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Letters to the editor

March 26, 2004 | Page 4

This struggle is energizing people
We can't wait to demand our rights

Do we really want gay marriage?

Dear Socialist Worker,
As an advocate for equal rights, I find myself in the political nowhere land with regard to gay marriage. "Separate is not equal," I hear--a powerful statement boldly stolen from the days of the American civil rights movement, e.g. Brown v. Board of Education. But marriage is hardly education.

For anyone who has made this issue their sole focus, I ask, "What are you fighting for?" Is marriage the institution within which we want to be included? Considering the history of this capitalist sham, let us think before we are determined to get our piece of this rotten pie.

We stand in a unique space to truly challenge the institution of marriage and, consequently, the system of allocations of benefits. Let us not be blinded by our lack of inclusion to the point where we become solely focused on being a part of this corrupt system.

We should not fight for marriage, but we should fight for the benefits that come with marriage, independently of the institution itself. What I want is not to spend $50,000 on a ceremony, celebrating a business agreement, which has a 50-50 chance of survival.

What I want, just as one example, is for my partners and friends to have insurance so that everyone can get proper medical attention regardless of their marital status. By rejecting the idea of marriage, let us reject the compulsive consumerism of imposed heterosexuality.

We want more than "hers and hers" matching towel sets. We want more than a prepackaged concept of what a legitimate relationship looks like. Let us step out of the procession and boldly state that we do not require the state of coupledom to be productive members of the community.

Let us not have the veil pulled over our eyes. Marriage is not a step in the right direction. It is participation in the institution that promotes the normality of compulsive heterosexuality. It is a gigantic leap backwards.
Ahoo Tabatabai, Cincinnati, Ohio

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This struggle is energizing people

Dear Socialist Worker,
The leading issue in the struggle for gay equality is clearly the issue of same-sex marriage. Whatever we think of marriage, this is the issue that is on the minds of millions of people.

Unfortunately, some on the left wish this wasn't so. They rightly see marriage as a restrictive, reactionary institution. They want to talk about the role of capitalism in oppressing gays and lesbians.

Certainly these are not incorrect points to make. But refusing to organize in support of gay marriage because the issue is "too conservative" is plain childishness.

Thousands of people are becoming energized to fight back against bigotry by the controversy around same-sex marriage--clearly, this is a good fight. This is our fight!

The choice is simple. Either we explain our politics while we work side by side with other activists to win gay marriage, or we can sit on the sidelines complaining like sectarians about conservatism as we let the Democratic Party co-opt the movement and really pull it rightward.
John Green, Davis, Calif.

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We can't wait to demand our rights

Dear Socialist Worker,
In a 1965 speech, Malcolm X explained the impact of the more radical Nation of Islam on the broader civil rights movement: "Ten years ago the NAACP was looked upon as a radical leftist, almost subversive movement. And then when the Black Muslim movement came along, the white power structure said, 'Thank the lord for Roy Wilkins and the NAACP!'"

This lesson should not be lost on us today, when the conventional wisdom on the left seems to be one of compromise. Even as the bigoted right wing has become more uncompromising, and is even taking to the streets, many leaders on the left argue that we have to put our faith in "centrist" Democrats and be careful not to alienate "mainstream America."

This approach, we are told, is the most pragmatic. A look at history, however, reveals the opposite: progressive change occurs only when we are outspoken and militant. Therefore, the truly "pragmatic" strategy is to be loud and confident in our demands for justice and equality, not to hide our views behind conservative Democrats in the hopes of winning piecemeal reforms.

The latter strategy, far from taking us closer to our goals, actually emboldens the right to ask for more. We must be bold and uncompromising about our demands--whether it be ending the occupation of Iraq or fighting for the right of gays and lesbians to marry, the right of everyone to free health care and decent wages, or an end to the racist death penalty (none of which are all that "radical" to begin with). This is the most effective strategy, both for winning concrete reforms in the here and now and in arming us in the fight for a new society.
Leela Yellesetty, New Haven, Conn.

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