Gay Marriage | New York | News

Same-Sex Marriage As Inclusion And Exclusion

Broken_Marriage Amidst all of the celebration about New York State's gay marriage win last week, a key criticism of the institution has been lost: that marriage isn't always about equality.

That's what New York University sociology professor Judith Stacey says in a New York Times piece called "Unequal Opportunity."

From Stacey's piece:

Contrary to conservative fears, the gay struggle for the right to marry rebuffs rather than promotes radical feminist and gay family politics. A bid for inclusion, not upheaval, the campaign for marriage has already been nudging gay culture in a more conventional direction. Winning the right to marry exerts social pressure to do so. My research suggests that younger gays are less likely than their forebears to envision alternatives to marriage and nuclear family life.
Same-sex marriage enthusiasts are wrong to celebrate the democratizing effects of their victory in New York. To be sure, it removes an indefensible form of discrimination against lesbians and gay men. But the upshot of celebrating marriage is to exacerbate discrimination against the unmarried and their children — a rising proportion of our population, particularly among its poorer and darker members. Same-sex marriage, like its heterosexual model, is disproportionately accessible to members of the white middle class.

Marriage never has been or will be an equal-opportunity institution.

What are your thoughts, dear reader? Does Stacey have the right idea, or do the world's problems come from human inaction, rather than nuptials?

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. "Same-sex marriage, like its heterosexual model, is disproportionately accessible to members of the white middle class."

    You are right. As the black population consistently ranks numero uno in unwed pregnancy. Some people strive for community while others do not.

    Posted by: AllBeefPatty | Jul 3, 2011 8:01:46 PM

  2. Oh come on, are gay people supposed to be sexual freaks and renegades? Or can we have the same desire to settle down, claim permanency in an impermanent world, however brief, and just live? Having the right to get married makes it ONE option of many. If you don't want to get married, then bloody well don't. Everything can co-exist!

    Posted by: Daniel | Jul 3, 2011 8:03:39 PM

  3. Does anyone else get a little tired of people telling me what my gay-identity is?

    Marriage Equality is about equal protection under the law within our own f'n country.

    I really doubt that anyone is getting married to 'send' a message to society.

    Do these people sit in darkened rooms & smoke pot all day until they can come up with the most provocative obtuse perspective???

    Sometimes a cigar is just an f'n cigar!

    Posted by: Pete n SFO | Jul 3, 2011 8:09:17 PM

  4. This is a standard contrarian canard: AIDS is good because it leads us to value life in ways we never did before, and marriage is bad because it leads us to undervalue singleness and alternative lifestyles. Hogwash! The value you assign to life, to institutions, has more to say about you than about the institutions available to you. If you don't like marriage, don't get married. It's about choice, and I don't feel guilty if you're too weak to resist the perceived social pressure you feel to do what I choose to do.

    Posted by: Keppler | Jul 3, 2011 8:12:32 PM

  5. Stacey sounds a familiar note. I [a single elder] quite often feel slighted and insulted, if not entirely excluded. One case in point: the AARP. It's notably LGBT-inclusive. That's nice. But then there is the dreaded two-for-one membership:
    "Spouse/Partner Information.
    Membership fee includes spouse/partner free.
    Your spouse will also receive a membership card."

    Sigh. All too common. To me it translates - always has - as "You're single? Too bad. You have to pay double."

    So yes, extending marriage as a legal option to LGBTs would seem to be an on-ramp to Equality Highway, but the truer path would have been to eliminate *all* privileges owing to adults with married status.

    Posted by: WebHybrid | Jul 3, 2011 8:13:45 PM

  6. @Pete in SFO.

    Maybe she is the antithesis of Doktor Laura. And no one wanted to marry her either.

    The only message that gay marriage is sending is "step aside heteros, let me show you how it's done" That's the real fear.

    Posted by: AllBeefPatty | Jul 3, 2011 8:15:22 PM

  7. Oh brother... All comments so far equally reflect just how absurd the article was... I especially liked Pete N SFO who summed it up very nicely - "Sometimes a cigar is just a f'n cigar!"

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 3, 2011 8:20:33 PM

  8. There is so much wrong with that excerpt from Stacey's piece that I don't know where to start. How about "disproportionately available to the white middle-class." Without some investigation of causes, that's no more than polemic.

    As for rebuffing radical feminist and gay family politics, who cares? Why should radical feminism and "gay family politics" be allowed to co-opt a nice focused civil rights movement -- again? She also seems not to notice that one of the ostensible goals of feminism -- egalitarian marriages -- is now established fact in six states and D.C.

    Took a minute to read the whole piece. It is polemic, and nothing more, masquerading as analysis. I can agree with her conclusion, but not the road she took to get there -- too many holes, too many assertions, too many "research results" from studies that don't seem to have asked the right questions.

    Posted by: Hunter | Jul 3, 2011 8:30:03 PM

  9. We have heard this argument in different forms so many times before. What it fails to realize is that the marriage fight is all about acceptance for LGBT people as fully equal members of our society. That doesn't just benefit married gay people, it benefits everyone. I have never seen one of these arguments that explains why tolerating the unequal treatment of LGBTs under the law is a good strategy for promoting the alternative vision of family life that they advocate.

    Posted by: Q | Jul 3, 2011 8:39:35 PM

  10. It is editorials like this that irritate me. I am too old to serve in the military, yet I fully support a nondiscriminatory policy regarding gays in the military. It's been 14 years since I've been interested in pledging eternal love to another man, but I am a strong advocate of marriage equality. Just because I wouldn't benefit from a specific right granted to others doesn't mean I shouldn't fight for it. If someone wants to fight for equal rights for single parents, I'm there. But to suggest that we should shun gay/lesbian couples who want to get married is ridiculous. Why can't we have both?

    Posted by: Tommy Marx | Jul 3, 2011 8:41:53 PM

  11. It essentially argues that we should be wary of the promise of marriage because it makes others who choose an alternative lifestyle feel inferior. What is fails to disregard is the notion of CHOICE. Yes, maybe it does. Maybe when marriage takes hold in the gay community, gays will feel social pressure to wed legally when they fall in love lest they feel they are doing something wrong. But that does not change the fact that those gays who would gladly do so free of such pressures should absolutely have the right to do so.

    It's like she's blasting marriage on the one hand for such affects, but then acting like it's bad that people aren't picking it when free to do so on the other.

    Posted by: BA | Jul 3, 2011 8:42:29 PM

  12. Show me any institution that is perfect and works for everybody.

    I can't hear you.

    Posted by: kodiak | Jul 3, 2011 8:47:21 PM

  13. I'm so sick of feminists. Feminists don't want equality. They want women to have the choice to do anything they want but men need to work and pay them if their marriages don't work out or even if they live together and THAT doesn't work out. So all forms of relationships are fine as long as men pay them. That about sums up how I feel about feminists. . . .

    Posted by: Jonathan | Jul 3, 2011 8:57:32 PM

  14. Stacy is wrong. Flat out wrong. Poor people and women can marry whoever they want. It may be a little more difficult to find an appropriate mate--but THEY CAN ALL MARRY. As a gay man, I AM FORBIDDEN TO BY LAW.

    Duh, Stacy. Stop trying to coat it in pseudo-feminist or sociological terms. I'm the biggest progressive but this just smacks of ignorance about what gay people are routinely and cruelly denied: the protections, rights, and benefits of marriage.

    Posted by: Robbie | Jul 3, 2011 9:04:13 PM

  15. ^^^What Robbie said.

    I can't help that the black population has the highest rate of unwed parents. I can, however, work toward equal rights for all citizens.

    Posted by: Matthew | Jul 3, 2011 9:19:01 PM

  16. The comments so far have been very provocative, in the sense that they have provoked me “not to defend Stacey” so much as to offer another way to read her analysis (as not just a polemic) and towards larger patterns in understanding the webs of gay politics.

    Marriage has never been about equality. If you trace the beginnings of marriage as a union it was never between spouses but between the suitor (the man) and the soon-to-be wife’s father. The exchange between men was for the daughter to be a wife and for the father to accrue more money/land. This handing off of the daughter has transformed into a sentimental moment when he walks her down the aisle. Though it might seem hard to believe, this dowry process or the modern version of it still is being carried out globally, perhaps not as well-known in the U.S. but we shouldn’t believe that if it doesn’t happen here then it doesn’t happen anywhere.

    Gay marriage could not be possible without a gay movement that took shape in the second half of the last century and continues today. A gay movement would not have taken shape the way it did without the introduction of the term homosexual, which if you can guess was used to medically treat people with a mental disorder in the late 19th century onto the early 20th century. The reason why we can even talk about marriages of same-sex folks is because there was this “polemic” (ooo bad word) created by the medical institution that eventually saw itself codified into law.

    So HUNTER, when Stacey cites “white middle-class” privilege, its not to bash white middle-class folks (unless it hits a nerve!) more so to bash the privilege that comes with being white and middle-class and increasingly gay as well. Deride her analysis by calling it a polemic, but that’s exactly what a polemic is: a discussion amongst folks through texts and analysis. There’s nothing wrong with polemics so long as we can learn from them; they are meant to provoke further discussion not to squash it by “rebuffing radical feminists”. WHICH IS BY THE WAY NOT A GOAL OF RADICAL FEMINISM! There are many types of feminisms and they are NOT monolithic in structure/people/politics/sociality. Radical feminists I hate to break it to you WILL ALWAYS BE infiltrating the gay rights movement because it, alongside anti-gay movements, work to oppress queer radicals that are “freaks” and “renegades”! We don’t want to be assimilated into 2/3-bedroom houses in SF/LA/NYC, 1.5 children, and white picket fences. Only the middle-class can afford all that, can’t they?

    WEBHYBRID is right on by calling to “eliminate *all* privileges owing to adults with married status”. Being married, to no surprise, results in receiving many legal benefits. I should have these rights even if I’m not married. Marriage is not just about love and relationships, and if you think that’s all it should be about, then you’re completely missing Stacey’s point or for that matter believe there’s something wrong with gay people who oppose marriage. As an institutional practice, it privileges over single people, stable threesomes, orgies, deviants, radicals, anti-capitalists, queers. Marriage is set up to not preserve these people through rights. Instead, they are chastised for being promiscuous and non-conforming or reductively too weak to make a “life” for themselves and “get married” like everyone else. “Equal Marriage” supports/promotes/rewards permanency and devalues the impermanent to live their way.

    Posted by: gdnm | Jul 3, 2011 9:29:54 PM

  17. The article implies that marriage is nothing but rights. But for every right that comes along with marriage there's a matchingresponsibility. Married people get some economic benefits, but they're also legally responsible for each other's debts. They get to make medical decisions if their spouse is unable to do so, but they're also responsible for the cost of those medical decisions. They cam share in their spouse's pension, but they can't take their pension in a way that doesn't provide for the spouse without the spouse's permission. People who choose not to marry avoid those obligations.

    Posted by: Jon | Jul 3, 2011 9:37:47 PM

  18. I guess I'm just one of those people that believes America to be a medley of humanity rather than a "melting pot" but inclusion is not always about assimilation and succumbing to majoritarian prerogatives and if our fight is for equality rather than semantics then why not get the government out of "marriage" and fight for civil unions, performed by government, for both straight and gay couples with equal rights and responsibilities? That is both a reiteration of separation of church and state and a victory for equality for LGBT relationships. This is exactly what was done in New Zealand.

    And way to go GDNM in educating us on Stacey's analysis (of which those two paragraphs above I AGREE with).

    Posted by: Brandon | Jul 3, 2011 9:54:02 PM

  19. ^^^^^
    ^^^^^ What Matthew said.

    Posted by: Robbie | Jul 3, 2011 10:19:37 PM

  20. If you want to get married get married, just don't take away my domestic partner benefits just because you do!

    Posted by: The Iron Orchard | Jul 3, 2011 10:19:40 PM

  21. I don't get it. What are the access barriers for non-white non-middle class people? The cost of the marriage license ($40)? Are racist city clerks refusing marriage licenses to non-white people? What? If it's just that fewer non-white non-middle class people are choosing to getting married, the argument sort of falls apart, doesn't it?

    Posted by: BC | Jul 3, 2011 10:55:09 PM

  22. I've never been a fan of the institution of marriage. Being tied to ancient chattel laws making someone the owner of another by marriage is not my idea of equality. On the other hand, I am not a fan of having to draw up dozens of separate legal documents in order to protect myself and those I love. Personally, I would like some option in between. I want to be able to identify my (future) partner as someone who has inheritance rights, the right to be at my side just as any blood relative, and the right to make decisions on my behalf. That's just for starters. Is that a civil union? Should my (future) partner and I go our separate ways do we have to divorce anyway to make it legal? Marriage in that respect seems like a shortcut...other than that pesky divorce part.

    Posted by: TheWeyrd1 | Jul 3, 2011 10:57:16 PM

  23. @Brandon, Civil Marriage in the US already is the government granting a legal union between two people. Straight couples and , where it's legal, same-sex couples. Civil marriage is not religious marriage. The government is in the business of civil marriage "rights". But, they are not in the business of religious marriage "rites". There is no requirement to have a religious ceremony at all. Atheists get married in the US every day. The only confusion is that in the US the government allows religious institutions, for those that want them, to perform the ceremony as a proxy for a government official. You know the part, by the power vested in me by THE STATE, I now pronounce you man and wife... They don't say by the power vested in me by the GOD I believe in... they say THE STATE
    Just because those that believe in religion keep shouting that they own and created the institution of marriage, doesn't make it true. And, suggesting that the government should get out of the business of marriage allows the bigots to frame the debate on their terms even when their terms are wrong.

    Posted by: Tim NC | Jul 3, 2011 11:00:42 PM

  24. I support same-sex marriage for two reasons:
    1. Opposite-sex marriage
    2. Immigration

    However, provided there was no discrimination, I would be happy if the government chose to recognize whatever relationship any two or more adults said they were in. It wouldn't be government licensing a marriage, but government recognizing a relationship.

    Singles are at a disadvantage in some ways, due to the priority put on marriage, and something does need to be done about that.

    Posted by: Randy | Jul 4, 2011 12:07:55 AM

  25. Just because somebody chooses to get married does not mean they are discriminating against those who cannot do so or otherwise choose to do so. It does not mean they are exacerbating any discrimination along these lines. It has nothing to do with them whatsoever: it is about the people getting married and nobody else.

    Posted by: Justin L Werner | Jul 4, 2011 12:44:18 AM

  26. 1 2 3 »

Post a comment


« «Man Wags Finger At UN's Gay Support, But Still Raises Valid Point« «