Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Sean Kosofsky
There is a transformation occurring in the LGBT community through the pursuit of marriage equality. It is part assimilation (which isn’t always bad) and part family protection which in many ways is a positive remedy to the decaying “institution” of marriage. I say this because I believe LGBT people bring a great deal to marriage and will transform the tradition during my lifetime. Same-sex couples have to fight so hard just to be together. Our families are more likely to be planned and we are acutely aware of how the legal protections we are fighting for, are indeed worth fighting for. In short, for many gay couples, the “institution” of marriage is less important than the actual marriage. Marriage at the micro level is what it’s about.
A new report by Political Research Associates http://www.publiceye.org called “Pushed to the Altar” reopens the debate about the current right-wing G-spot: heterosexual marriage. It also blasts the fatherhood movement, Promise Keepers and the rabid allegiance to patriarchal norms rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition. The report diagrams a schematic of how the right wing has manufactured data to suggest that people are healthier and less prone to crime, when married. I was reminded of this recently when I learned of an obscure policy in the Michigan Department of Corrections which still classifies prisoners as either “low risk” or “very low risk” by only one factor: if they have ever been married. But according to PRA there is no data to suggest that marriage lifts people out of poverty.
I mention this because three years ago, a Michigan psychologist, David Myers, published a controversial book called “What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage.” Myers made headlines all over the world by arguing that gays should be allowed to marry, not because it was politically correct, but because it would help same-sex couples be better citizens and healthier people. This was a breakthrough moment for our community to have a Christian academic arguing in favor of equality for gays, yet the social science research always seemed unconvincing to me. Were married people really better off?
I think much of the marriage research needs a closer look, to make sure what the relationships researchers have found, are actually caused by getting married. Could the benefits of marriage be attributed to monogamy? Could living longer be attributed to joint decisions to eat better and consume less alcohol? I am not convinced that the marriage license or the ceremony actually led to a better quality of life. In short, if healthy relationships can be achieved without marriage, why not try.
The “Altar” report also blasts the far right for using the “fatherhood” initiative and the Promise Keepers as Trojan horses to push patriarchal theology and policy. Inherent in the conservative “fatherhood” movement is a misogynistic characterization of single parents, especially single mothers, as inadequate parents. Promise Keepers is pretty blatant in their insistence that women be subordinate to men. Any movement that marginalizes the role of single mothers or fathers as incomplete or “broken” is homophobic by its nature and should be challenged as such.
PRA also points to the “Welfare Reform” Act of 1996 as a major accomplishment for the right. The law foreshadowed the future language of Christian activists with these predictable opening lines: “1. Marriage is the foundation of a successful society…that promotes the interests of children. Promotion of responsible fatherhood and motherhood is integral to successful childrearing and the well-being of children.” Sound familiar?
It should be no surprise that right wing attacks on racial minorities and the poor resulted in statutory language that also formed the bedrock of homophobic attacks on gay families. And when conservatives call undocumented workers “illegals” we should expect that language to be used a decade later to refer to former prisoners or women who have had abortions. The far right was even able to move hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-payers money to religious organizations through President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative under the guise of supporting “fatherhood” and “marriage” to lift blacks out of poverty. This was nothing more than a ruse, however, to score points with members of the Democratic base while also working to mask a history of racism among conservatives. Unless LGBT activists see the intersections of our work with other social justice movements, these right wing tricks will continue to help build the infrastructure of the misogynist movement that also works to combat LGBT equality.