Is the current gay marriage bill a beacon of brighter days? From, as the most optimistic gays say, that things “are getting better”?
or is this invoice a terrible commitment rooted in our collective despair?
We will soon find out as, on Tuesday, the Senate voted to approve the “Law of Respect for Marriage.” The legislation now returns to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass, and is then placed on President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
At best, it’s a preventative Band-Aid in case the Supreme Court tries to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges.
At first glance, this law seems like a step forward in codifying federal same-sex and interracial marriage rights. At best, it’s a preventative Band-Aid in case the Supreme Court tries to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, who cited the Fourteenth Amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. If Obergefell falls, close in 35 states would take effect again. But same-sex couples already married would not lose their benefits, and same-sex couples could continue to marry in states where it was still legal, traveling to another state if necessary.
But in no way does this law federally legalize “marriage equality” in the United States. It is primarily insurance for existing marriages. As Cornell University Law School Professor Michael C. Dorf explained“Same-sex couples residing in states that do not of their own free will recognize the legality of their marriages would have to go to the trouble and expense of traveling to a state that does to receive full recognition in their home state.”
Even John Cornyn, the conservative Republican senator from Texas, agreed that the act «does not move the needle on same-sex marriage.»
Dig a little deeper, and what this act really represents is the inflexibility of our nation’s institutions and the national entrenchment, despite constitutional guarantees to the contrary, of religion.
At worst, the legislation is a Trojan horse, introducing protections that allow religious institutions, from churches to mosques, from religious non-profit organizations to religious schools, the right to refuse services, facilities and goods for any wedding ceremony or celebration. Effectively, this law codifies discrimination.
the protections a religious freedom were late additions to the bill, in order to secure support from Senate Republicans like Utah’s Mitt Romney. Romney launched a statement in mid-November applauding the legislation for providing «important protections for religious freedom, measures that are particularly important to protect the religious liberties of our faith-based institutions.»
At worst, the legislation is a Trojan horse, introducing protections that allow religious institutions the right to refuse services, facilities, and goods for any wedding ceremony or celebration.
This type of support obviously comes with great trade-offs. In fact, what is particularly insidious about this act, from its language to how elected officials are promoting to air of celebration surrounding him on social media – is the way he capitalizes on the collective despair of racially marginalized and LGBT people. That we are so in need of security and basic protections (a roof over our heads, affordable health care) we have become accustomed to seeking reassurances in the very institutions that legally codify and condone discrimination against us. May our basic civil rights, including the recognition of our human dignity and our very human desire for social respect, remain tied to antiquated patriarchal institutions. That we are somehow deemed more worthy of public services and tax breaks if we join this institution.
We are operating from such a deep place of fear and oppression that we gleefully devour this crumb and feign satiety.
More and more states are legislating against our bodily autonomy and existence, policing our movement, criminalizing our bodies, erasing us from textbooks. But with less than a month remaining in this session of Congress, the last month of Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives, is this what liberal lawmakers are focused on? A rhetorical bone to thank gays and blacks for voting for them? A nod to the «Rainbow Wave» of the midterm elections: Majority of LGBT people elected to office?
The «Law of Respect for Marriage” is a fear-based reaction to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, in which Justice Samuel Alito, for the majority, declared over and over again that because abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, not only is it not legal but, according to the very selective set of sources from which it drew, it is criminal. The fear is that this conservative-majority court will opt for marriage next, as part of a broader challenge to due process rights and equal protection clauses.
But, right nowthe supreme court is listening two cases about racial manipulation and two cases challenging affirmative action, more specifically, challenging the right of public and private higher education institutions to consider race as a factor in admissions. Meanwhile, the epidemics of gun violence and violence against trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are destroying our lives. Migrants and refugees seeking refuge are being jailed, abused and exploited by politicians as political pawns.
What the priorities of Congress and, apparently, our collective interest indicate are the profound limitations not only of our institutions, but of what I call the “equality mentality”: the generations of social conditioning that have limited the range of our imaginations. political and social to the limit. desires of the white supremacist patriarchy in such a way that we seek equality within the very institutions designed to oppress us.
Of course, the irony of this situation is that federal marriage equality is not even guaranteed by the Respect Marriage Act. But the mindset is so pervasive, the desire for equality on the terms of patriarchy so deeply ingrained within us, that we seek equal rights and protections—here, to have your same-sex marriage «recognized» in a state that bans same-sex marriage. — that we failed to question the ability of these measures. We seek nothing else, but instead invoke the logic of the «chess game» of political strategy, which is just shorthand for acquiescence in the ineffectiveness of our government.
As we have seen time and time again, laws can be made and unmade, rights can be given and taken away, but only in practice can they be experienced. The constitutional right to vote, for example, exists in name, but means very little when armed extremists are legally allowed to patrol a polling station. Recognition and inclusion in institutions is not the same as respecting the human dignity of others.