Friday, April 26, 2013

Beyond Bigotry: Understanding DOMA, Prop 8, and the Queer Rights Movement

I attended the panel discussion "Beyond Bigotry" that was hosted by Pomona College yesterday evening. The panelists (Amy Sueyoshi, Professor of Race and Resistance Studies and Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, Kenyon Farrow, Activist, Writer, and Former Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice, and Amanda Hollis-Brusky, Professor of American Politics, Constitutional Law, and Legal Institutions at Pomona College) shared their opinions on the pending Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage, the potentital impacts of these rulings on the queer rights movement, and the institution of marriage in today's society and in the broader context of history. 

We already had class discussions on a lot of the points the panelists raised yesterday night, and I just intend to give you a short summary of what I thought were some very interesting thoughts on the marriage equality debate and its implications:

- Kenyon Farrow argued that the AIDS crisis had everything to do with the growing focus on the institution of marriage within the queer rights movement. The devastating impact AIDS had on the queer community triggered a conservative shift within the community ("maybe we are having to much sex"), and led to the emergence of an anti-sex sentiments in the late 80s/early 90s. Monogamous relationships and families that promised security and safety became desirable objectives. 

- When asked why the media takes such a great interest in the topic of same-sex marriage and refrains from covering other, equally important LGBTQ issues, one of the panelists speculated that "the American people aren't quite comfortable hearing about these on the 5 o'clock news." Amy Sueyoshi answered the question why there is such a great focus on marriage at all in two words: white supremacy.

- The opposition to a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage also partly stems from the fear that a positive outcome (meaning for the proponents of marriage equality) might imply a major backlash for the queer rights movement; as a precedent, Roe v. Wade and the formation of the Pro Family movement were brought up. The often voiced concern that the topic of marriage alone enjoys such prominence and other equally (or even more) pressing issues are neglected and that once marriage equality is obtained, momentum will die down was countered by Amanda Hollis-Brusky who contended that marriage equality might have further mobilizing effects and that the marriage debate has brought a lot of attention to the queer rights movement. 

- Who will benefit most from marriage equality? The answer to this question was unanimous: white, middle-class Americans. Marriage equality will not be doing much for other queer, transgender, working-class, poor, etc. minority groups.

- "Let's not get caught up in the notion of same-sex marriage as only a civil right; it is also a tool of discipline, " Kenyon Farrow reasoned. Under the pretext of securing responsible procreation, the state takes an interest in the structuring of private lives, it sanctions married couples by providing them with 1,000+ benefits. But why can't these benefits be given to everybody? Farrow argued for an enforced separation of state and church; according to his opinion, marriage should be a purely religious thing, and on a civil level, the state should refrain from giving benefits to married couples. 

- Last but not least, the call for embracing change and diversity was voiced. Change and diversity are good and healthy for any kind of society; in connection to marriage equality Amy Sueyoshi elaborated how very sad it would be to only have one rule and one standard of how things should be. She asserted that the history of being queer is breaking, transgressing boundaries and redefining categories, necessary processes from which also "straight" people profit.

These are some of the points that stuck with me. Enjoy reading and I'm looking forward to your comments! 

No comments:

Post a Comment