institution *still* is gendered.

    It would not make sense to say that marriage is male, or that marriage is female, or that marriage is male and female. It only makes sense to refer to the *participants* w/r/t marriage (marriage is between a man and a woman…or marriage is between men and women.)

    It wasn’t even considered that the institution might be a separate identity all of its own. That an institution is capable of taking on a life of its own beyond the circumstances of the individuals you’re making examples of.

    OK, let’s speak of the institution having a separate identity all of its own. That identity can still change (as it has). So, the question is…what would it mean for the institutions identity of its own to be gendered?

    I’ll get to something about change here.

    Unwittingly (I presume) your attempt to challenge the term with individual examples highlights a recurring theme I’ve seen in the gay marriage movement. They are always, always, ALWAYS thinking at the individual level, the anecdotal level, the micro level. That’s where their pleas are directed, that’s where their arguments are directed. And rarely ever do they show any interest in the institutional level, the societal level, the macro level.

    What can we say about a society or the macro level or institutions outside of its effect on individuals. In fact, what can we say about various elements of society or society itself except as being *classes* of individuals.

    Note: this post deliberately focused on changes brought to marriage as an institution not because of the “gay marriage movement.” But were changes for women just changes for individuals? Or were they changes for a *class* of individuals, where the macro level attention caused an improvement on the micro-level?

    So someone is claiming that marriage is an institution meant to foster the biological creation of, and raising of children?

    Respond immediately with individual anecdotes of childless couples.

    Or, even better, respond with the *social* and *macro* level changes that have led and continue lead to the social facts that children are being reared outside of marriages, and marriage can either become obsolete (if this is the purpose) or it can evolve.

    You talk raising of children, I say there are already gay folks raising children. I say there are already divorced folks raising children. I say there are already single folks raising children.

    Furthermore, I say that all of these changes (and these are changes that not-a-one of them came from the “gay marriage movement”) are not simply individual, but macro-changes. Because IMO, you can’t separate the two. You can’t define macro without reference to the micro. (This is why, for example, people who accept micro-evolution but do not accept macro-evolution aren’t really taken all that seriously by people who actually know what’s up. There’s a line being placed between the two that doesn’t actually exist.)

    Is someone talking about how – on the aggregate – gay marriage will collapse the paradigm of child care giving in society?

    Respond again with anecdotes of caring gay parents and immediately boil it down to your own personal response – “well, I personally would never treat marriage as less about children because of this.”

    I would first point out that you have to look at where we are *today*. *Today*, marriage is too limited to appropriately cover many cases of where children are actually being raised and cared for. Child-rearing doesn’t describe how people think of marriage today, and marriage doesn’t describe where children are being reared *today*.

    Preventing the gay folks who *already are parents* from being married doesn’t really help your cause…and neither does it convince straight folks with kids who do not see their marriage as being about their kids (and thus who raise their kids outside marriage or in — that’s not the deciding factor anyway) to start thinking that way.

    It’s a basic disconnect between what you want marriage to be about and how people actually view marriage. Again, this is not anything that gay people did. These are societal and institutional changes that have ALREADY HAPPENED.

    My comment on Times and Seasons was primarily making the point that before you should be allowed to knock something down, or redefine it, you should demonstrate that you understand the value of why its there. I have no confidence whatsoever that the gay marriage movement has such understanding, or is even interested in gaining it. The relentless focus on individual self in these debates just solidifies that impression.

    But here’s another thing: if we already can define something, and understand not only the value, but the harms and the values prevented, then we certain should adjust and modify.

    Your defense of patriarchy especially shows that. The supposed values therein do not really justify it (which is why your comments weren’t 100% fully gungho in support. Patriarchy is a poor attempt to fix a problem that is separate. People have been and continue to develop solutions around it that lessen the need for it.

    Same thing with “traditional” marriage.

    The rest of heterosexual society is already trending heavily away from marriage – either through the divorce rate, or through cohabitation.

    So, what in the hell are you going to do about this? Talking about why gay marriage is so individualistic or whatever does nothing but make you look out of touch and out of solutions.

    I’ll point out — the reason why these changes keep happening and you can’t seem to come up with anything to address them is because you don’t see the changes around and behind them. Which are *institutional* and *societal*. They are, of course, *already here*.

    The real issue, if you, for example, care about child rearing, is to develop institutions that fit in with modernity to address where children are being raised, why people do and do not decide to have children, etc.,

    Instead, you insist that society try to roll back to a “tradition” that I will re-emphasize has already passed and is continuing to pass away. In the meantime, you don’t understand or appreciate that the reasons that it has moved on are things seen as social benefits.

  5. I still don’t understand why “genderless marriage” as Seth is defining here isn’t appropriate. What Seth is saying is that if it doesn’t matter what gender one spouse is and it doesn’t matter what gender the other spouse is, then gender doesn’t seem to be essential to the definition of marriage – hence, genderless. Certainly the spouses have genders – I don’t think Seth is saying that their reproductive organs fall off – it’s just that the genders don’t have any bearing on participation in the institution. Perhaps an analogue is when we say “justice is blind.” We don’t put out the eyes of everyone involved – rather, the saying means that one can participate in that institution as an equal without regard to appearance – thus, justice is sight-less. And in a “genderless” institution of marriage one can participate in the institution without regards to what gender you or your spouse are.

    This is apart from the question of whether “genderless marriage” is a good or bad thing, but I don’t see why it’s so objectionable to say that if the gender of the spouses doesn’t matter, then the institution of marriage is “genderless,” if we’re saying it in the same sense that the justice system is “sightless.” An institution can be said to “lack” something if that thing is not essential for participation in the institution. And perhaps another analogue – when Paul said there is neither bond nor free, black nor white, male or female, etc. he wasn’t saying that those things did not exist (or that our reproductive organs would fall off and our skins would become the same color if we go to Heaven), just that they weren’t meaningful distinctions when considering whether a person could participate in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  6. Syphax,

    still don’t understand why “genderless marriage” as Seth is defining here isn’t appropriate. What Seth is saying is that if it doesn’t matter what gender one spouse is and it doesn’t matter what gender the other spouse is, then gender doesn’t seem to be essential to the definition of marriage – hence, genderless.

    It’s the difference between gender and gender role expectations.

    If it doesn’t matter what gender one spouse is and it doesn’t matter what gender the other spouse is — but both spouses are assuredly gendered — then gender is still essential to the definition of marriage, even if the expectations about which gender each spouse is is not the same.

    The distinction matters because it’s important to really recognize that what Seth would want to call ‘genderless’ marriage really isn’t much of a change or break from how things currently are — because all of the gender role expectation changes necessary for gay marriage to happen have already happened. This is true whether one spouse is a man and the other is a woman (as is currently the case in the vast majority of marriages) or if both spouses are men or are women.

    And this too is apart from the question of whether the gender roles that we have renegotiated over the decades are good or bad, but my point is that Seth and other traditional marriage advocates aren’t going to get very far, because some of those changes have settled as decidedly good changes.

    I don’t think your “justice is blind” analogy works here. This is referring to what a personification of justice would see (externally.) It looks upon everyone and doesn’t “see” anything. But the marriage concept isn’t really saying the same thing. It’s a more inward attempt, in which case, it either doesn’t make sense to *ever* speak of marriage as being gendered (even in “traditional” marriage, if marriage were a hypothetical personage…which gender would it be?) or it makes sense to always being gendered (OK, so marriage in a traditional relationship isn’t necessarily male or female…but a superposition of the fact that its participants are gendered…but this is true with gay marriage too.)

  7. Seth R. permalink

    Responses later. But came across this short speech segment from a lesbian journalist openly stating that the aim of the gay rights movement is ultimately the annihilation of marriage, not simply altering the existing institution to include gays:

    Some may cringe to hear it bluntly put like that. But I think she’s absolutely correct in her assessment of where this is going.

  8. Seth,

    *smh*

    But came across this short speech segment from a lesbian journalist openly stating that the aim of the gay rights movement is ultimately the annihilation of marriage, not simply altering the existing institution to include gays

    This is how I know that you’re an alarmist crank who has no actual understanding of the environment (but really, I already knew that. 😉 )

    Queer theorists (using this broadly, but I think this is the right division) have had a long-standing tension with LGBT activists (again, using this term broadly).

    The similarity between a deconstructionist/queer theorist and an LGBT activist is that both see the status quo of marriage as being problematic and restrictive. (OK, that’s the similarity)

    But the difference is where each thinks the problems come from and how we can address those problems.

    LGBT activists say, “Status quo marriage is correctably/at its periphery problematic, so let’s open it up to more folks and/or export it to underserved groups.”

    Queer theorists say, “Status quo marriage is incorrigibly/deeply/at its core problematic, so let’s deconstruct it and come up with something else more equitable.”

    For an analogy, think of the different kinds of people who find the LDS church problematic and restrictive.

    One group says, “The church is basically good, but if x, y, and z changed, then it could be more good and we could make it more palatable to more people.”

    The other group says, “The church is at core not good, and x, y, and z are just a few manifestations of this. We should be trying to get people away from it and/or diminishing its influence and impact.”

    In both cases, if you lump together the two groups, you’re either ignorant or trolling hard.

    • TheMeanGuy permalink

      My guess is that >99% of the people on this planet, including social liberals, couldn’t tell the difference between “LGBT activists” and “queer theorists” and may lump them together because they are “ignorant.” You, however, can tell the difference between these groups, meaning that, on this thing at least, the state of your knowledge vastly exceeds that of your fellows. That must make you feel good.

      • Trolling hard, I see?

        But srsresponse: someone whose knowledge vastly exceeded that of his fellows in a particular area wouldn’t necessarily feel good about it, because he would be perpetually misunderstood.

        • TheMeanGuy permalink

          So you are very sad then.

          • i’d score you a 7/10 here. good try.

  9. Seth R. permalink

    I don’t lump both groups together Andrew. In fact, I’ve long had the feeling that the “Mormon” gay community (whatever their activity status in the church) are a unique breed in this debate, for example. A group that is much, much more likely to value marriage highly and see it as something good. But I do not think that their attitudes are reflected in the wider LGBT community in same proportion.

    Secondly, the margins matter a lot. That is where society evolves. Not in the majority. The marginal case makes the next marginal case more mainstream. And you get this slow creep as the institution changes. I believe this phenomenon is very much accelerated in the case of the gay movement.

    Largely because the LGBT movement has not evolved in isolation. As you keep pointing out – society has determined a lot of other things to be social goods that have created the climate where gay marriage is seen as a good thing. Unrestricted freedom of adult relations for instance. We’ve pretty much got a perfect storm of accepted convention where the notion of marriage will now evolve at an insanely rapid pace. You already alluded to some of it when you remarked at how surprisingly fast gay marriage has gained acceptance. That’s not coincidental.

    Some of the “activists” may be at the margins. But that’s were the action is in this case. And that’s where the trends are. And honestly Andrew – can you seriously tell me that a majority of the LGBT community would be all that busted up to see the concept of marriage simply fade away from society?

  10. Seth R. permalink

    I mean, it’s kind of like I’m living in 1890 Poland and talking to a Marxist saying – “well the majority of Marxists are reasonable people, and look at all those moderate socialists over there to boot. Don’t worry – it’ll be a fun ride!”

  11. Seth,

    The “Mormon gay community” isn’t the only representative of “LGBT activism” vs “queer theory.” If you think more people are queer theorists (or amenable to their view) than LGBT activists, then I literally don’t know what to tell you, other than offer that this is really a part of why you have such a hard time getting your view across to people who don’t already agree with you.

    Largely because the LGBT movement has not evolved in isolation. As you keep pointing out – society has determined a lot of other things to be social goods that have created the climate where gay marriage is seen as a good thing. Unrestricted freedom of adult relations for instance. We’ve pretty much got a perfect storm of accepted convention where the notion of marriage will now evolve at an insanely rapid pace. You already alluded to some of it when you remarked at how surprisingly fast gay marriage has gained acceptance. That’s not coincidental.

    Note that everything here is NOT a margin thing. It’s a “majority” thing. THAT’s why things are happening fast — because they are already here.

    You have to pick one way or another. You either have to say “this is something at the margins” or you can say “we’ve pretty much got a perfect storm of accepted convention,” but you can’t match margins with accepted convention.

    With that said,

    And honestly Andrew – can you seriously tell me that a majority of the LGBT community would be all that busted up to see the concept of marriage simply fade away from society?

    Here’s two pills, based either on margin or “accepted convention.” You can accept either one you want.

    Like, if we are taking the accepted convention route, then this would look like

    1) a majority of *the entire community* — LGBT or not — would not be all that busted up to see the concept of marriage simply fade away from society because there are already accepted conventions in place that reveal it is feasible to move without marriage or that marriage is simply inadequate to address their needs.

    or if we are going on the margins, then this would look like

    2) a majority of the LGBT community would be busted up to see the concept of marriage simply fade away from society because the reason they were seeking marriage is to solve problems in how their lives are actually lived — because they actually *do* live a life that seeks normativity and so they want a normative institution.

    ***

    …if you want to choose option 1, that’s fine. But then, you can’t assign blame/responsibility/causal nexus to either LGBT activists or queer theorists, because they’re not the ones driving this bus.

  12. Seth R. permalink

    No, you’re not getting it.

    The margin BECOMES the majority over time. It’s just that the time required in this instance has been very rapid. And the activists and the theorists are the margin who drive the majority view and shape it.

    So yeah – “everyone” is being supportive of the notion of marriage at the moment. And I’m saying it’s not going to last long. Especially since the support for the notion of marriage seems so shallow within the community in question.

  13. I love the discussion that has played out in the comments on this post. I started writing a comment, that ended up being way to long for a comment. Instead I posted it on my blog, with a link back to this post (and a couple others), so my readers can understand the different posts that I was reading that then prompted me to writing. I sometimes wonder why the 11th Article of Faith seems to be conpletely ignored by socially conservative Mormons.

    http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2013/03/my-mormon-perspective-why-i-believe-in.html

  14. gr8rgood permalink

    IMO the gay marriage battle continues because some people believe being gay is wrong and others don’t. The battle is primarily waged from these two camps. I have had numerous discussions with friends and spent countless hours trying to reason with those in the ‘gay is bad camp’ with no success. Their belief is so entrenched that the best I get is ‘I love you but…’ and eventually; I find myself grateful for that and I move on. I’m sure those friends feel the same way about me.

    My thoughts, though not unique or new, are that we need to separate church from state. (Sound familiar?) Civil rights belong to the state and definition of marriage belongs to church. Mind you church has a broad and very diverse definition in this country.

    What if the civil rights and protections, that are now connected to marriage, were connected ONLY to civil unions and church/religion had absolutely nothing to do with the civil ceremony. What if there were no civil rights connected to the institution of marriage at all; what if marriage was an optional ceremony. Everyone wishing to be in a committed relationship and enjoy the many civil rights now afforded to marriage would have to have a civil union. The government would govern civil ceremonies/unions.

    Everyone wishing to have a marriage could choose to do so in whatever church/temple/beach/vineyard they wanted. It wouldn’t matter to some because there would be no rights or protections with marriage. Marriage would still carry special, and important, meaning to others based on individual beliefs. Churches would continue to choose who they will ‘allow’ to marry in their institutions and any couple desiring to get married could find a religion or secular venue that suits their belief system. Some people would choose not to marry at all because what is important to them is the commitment and the civil rights and privileges.

    The legal requirement for civil rights would be shifted from religion to government and the spiritual and religious importance of marriage would be shifted from government to religion and individual belief.

    What business does religion have in dolling out civil liberties and what business does government have in determining the meaning and importance of marriage?

  15. gr8rgood permalink

    I realize I got off topic with my opinion above. Sorry about that; let me try again.

    Words carry a lot of weight and I wish the left were as good at wordsmithing as the right seems to be.

    Forgive this question, because I should know the answer; who is responsible for the origins of the term “Same Sex Attraction”? I know Mormons have latched onto the term but did it begin in the world of reparation therapy?

    To me; the term ‘same sex marriage’ doesn’t smack of the conservative rhetoric that ‘same sex attraction’ does. To some it may even be a better term than ‘gay marriage’ which in some circles excludes lesbians. If you hold to the definition that the word ‘gay’ only refers to male homosexuals and ‘lesbian’ refers to female. (As in GLBT). Over time I think ‘gay’ has come to have a ‘broad’er meaning.

    When it comes to the term ‘Marriage Equality’ I find it this term could be considered more inclusive. What we want is true equality; not ‘separate but equal’ (which doesn’t really exist). We aren’t, at least in my mind, trying to define ‘gay marriage’ we’re fighting for equality in a civil institution that already exists.

  16. So yeah – “everyone” is being supportive of the notion of marriage at the moment. And I’m saying it’s not going to last long. Especially since the support for the notion of marriage seems so shallow within the community in question.

    The beautiful irony is how much this battle has increased the value of marriage in the eyes of secular liberals. A whole lot of people who might otherwise have been thinking that marriage is all about mitigating the concept of sin (hence irrelevant) have been immersed in all of the additional arguments for marriage (both as a personal commitment and as the corresponding legal recognition of it) for more than a decade, and have learned that marriage is something worth fighting for and working for.

    If you check out my latest SiOB, you’ll see that a large part of the support is from people who have been happily married for decades, and because they value marriage, they want to see it accessible to all families.

  17. Steven B permalink

    The better term is probably “gender neutral” but it doesn’t poll as well with conservatives as does “genderless.” “Genderless” sounds more absurd, more impossible. That is why it is the term of choice for the culture warriors, who need to convince their opponents that inclusion of gay couples into the social, civic structure of marriage will radically alter its very meaning and nature.

  18. TheMeanGuy permalink

    The term “genderless marriage” was popular on the left for a brief time. It is a fair characterization of proposed changes to marriage laws which have heretofore had gender requirements.

    For example:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-armento/genderless-marriage-redef_b_343146.html

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