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April 05, 2013


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Tim Hiller

I really appreciate your point of view on this topic. I wish it was amplified to a larger degree because it's a totally neglected voice in the marriage equality discussion.

The one problem I have with your argument is I'm not sure you spend enough time justifying the underlying assumption that LGBTQ people have unique legal relationship needs. It seems to be crucial to your argument, but strangely (at least when I've seen you write about it) you take this assumption largely for granted.

It seems like, if you want to get the point across the best way to start would be to highlight a relationship need that not only isn't addressed by traditional heterosexual marriage, but is something that could not be addressed within heterosexual marriage because it centers around a need that runs contrary to a heterosexual relationship need.

The examples you list here--it seems that any sensible heterosexual would want these things changed too: who doesn't hate how expensive and lengthy divorces are and who wouldn't support people being able to name themselves and their kids what they want? (and laws punishing homosexual adultery more severely would clearly be struck down on an equal protection challenge under any marriage equality regime based on the 14th amendment, would they not?). In other words what about marriage is antithetic to LGBTQ needs as opposed to simply being regressive.

If it's just that marriage is regressive, why can't progressives in the LGBTQ and hetero communities work together to change it?

Jeff Redding

Tim, hi!, and thanks for your questions, which are really good ones. Let me start by expanding a bit on something that isn't really brought out all that well in my existing work, namely that I think LGBTQ individuals and communities are different in different places (as are straight people); I've had the opportunity to live in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Islamabad, Lahore, Delhi, Bombay, Cairo, New Haven, and now Saint Louis, and it has always been interesting to me to see the different micro-politics of queer (and straight) communities in each place. So, that's a way in to saying that I think the 'separate but better' argument will work better - and worse - in different contexts. One serious problem with the mainstream G/L discussion of marriage equality at this point, then, is the attempt to institute a pan-United States 'marriage solution' across the United States, using *Constitutional* equality arguments (e.g. at the Supreme Court), without waiting to see whether this is a good idea really. Why can't we have a flexible enough idea of equality to allow experimentation in family laws around the U.S. I actually think that we do... in fact, only because equality is rarely understood or used to take on the bare existence of different states having different family laws demonstrates that flexibility in the idea of equality... so, my question: what about working with that flexibility, especially in 'conservative' states where pan-sexual family law norms (e.g. adultery) likely will be applied in more-harsh ways against queer folk.

I don't want to generalize too much about differences between queer and straight communities, but it seems like same-sex reproduction *always* involves more than the queer unit... gotta get that sperm or egg from somewhere else, and that is a difference between same-sex family units and the vast majority of opposite-sex family units. As well, as different social scientific studies have demonstrated, at least in some contexts, same-sex intimacy patterns are largely different than opposite-sex ones, and it would be good to have flexibility (e.g. in adultery laws) to better reflect that reality (again, at least in some contexts - but current understandings of equality being articulated are not nuanced and not context-sensitive).

Hope this helps, but hope to keep the conversation going!

Jeff Redding

Tim, I realized that I didn't answer your second big question, namely as to "why can't progressives in the LGBTQ and hetero communities work together to change [marriage]?" Maybe that's possible in some state situations, but let me hypothesize a few things: 1) truly progressive heterosexuals don't want to participate in marriage/politics in the first instance (even if they find themselves coerced into it to get basic human needs met), 2) neither do progressive LGBTQ people, 3) that the current marriage equality movement is an alliance of conservatives of whatever stripe. I wish I had more confidence that marriage can be dramatically changed from within; in some places, potentially, in Missouri, no. As a further point/example, I don't see many mainstream feminists who support marriage equality signing up for a massive campaign to reform monogamy norms built into existing marital laws/legal expectations.

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