Effects of Politics on Gay Rights
Before the November 2004 U.S. elections, disputed social expectations and shifting demographics created widespread anxiety and a volatile political calculus. The political uproar and outrage over same-sex marriage prompted then-President George W. Bush to pledge to use constitutional amendments to prevent a gay couple from marrying in San Francisco. During that time, the Republican electoral coalition was divided on the issue. Moral and hard-line religious conservatives worked hard to maintain traditional marriage’s privileged status and rigidify its boundaries. This involves advocating for constitutional amendments that recognize marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Libertarians, social moderates and states’ rights advocates preferred to conservative gendered marriage but advocated for some diverse forms of household recognition and partnerships at the state level. Nonetheless, they were firmly opposed to federal imposition of constitutional amendments on the states.
The debate during this period over marriage and its future displaced even more significant and bigger battles in the U.S. including war and peace, good governance and corporate greed and taxes and fairness. This is because the state regulation of partnerships and households affected not only the basic safety of all Americans but also their welfare, equality and prosperity (Duggan 15). It determined who makes emergency medical decisions, shares one’s Social Security Benefits or pensions and who legitimately co-parented the children among others. During this period, moral conservatives took the lead in trying to frame the significance of the then marriage crisis. This included the gay marriage apparition, women’s independent choices outside and within marriages and by the government’s neutrality, support and toleration of unmarried and single-parent households, particularly among the poor.
There were already various legal categories of marriage that had emerged over the decades of political squabbling at the state and municipal levels (Duggan 16). These included civil marriage, the civil union, reciprocal beneficiaries and domestic partnership. However, these categories were not open or equivalent to everyone. Civil marriage between a man and a woman is still only one that carries the most mutual responsibilities and specific benefits. These include over 1,050 state and federal protections, responsibilities and benefits, according to the General Accounting Office of the federal government.
Efforts to stop democratization of households and partnerships escalated steadily since 1993 when a Hawaiian state court verdict conjured up visions of legalization of gay weddings (Frank 146). Thirty-eight states soon passed constitutional amendments or legislations restricting marriage unions to heterosexual couples only. Moreover, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act that was intended to prevent future state-level gay marriages from carrying federal portability or recognitions that were once guaranteed by the civil marriage (Spade 79). With an uphill battle to pass Clinton’s amendment and Bush’s marriage-promotion initiative, the progressives, outside and within the Democratic Party were left to formulate a positive and clear vision on how to address household needs for social support and state recognition.
Nevertheless, they too had division in their marriage politics approach. The hateful campaigns aimed at excluding gay couples from complete marriage rights created significant pressure on the gay-rights supporters and advocates to accentuate that the central right to citizenship is access to civil marriage.
However, in a proposal for equality, some same-sex groups or advocates produced oratory that marginalized and insulted unmarried people. As a result, the drive for same-sex marriage equality undermined rather than promoted the wider movement for democratic diversity and social justice. Meanwhile, the critics of marriage endorsement, located primarily in the feminist policy, were working seriously to counter the rosy views and ideologies of the marriage institution (Spade 79). They pointed out that, although marriage provided strong economic and emotional security to some women, it locked a lot of women in exploitative, violent, unsatisfying and abusive relationships.
The agendas of advocates of same-sex marriage equality and the progressive feminist detractors of marriage advertisement did not inevitably or necessarily conflict, nonetheless their efforts ran on separate rhetorical and political tracks. With the growing political stakes and narrowing political probabilities, it was imperative for the progressives to find new ways to integrate the largely democratic marriage politics (Duggan 18). Therefore, to respond to the extensive changes in incipient dissatisfaction and household organization, the progressives could have began disentangling the symbolic, religious, economic and kinship functions of marriage. However, public polls revealed contradictory views regarding the subject of divorce and marriage, gay rights and adultery.
The voices of same-sex marriage advocates were echoed by Judge Reinhardt in his Perry v. Brown decision (2012), where he argued that denying same-sex couples marriage while granting them the responsibilities and rights through domestic partnership was unfair and unlawful (United States Ninth Circuit). The judge demonstrated that shared domestic and romantic relationships could not be replaced by the esteemed status of marriage. The advocates of same-sex marriage have, however, depicted it as an institution for recognition and clearing up inequality through healthcare systems, taxation rules, child custody and other property rights rather than benefitting the individuals who are marrying and their intimacy.
Critics of the same-sex marriage advocacy observed that most civil liberties accorded to gay marriage are useful to those with partners who have benefits and that it primarily benefits the wealthy white people while marginalizing the poor, youth, disabled, colored and queer immigrants. The debate on same-sex marriage still brings tension to institutions such as the military, police officers, or bankers among others in today’s society.
Duggan, Lisa. “Holy Matrimony”. The Nation, Feb. 2004, https://www.thenation.com/article/holy-matrimony/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017.
Frank, Gillian. “The Civil Rights of Parents”: Race and Conservative Politics in Anita Bryant’s Campaign against Gay Rights in 1970S Florida”. Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 22, no. 1, 2013, pp. 126-160.
Spade, Dean. “Under the Cover of Gay Rights”. New York University Review of Law & Social Change, no. 1, 2013, p. 79.
United States Ninth Circuit. “Perry v. Brown, 10-16696”. Findlaw, Jul. 2012, http://caselaw.findlaw.com/summary/opinion/us-9th-circuit/2012/02/07/257635.html. Accessed 20 Apr. 2017.