A Response to the US Supreme Court Decision of June 27, 2013
I don't personally defend marriage. That's my short response to the United States Supreme Court's decision, striking down the definition that marriage be only reserved for people of the opposite sex, and thereby extending same sex married couples the right to claim the same benefits, responsibilities and obligations as opposite sex married couples.
There has to be space to reject marriage as an institution, even if it is packaged as marriage equality and gay rights. As long as gender and sex discrimination exist, marriage will always be a burden to women in positions of inequality, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, in countries where women are persecuted and discriminated against for refusing to marry or getting divorced.
Forced marriage, child brides, the selling of women into marriage to settle family debt, the inability to choose marital partners, absence of protection from marital rape, the lack of custody rights for women who divorce, the difficulties of enforcing laws prohibiting domestic violence, the inordinate amount of violence against women by in-laws, the weight of debt linked to dowry-giving, the discriminatory elements of inheritance laws against women even if they are married, the denial of citizenship rights for children through their mothers even in situations where fathers are absent -- basically, the lack of protections for so many women around the world within the institution of marriage, while at the same time, the intense pressure to marry by religious institutions, family, society, and the corporate sector -- leaves the question of same sex marriage, a non-issue for me in the fight for LGBT equality. Under the circumstances, the words marriage and equality, as they are to many others, are a contradiction of terms to me.
In countries where homosexuality is criminalized and public order, public morality, public decency laws are used against LGBT people, where anti-trafficking and anti-kidnapping laws are misused against lesbians and transmen who elope with their girlfriends, recognizing gay people's right to marry does not prevent such violations. Marriage "equality" will not remove all the other layers of violations that LGBT people routinely and more regularly face and are in urgent need of redress, such as employment and workplace discrimination, media humiliation, family violence, street crimes, police abuses, corrective rape, landlord discrimination, forced therapy
Granting gay people the right to marry will not benefit gay people who have no property, inheritance, even basic health benefits to share with a partner -- married or un-married. Gay marriage will not benefit transgender people who do not want to undergo gender reassignment surgery or be forcefully sterilized in order to marry.
And what about people who have been together for years and prefer not to marry? Must they now marry in order to claim the benefits and protections the State grants only to married couples? How is this different from forcing people to surgically change their bodies in order for their changed gender identity to be legally recognized? My lawyer friends who advocate for same-sex marriage say that marriage equality will positively impact other rights for lesbians and gays. Why would the right to marry bring more rights for lesbians and gays when linking marriage to respectability and social status has deprived women of sexual choice and sexual autonomy -- across their life span from childhood to widowhood, across the sexuality continuum, across cultures and religions?
The author may be reached at Gpoore@IGLHRC.org