I’ve already written an entry on this topic, but it was written at a fairly basic level. There are misunderstandings about the egalitarian, anti-religious opposition to gay marriage which go beyond this basic level, so I want to address them. I am not demanding that anyone else agrees with me, but I would like to see fewer straw men in this discussion.
First of all, people who oppose gay marriage for egalitarian reasons are not only people like me. In my blogroll I link to a queer organization called Against Equality, which argues against homosexual integration into destructive institutions like marriage, the military and the prison system. This is what they have to say about the kind of “equality” preached by the LGBT community:
Equality, as defined by contemporary mainstream LGBT political organizations, is a meaningless term. If further entrenching special rights for certain couples when those rights should be extended to everyone, bolstering the U.S. war machine by providing more bodies for cannon fodder, and advocating for never-ending prison expansion as a legitimate way to address anti-queer/trans violence are part of your vision of an equitable future: we say “hell no!”
So it may seem a bit strange for me to say that an organization called Against Equality has an egalitarian stance, but that’s the truth. It is the “equality as integration” LGBT position that they reject, not egalitarianism. Although I am not a queer person, I support Against Equality and their opposition to LGBT politics (although personally I would add genderism as another evil institution supported by the LGBT community).
People who crow that they’ve defeated the egalitarian case against gay marriage by only attacking one side (queer or non-queer) are simply mistaken.
Another misconception is that we oppose gay marriage simply because we are against the institution of marriage and gay marriage happens to be part of it, that we have no reason to oppose gay marriage specifically.
Marriage creates a privileged class. Here is a list of privileges gained by married people. These privileges are missed cruelly by those who don’t have them, especially ease of “immigration” and the ability to take medical decisions for a loved one (as well as hospital visits). People who are not part of the privileged class are second-class citizens insofar as these areas of society are concerned, and this hurts people’s well-being.
A privilege can only be justified by an overwhelming need to protect human lives. The greater the need, the greater the privileges that may be granted. For example, you have to stop for ambulances; this is a relatively small privilege warranted by the need to save lives in danger. So I am not making an argument that no privilege is ever justified. But marriage is not needed to protect human lives, so the point is moot; marriage is a privilege with no reason to exist.
As an unjustified privilege, marriage needs to be eradicated. This is a standard egalitarian argument. But legalizing gay marriage expands the class of people who are allowed to gain that privilege and who have a strong incentive to protect it. The more people who hold on to a privilege, the more people who will fight to keep it: therefore gay marriage makes the marriage privilege harder to eradicate.
One may reply that acceptance of gay marriage will lead to more and more acceptance of other kinds of marriage until it is completely liberated. But everyone, even the “open-minded,” has a limit beyond which they refuse to allow marriage. So I don’t think equality will be achieved this way.
There are always people to argue that we’re already equal, no matter what the issue. So I imagine that some may say that we have equality because everyone can already marry. Well, that’s what they used to say against gay marriage too, that everyone can get married to someone of the opposite sex. It’s hard to see why one answer is insulting but the other should not be insulting.
A reply to this would be that people used to limit marriage to heterosexuals, but the limit has been moved by gay marriage campaigns, so why couldn’t the limit keep moving in the direction of universality? But I think there are functional differences. The cause of gay marriage is connected to that of civil rights for minorities, which marriage universality could not exploit.
Of course I know that gay marriage can’t be stopped at this point. It will happen no matter what anyone says. And I’m fine with that, if only because it pisses off the religious right. But I think it’s a step backwards, and many people devoted to the end of privilege and social equality agree with me on that.