Defending the right to marry--or not

June 5, 2008

I THINK Sherry Wolf ("Which side are you on?") overall was right to clarify the discussion raised by Graham Shaw ("Good reason to be wary of marriage") about same-sex marriage with the reference to Ten Days That Shook the World.

Especially as the bigots begin to organize in reaction to New York Gov. David Patterson's decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, I absolutely agree that you can only be unapologetically for gay marriage or end up siding against it.

I should disclose, too, that this was not my own original response to the issue when same-sex marriage emerged as a major battle several years ago. At the time, I wrote an article for Socialist Worker ("Behind the furor over gay marriage,") in which I raised some of the same arguments that Shaw does. A lot of people argued that out with me, they convinced me they were right, and I changed my mind.

Wolf acknowledges the complexity of the issues related to sexuality, the state and religion, as Shaw discusses them. However, I don't think Wolf needs move on in her argument and caricature Shaw's as stemming from "some largely graduate student-influenced sections of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer] left."

I am in graduate school right now and can attest firsthand to the $10-word mishmash that passes for political analysis in many left academic circles. But I think Shaw is correct to acknowledge that many gay couples (I won't offer my own lengthy acronym here for the "community") do reject marriage as an option for all sorts of valid reasons.

Not wanting to get married, even where it is legal to do so, does not have to be "snooty" or buying into what "Corporate America peddles" or based on anti-working class stereotypes of straight people, as Wolf suggests. Remember, lots of straight couples also choose not to get married for all sorts of political, personal and whatever reasons. I don't think we need to go to the mat on this, take decisive positions as socialists and judge why people make that choice or not.

We'd be better off respecting that choice and doing what Wolf does at the beginning of her article--which is to insist that the larger and more urgent point is that the vast majority of gay couples in this country do not get to choose whether they want to get married or not. And until they can, then socialists and progressives must absolutely take the side of fighting for marriage equality.
Jeff Bale, Phoenix

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