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News :: GLBT/Queer : Human Rights : Organizing
Radical Queer Folks Bring Alternative Message to Marriage Equality Debate on Beacon Hill
13 Nov 2006
On Thursday, November 9th, Massachusetts’s citizens gathered on Beacon Hill in front of the State House to voice their opinions on same-sex marriage. On one side of the street assembled a large and lively demonstration in favor of equal marriage rights. On the other side, in front of the Boston Common was a smaller counter demonstration. Also attending the protest were a handful of local activists presenting a decidedly more radical queer side to the debate.
Radical Queer Folks Bring Alternative Message to Marriage Equality Debate on the Hill
Same-sex marriage has been fully legal in the Commonwealth since May 17th 2004. Legalization came after the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled it was unconstitutional to only allow heterosexual couples to marry. Over the past two years over 9000 same-sex couples have been legally married.

However, there is still an active campaign for a new ballot initiative in 2008 that, if passed, would ban future marriages. The effort is lead mainly by conservative religious groups. In order for the measure to appear in the ballet 50 legislators must approve it in each of two consecutive sessions of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. The first of those sessions was the catalyst for Thursday’s all-day protests on the hill.

The anti-marriage equality side rallied under the slogan "Let the People Vote" shouting it across the street. To which the reply came back sharply "We don't vote on civil rights".

Tom Good, of Dorchester, explains his opposition to marriage equality, "I'm a Christian ok. We have a right to vote on this because if we get to vote, they are going to lose.”

"They are like termites, eating away the moral foundations of this country,” he says gesturing to the other side of the road. "The Bible says if the foundations are taken away then we have nothing."

He continues "If we don't deal with this it's going be chaotic, people are going say 'Can I marry a tree?', 'Can I marry a dog?'."

The drive to defend the legality of same-sex marriage in the state is lead by the organizations Mass Equality on the state level and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on the national level.

Jesse Posner, of Brookline, holds a sign reading, "I love my 2 moms". She explains why she supports marriage equality, "I can't wait until marriage is solidified and here in Massachusetts to stay. I was raised by two moms my whole life, I have a little sister who is 12 and my moms are married. I'm looking forward to when all families like mine get the same rights as other families."

Looking over at the anti-marriage equality side Posner comments, "I see people holding signs saying ‘let the people vote’ so I'm guessing they believe that people should be voting on the rights of these couples and families. Which some may say is democratic, others may say that's exactly the downfall of democracy, when minority’s rights are exploited and excluded due to a lack of respect, a lack of understanding and homophobia."

Referring to the similarities of the equal marriage and the civil rights movements in the 1950's and 60's Ponser says. "Although its not the same in all ways, I think there is a clear correlation between the two movements because it’s another circumstance where the judicial system has to step in and say 'I'm sorry but we can't step on these people's rights just because there are less of them.' Look at Brown v. Board of Education, if the people had voted on that there would not have been de-segregation."

On the other side of the street Tom Good disagrees, "It has nothing to do with civil rights,” he says firmly. Behind him, other anti-gay marriage demonstrators break into a half-hearted round of "We Shall Overcome".

But these are not the only two points of view present; another small group of 5 young activists also attended the rally. While standing on the pro-marriage side of the street they are very critical of Mass Equality on a number of fronts. They held a giant banner reading "Mass Equality, Get off Your Knees, Marriage Does Not Equal Liberation."

Danni is one of them, ze talks about per reasons for being at the rally, "Mass Equality is putting forward this agenda and they claim it's a public agenda that speaks for all of the various L, G, B, T, Q, I folk and that's just not true, it's a misrepresentation. The model they are putting forward is monogamous, within the gender binary, assimilationist and we are here to tell them that's not where it’s at.”

Ze explains what ze means by the gender binary system, "Its a system based on the false belief that there are only men and women. First it erases intersex people and the diversity of genitalia found in human kind. And than it doubles up and says gender and personality are directly linked, explicitly linked to a masculine male or feminine female assignment. That's just not the reality historically across any continent today." Ze goes on to explain the term assimilationist, "Its a phrase that talks about systems of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy as operating structures in our culture, society and government. Assimilating is supporting those systems, we argue in favor of a liberationist platform that seeks to free the people, to dismantle privilege and oppression as two sides of the same coin."

Referring to the "Get off Your Keens" banner, Ponser is skeptical but respectful, "Historically it’s always been an issue, between the gay rights vs. gender identity rights movements, sometimes they go against each other. I've worked in Mass Equality, we've had trans people work in mass equality we have had teach-ins on trans issues, I wish there was more of a dialogue between the people holding that sign and Mass Equality because I don't think we are nearly as far off as they seem to think.

“People have different things they are passionate about. Maybe they don't think marriage is the biggest number one issues for queer folks in Massachusetts, I respect that absolutely, the problem is coming to an event like this and working in an antithetic way to the movement." She finished by saying "In the end we are on the same side of the street."

Jason, another one of the 5 activists, responded to the idea of them all being on the same side of the street. “Those in Mass Equality are the people I need to be challenging as they claim to represent me. When they continuously use the slogan ‘no discrimination in the constitution’ I feel enraged. Firstly, the Constitution was created by a whole bunch of White men and is inherently oppressive. Secondly the Constitution has been amended to add discrimination before. The Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal, solidified the establishment of slavery within the prison industrial complex. This affects queer people today. There are queer people imprisoned and enslaved right now feeding the system that Mass Equality and others working for these assimilationist rights are trying to get in to.”

Jason continues, “It is very sad to see how the organizations working for marriage can have such tunnel vision. The praises Arizona voters received for not passing anti-gay legislation is disgusting when there is no critique that those same voters passed such heinously racist legislation to make English the official language of the state. Apparently these mainstream gay and lesbian groups are only interested in supporting the rights of those queer folk who speak English.”

At the end of the day State Legislators recessed the constitutional convention without voting on the proposed ballot initiative. A move that will, in all likelihood, protect same-sax marriage by preventing the issue from appearing in the 2008 vote.

But for Jason, Danni and other radical queer folk the many struggles for social justice continue "Wherever there is oppression there is resistance, so we act from that place." concludes Danni.


Author's Note: "ze" and "per" are two gender-neutral pronouns which some people prefer to use. To learn more about gender-neutral pronouns please visit the link below.

Photos also by Jonathan McIntosh

Mass Equality signs on the pro-marriage side of the street
Marriage equality side of the street
Pro-marriage equality side of the street
Pro-marriage equality side of the street
Pro-marriage equality side of the street
Pro-marriage side of the street
Pro-marriage equality side of the street
Pro-marriage equality side of the street
Marriage equality side of the street
Anti-marriage equality side of the street
Anti-marriage equality side of the street
Anti-marriage equality side of the street
Anti-marriage equality side of the street
Radical Queer Folks Bring Alternative Message to Marriage Equality Debate on the Hill

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