DOMA Decision: A Win for the Status Quo

06/29/2013 09:00 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

I watched as the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and listened as person after person praised the decision as progressive. Word to progressives and egalitarians: Marriage is not progressive. Marriage is a means for rich people to consolidate and concentrate their wealth, one of many ways to enforce the status quo. That the Supreme Court justices' decision comes at a time when families are being eviscerated by the wealthy should give progressives some pause.

This entire campaign for marriage equality, brought to you by the mainstream gay rights movement, is about assimilating rich, white gays and lesbians into a society that politely tolerates all sorts of atrocities at the most opulent dinner parties. The mainstream gay rights movement is in tow with the status quo. They may quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they fight for their cause, but they pose no threat to the triple evils of white-supremacist patriarchy, militarism and poverty.

The state should provide resources to all families, no matter how their members decide to organize themselves, so that they can carry out autonomous and dignified lives. However, this is not how the mainstream gay rights movement is pushing gay marriage. The movement argues that gays and lesbians are just like their straight counterparts -- striving toward a heteronormative image, the perfect Leave It to Beaver family. This same image is responsible for leaving many LGBT teens homeless. Furthermore, families who do not approximate the heteronormative image are dismissed as deviant, childlike, and unworthy of state resources or moral consideration. The marriage equality movement makes the case that health care is a primary reason to make gay marriage legal. Remember, the demonization of families who do not conform to the heteronormative image was an argument used by conservatives for marriage promotion and ending welfare benefits for poor women. When marriage is the solution to a health-care crisis and poverty, who needs the state for a welfare program or a nationalized health-care system? Those resources used by the state to combat poverty and implement a civilized health-care system can now go to rich tyrannies and fiefdoms, accountable to no one and no law.

Speaking of private, unaccountable tyrannies, there is a reason why this "struggle" is funded by Bank of America and other exploitative corporate powers. Conservatives, as the political theorist Corey Robin points out, are not "untrammeled individualists." Conservatives see individuals socially embedded in institutions, institutions that ought to be hierarchical and undemocratic (the family, the church, or the corporation). The success enjoyed this week by mainstream gay activists comes from the fact that many of these activists were willing to use a family-values framework, which leaves the hierarchical and undemocratic conception of the family unquestioned, as an argument for marriage equality. Many of us who called ourselves progressive were willing to listen to these arguments without ever questioning the bar code on the HRC sticker.

How can we take a gay rights movement seriously when its entire struggle undermines and eviscerates the principles it is supposedly fighting for?