When “tradition” covers for bigotry

June 9, 2008

AFTER I read Graham Shaw's "Good reason to be wary of marriage," I thought about something that happened in my class recently.

My student was cutting up a newspaper so she could look at letters under a microscope and she saw the front-page article of a recent Socialist Worker: "Same-sex marriage victory in California."

She asked me, "You support gay marriage?" I told her I did, and she was very excited and proceeded to tell me all about a report she had done on same-sex marriage and why people should support it.

Now, I suppose I could have taken the time to lecture her on how marriage was a capitalist institution, that the nuclear family perpetuates the exploitation of workers, and that she should also be wary of supporting marriage (gay or straight).

I decided against that, and instead asked her why she thought there was even a debate about this in our society. She said that it's because of homophobia, and because there are idiots like Bush who want to tell people what to do and how to think.

She also commented how there always seemed to be a minority of people who want to use words like "tradition" to control the rest of us. This is ridiculous, she said, because people should be allowed to do what they feel like if it doesn't hurt anyone else. People should be allowed to make their own traditions, and if people who are gay want to get married, they should get married. What's the problem with that?

If you ask me, that about sums up all you need to know about why we should not be wary about supporting gay marriage, and should support the right to same-sex marriage unequivocally.

First, the denial of marriage rights is a homophobic attack on people who identify as lesbian or gay. Second, the only ones who seem to benefit from that oppression are people at the top of society, and we all benefit from smashing these homophobic, restrictive laws. Case closed.

There are some issues that are complicated in politics. This one isn't, and my 14-year-old student pretty much got to the heart of this issue on her own.

To those who are wary about marriage, it's simple--don't get married. But don't act like there is anything radical in your opposition to marriage on principle in this issue.

I'm with my student on this one. I'll wait and see what sort of new traditions people choose to develop on their own in their fight to build a better, more inclusive society.
Andy Libson, San Francisco

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