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Commentary :: Gender : GLBT/Queer : Human Rights
Governor promises veto of gay marriage bill in California
17 Sep 2005
On September 6th, the California legislature became the first in the United $tates to approve a bill allowing same-sex marriage.(1) The next day, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's press secretary stated that the Governor would veto the bill.(2) Both these stories made headlines across the world.
However, the ensuing protests by marriage equality supporters in San Francisco, Sacramento, and undoubtedly elsewhere in California, did not make the papers. Anyone reading San Francisco's leading newspaper on Friday, September 9, 2005, would be hard-pressed to find any information on the same-sex marriage saga that was front-page news on the two previous days. This is yet another example of the mainstream media's reactionary viewpoint, which makes progressive independent news outlets essential.

Hurricane Katrina is currently the primary story in the country-wide news scene, and rightly so. Yet, the sudden drop in attention paid to California's "gender-neutral marriage" bill (AB 849) was not due to preemption by another story. Instead, every indication is that the press heard the Governor's veto announcement as an "end to discussion" signal, and ignored the fact that is was a catalyst for protests and outrage by many queer rights activists. This is especially troubling considering that the Governor's excuse for his impending veto does not make much sense, even to conservatives who oppose gay marriage.(3) Clearly, it is the Governor's political authority, and not the merits of his argument, that made his veto announcement weighty enough to stifle any objections. This would not happen in a society led by Maoist principles, which embrace scientific thinking and materialist analysis and reject edicts, dogma, and sloganeering.

Of course, a dictatorship of the proletariat would not allow the population to vote to restrict civil rights, including on questions such as whether one group of people should be treated as inferior and denied access to marriage. Here we see an inherent flaw in the kind of democracy that exists under imperialism. The majority can pass laws that are unfair to the minority (and the minority that comprises the U.$. population can pass laws that are unfair to the majority of the world). Public opinion increasingly supports equality for transgendered people, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Yet, there are some groups that will never win popular support in Amerika or receive justice under imperialism, as their oppression is a necessary part of the system: prisoners, migrants, Amerika's internal colonies, and most of all, the international proletariat.

As with equal rights for women, equality for queers within Amerika is definitely progressive regardless of the majority that voted for Proposition 22, opposing marriage equality. Discrimination against any group of people runs counter to the communist goal of ending oppression of all people. At the same time, Amerikan queers, as U.$. citizens, are privileged compared with the majority of queers in the world. Those who most need gay marriage are migrants who will be deported if they can't marry their partners. For others, gay marriage may provide more financial stability or access to family rights, but it is not a life and death issue. The comparison many people have made to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s is accurate in that queers and Blacks are both oppressed, and these oppressions must be ended. But the civil rights movement galvanized the Black nation because the lack of access to education, housing and jobs (among other things) literally was life and death for Blacks. Those battles were fought with the blood and sweat of fallen Black comrades, ultimately frightening the Euro-Amerikan nation's government into giving in to some of the people's demands.

The particular struggle for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples enjoys no such strength, even among openly gay couples. This is easily explained by class and nation privilege. Marriage will offer few additional gains, many of them financial, to those already benefiting from Amerikan imperialism. And marriage is not among the most urgent battles that gay people in Amerika's internal semi-colonies need to fight. Although there are many queer/SGL prisoners, marriage inequality is more a reflection of the problems they face than a cause of them. Marriage inequality is also not the main thing impacting even Euro-Amerikan queer youth who are suicidal.

Aside from immigration, the two major privileges of marriage mentioned by gay rights activists are rights to children in the marriage, and family access to hospitals and health care. In addition, those couples with only one partner working would get some tax benefits. These rights of marriage amount to greater access to living out the Amerikan dream: family wealth ultimately gained from the backs of Third World people, and shared ownership of children.

For MIM, these "rights" of marriage should be given to queer couples because withholding them represents discrimination against a group of people. Gaining equal access to marriage for all would be progress in the fight against gender oppression. But for the sake of encouraging conscious opposition to this system that causes misery for billions of the world's people, we have to be clear that Amerikans as a whole, both men and wimmin, gay and straight, are gender privileged. Even gay couples are benefiting from the gender oppression of others. For example, reproductive technology is tested on Third World people to benefit men and wimmin in the First World, and Third World wimmin migrants are being used as surrogate mothers. The queers who are among the most gender-oppressed in Amerika are those on the streets selling themselves to survive, often youth -- and access to legal marriage is not going to help them in most cases.

Some people argue that marriage is an oppressive institution of the patriarchy and not something that we should fight to expand. MIM sympathizes with this argument -- it is similar to our point that gays should not fight for the right to join the imperialist military. But unlike the military propping up imperialism, we don't see marriage in itself as a prop for the patriarchy today. On the contrary, we see monogamy as the least oppressive form of sexual relationships under imperialism, and if we can use marriage to reinforce monogamy without reinforcing the oppression of children or wimmin, we will. Tearing down marriage under the imperialist-patriarchy will not get us any closer to ending the patriarchy, it will just lead to more manipulation of wimmin by their male partners. And getting married is not uniquely harmful (unlike the military). Sexual relations under the patriarchy are inherently coercive because of all the inequality between people.

Ultimately, marriage is an institution of imperialism that exists to allow greater material privileges to people following the conventional roles approved by the patriarchy. But that doesn't mean communists can't use marriage for our own purposes under the patriarchy. Unlike idealists, communists are realistic about using all tools available to us in the battle against imperialism. So, we get jobs within capitalism to earn money to use for the revolution. For those engaged in sexual relations, marriage is just a tool to ensure greater stability. And the access to material privileges should not be denied to same-sex couples, even if we recognize that these privileges are only available because of the wealth of Amerika that is built off the exploitation of the majority of the world's people.

MIM applauds those who are working to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in California and other states, and we invite them to join us in fighting the system that makes such discrimination possible.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

1. Lynda Gledhill, "Gay marriage up to governor now Landmark legislation clears Assembly by narrowest of margins on second try," 7 September 2005, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/09/07/MNGFGEJIR

2. Bob Egelko, "Governor's hands were tied in gay marriage veto / NEWS ANALYSIS: Opponents of bill say it contradicts ballot measure passed in 2000," 8 September 2005, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/08/MNGFHEJUHU1.

3. Mary Ellen Peterson, "Conservatives Lash Out At Arnold Over Gay Marriage," 12 September 2005, http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/09/091205arnold.htm
See also:
http://mimnotes.info/

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