Class and the Fight for Gay Marriage

The recent US Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 bring to light the intersection of class issues with the mainstream LGBTQ fight for marriage equality.  While thrilling for many reasons, these rulings do not redress the many daily injustices facing the LGBTQ community that, frankly, gay marriage is incapable of solving.

The fight for gay marriage leaves out several crucial issues affecting the queer community, such as (to name just a few) homophobic bullying in schools, healthcare discrimination against trans* folk, high suicide rates within the LGBTQ community, violence against LGBTQ people, and, an issue close to my heart as a Class Action intern, the disproportionately high rates of poverty and homelessness among queer people.

My worry is that by making gay marriage the poster child for LGBTQ rights, the many other life and death issues facing queer folk will be forgotten in the wake of this victory.  The mainstream LGBTQ movement is led, just like the rest of society, by affluent white men.  Accordingly, the issues most affecting these higher class gay men have taken center stage.  But marriage inequality, while perhaps the primary site of oppression for these wealthy white men, is probably not the most pressing issue facing an impoverished trans* woman of color who cannot afford the medical treatment she needs to live in her skin, and who faces being evicted, fired, or killed because of her identity.

My worry is that the fight for gay marriage has reinforced a mainstream commitment to an institution that privileges the already privileged without recognizing the needs of those it leaves out.  Gay marriage does not only benefit rich people, of course, but the fight for marriage equality has money behind it that might disappear when the fight is against something like public housing discrimination.  And I can’t help but be a little dubious of the equalizing power of the Supreme Court rulings immediately following a racist ruling that will deny countless Americans, including members of the queer community, the most basic of democratic rights: the right to vote.

My hope, however, is that this victory for the gay rights movement indicates and will bring forth a rising tide of mainstream acceptance for the LGBTQ community.  My hope is that these Supreme Court rulings will pave the way for a steady stream of law reform that combats injustices against all queer folk, not just those with the money to publicly advocate for themselves.  Or better yet, I hope that people of all identities in this country will be able to transcend the boxes placed around them by the media and the law to demand the rights and recognition we deserve.


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