February 27, 2004

Why the Gay Marriage Plight Doesn't Equate with the Civil Rights Fight

Ever since I weighed in on Shelley's comments in response to her tought-provoking post about gay marriage, and how it bothers me to see the struggle of gay couples to marry compared (every day this week someplace in the media and blogdom) with the struggle of Black Americans to achieve the bottom-line basic human rights as citizens, as humans even, I've been wanting to write something on the topic. I've been struggling to communicate what bothers me, specifically, about linking the civil rights fight with the gay marriage plight. I have been wondering why it's so hard for me to communicate how heated I get when I hear the comparison made.

I came to the conclusion today that my discomfort over my inability to write about what's wrong with this is justified. Let me clarify: my discomfort with not being able to tell this story exists for a reason. No matter how I say what I have to say, I'm not going to come across as either credible or tolerant. I am both, I think. But words fail to do me justice on this one. You had to be there, as they say.

Let me state, for the record if you will, that I feel happiness for the gay couples who have been commiting themselves for the long haul in San Francisco. I'm still fuzzy on what these new unions should be called. I am also sympathetic to the desire of gay couples to win legal rights as one another's spouses.

I am not happy, however, with the privileges desired by rich, white, Rosie O'Donnell, for example, -- who can afford to hop a jet out to San Fran as easily as she can walk into the nearest fancy restaraunt and dine as she wishes -- being equated with the fight for human rights carried forth by the likes of Rosa Parks, whom Shelley mentions, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

To compare the desire among gays to marry with the "bound-and-shackled, ripped-from-their-country-to-toil-in-servitude, whipped-lynched-raped-WITHOUT-any-protection-under-the-law" experience of those who fought and died as a direct result of the legacy of slavery during the civil rights era, is wrong.

If I can't make the argument effectively, I can at least be a vector for others' discussions on the topic. I wish there were more Black, Liberal, Gay and Straight (upper-case, why not?) bloggers who would weigh in on this. From my searching, I have found most of the commentary coming from the more conservative side of the spectrum. It's an easier call for them.

As for what I've found, I suggest you read some thought provoking blogging on the topic, with which you may or may not agree. Either way, you will probably feel some discomfort around the discussion.


Begging to Differ - Geidner openly compares himself to civil rights activists who faced fire hoses and dogs in the 1960s, repeatedly invoking Martin Luther King and his Letter From Birmingham Jail. Without apparent irony, Geidner writes from law school to complain about stray remarks by professors with whom he generally agrees. Geidner proudly declares the extent of his dedication to the cause, stating, "If securing equality in marriage means we're going to have to stir up a hornet's nest, so be it." Why, if only Martin Luther King had been a blogger, he might have changed the world.

Be careful what you wish for (my title, not the post's) -- My question - my caution - is that such legal victories might postpone societal assimilation of gays, perpetuating hostility that is already dying a natural death. If it is true that American gays in 2003 have an easier time of it than blacks in 1963, we should consider the cost/benefit of raising a generation of workers who resent the boss that "only got his job because he is gay." Consider whether in 50 years it would be better for homosexuality to be "no big deal," or for there to be fully funded Queer Studies departments at every major university, self-segregated social and professional associations, and an army of professional fundraisers loudly insisting homophobia is worse than ever.

Cobb on Ass Backwards Activism - I want to leave that question hanging, but I'm coming to believe that there are a bunch of nutjobs who love living in analogy-land. And in that topsy-turvy universe they can start talking about MLK and unfair discrimination and try to make parallels between this aspect of gay liberation and the Civil Rights Movement. Fair warning, such crap will not be tolerated at Cobb. See also: Cobb on Right vs. Privilege.

I know there are more bloggers out there exploring the underside of the proverbial coin. If you have links, leave em please.