Tuesday, July 13, 2004

opposition to same sex marriage smacks of the same logic as opposition to interracial marriage

For those who object to same sex marriage, let me put on record several rather crucial considerations.

1) The primarily Christian religious-moral objections that same sex marriage is a violation of "God's Will," have NO PLACE being codified into the legal system of a nation whose cornerstone is the SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. To allow the religious beliefs of one sect to become normatively authoritative and binding for the society as a whole sounds like Theocracy not Democracy to me.

2) Granting only "Civil Unions" while denying marital rights smacks of Separate But Equal, which we all know simply isn't. Banning or refusing to sanction same sex marriage is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. It is a blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and it is no less egregious and than the so-called "Anti-Miscegenation" Laws that banned interracial marriages and also had wide-spread "popular" approval. Anti-miscegenation laws were only ruled unconstitutional in 1967!!!

Anti-Same Sex Marriage Prohibitions are genealogically related to Anti-Miscegenation Laws, which implicated anxieties about gender more than one might suspect. While for most of American history, white men could rape, or otherwise engage in sexual relations with black women with impunity, the hysterical fear of "racial impurity" and interracial marriage as an aberration that would cause our society's moral downfall, was directed primarily towards unions of black men with white women and not the other way around (let's not forget Thomas Jefferson's many biracial children with Sally Hemmings, he was criticized, but not impeached or lynched!)--white women being the instantiation par excellence of Possessive Individualism enjoyed by white males.

Following the abolition of slavery, no "property" was treated by the dominant culture as more intimate and defining of white manhood than the "possession" and domination of the white woman in the domestic sphere. To allow that most intimate "possession" to be shared with black men or men of color would be to acknowledge their equal manhood. But this was threatening to the very definition of citizenship embraced by the dominant order. For most of American history, full citizenship was defined in terms of an exclusive, invidious amalgam of whiteness, ownership/self-possession/domination, and masculinity, as well as being defined as fundamentally oppositional and antithetical to blackness(otherness),slavery/servitude/submission, and femininity.

Just as interracial marriage was seen as a threat to the very order of things that supported existing power relations, so Same-Sex Marriage threatens those who cling to these same malignant and fundamentally anti-democratic notions of selfhood and citizenship. For men to marry men and women to marry women, implies a breakdown in the traditional domestic power structure in the same way that interracial marriage did. It grants a legitimacy that desacralizes the "axis of evil" that comes into being when we lump race, class and gender together in an invidious manner equating whiteness and masculinity with possession, domination and power, and non-whiteness and femininity with submission and subordination.

The relations implied above and in the mainstream metaphor of heterosexual union are inherently hierarchical and exclusionary. What model of power relations is implied in same sex unions if not relations of equality, fraternity (forgive the pun, I mean sorority too, but without all the bad bleach jobs, fake tans, french manicures and kegger parties) and the liberty to choose how to live and who to love for oneself? And what could be more democratic?