Monday, October 19, 2009

More on marriage equality

I found myself writing recently, a little unexpectedly, about some of my experiences with marriage inequality, and why marriage equality matters when it comes to real-life, practical details.

Well, I'm finding myself even deeper, more face-to-face, with marriage inequality right now, and it's very, very frustrating.

I'm a reluctant marriage equality advocate, let me admit that.
For most of my adult life, I have had two big issues with marriage. One is that marriage is not necessarily good for women. In terms of mental health, quality of life, economics, and other areas, the research is pretty clear on this, and has been for many years. Yes, for many women, marriage is beneficial; but when you aggregate very large amounts of data, marriage is not necessarily or by definition good for women overall.

My other issue has been about the separation of church and state, about the little-understood difference between religious and civil (or legal) marriage, and about how minority religions are treated differentially under the law (even though we're not supposed to be).

Most people simply don't understand the difference between religious marriage and civil, or legal, marriage; to borrow a phrase from Bishop Gene Robinson, the difference between religious rites and civil rights: where each happens; who performs each.

But in the 21 years that I have been out of the closet as a lesbian, all the practical ways in which my life is more difficult and so many of the ways in which I am legally not afforded equal protection under the law keep coming together in this sharp point of marriage inequality.

And then, on top of it, the Goddess called me not just to be in a committed partnership, but to be in a marriage.

So, between those two things, here I am, a marriage equality advocate.

I know there are people who think civil marriage is the be-all and end-all of equal rights for LGBTQ people. Um, no. Civil marriage for same-gender couples will not keep my trans friends from being fired or being evicted for being trans, or address any of the other kinds of inequality lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, transgender women and men, and queer women and men face.

But yes, marriage equality matters. It matters for both symbolic and practical reasons. It matters because oppressions are connected: I earn less as a woman; my family earns less because the two adults in it are both women; we lose money every year because we pay extra taxes on my health insurance and because we have to pay extra money for legal paperwork -- powers of attorney, wills -- to achieve some of the legal protections as opposite-gender couples. Does this matter next to homelessness? I've been homeless, and I've done case management with homeless folks, and shit, yes, it matters. For people living paycheck-to-paycheck, that tax burden at the end of the year can mean missing a rent or mortgage payment, paying taxes instead of groceries or utilities, or other such impossible choices. These are exactly the kinds of things that lead people to lose housing -- to become homeless.

(For more information: The New York Times had a very good article recently on the literal additional costs with being in a same-gender couple: The Higher Lifetime Costs of Being a Gay Couple. They also had an article pointing out the complete ridiculousness of our patchwork of same-gender marriage laws, as evidenced by a Texas couple who would have to move back to Massachusetts for a year in order to get divorced.)

So, no: marriage equality is not a white, middle-class luxury. It's a basic right. It's not the ultimate proof of equality under the law, but it's absolutely an important, essential milestone on the way for full equality for LGBTQ citizens.

And I, for one, am thoroughly sick and tired of this unequal bullshit.


Ann Keeler Evans said...

Stasa, you're not only living a good life, you're making very good points. or should i have said it the other way roung? :) it's frustrating, tiresome and wildly unjust. and it's so easy for people not to speak out, it seems. and all the sympathy in the world doesn't help the rent/mortgage payment get made. oh goddess bless, i was aiming toward positive thinking and seem to be sliding down the hill. ah. well. know that you're admired and supported and that others are working. and keep kickin ass.

sta┼Ťa said...

Ann, the balance of acknowledging my frustration at the injustice and acknowledging the injustice, with the encouragement, is definitely positive. :)

Thank you.