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May 29 2009

Special Rights, Not Equal Rights

Equal Rights Are Not Special Rights Button (0473)I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It’s a different take on the recent ruling upholding the Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage in California. It’s about how the court ruling essentially gives me and Ingrid and about 18,000 same-sex couples in California “special rights”… and what a strange, icky feeling that is.

The piece is titled Special Rights, Not Equal Rights, and here’s the teaser:

For years, one of the mantras of the anti-gay right wing has been that LGBT activists want “special rights.” (It’s a mantra that gets used a lot to defend bigotry — it was sounded frequently in the fight against civil rights in the ’50s and ’60s, and in fact was used to oppose interracial marriage — so please take note of that.) And for years, one of the mantras of the LGBT rights movement has been, “Equal rights, not special rights.” We’re not asking for special rights: we’re asking for the same rights, and the same responsibilities, and the same opportunities to participate in and contribute to society, as everyone else.

And yet the weird-ass upshot of this court decision is that I, and Ingrid, and 18,000 other couples, have wound up with special rights.

That, my friends, is a strange position to be in.

To find out how and why this experience is so deeply bizarre and unsettling — and what I plan to do about it — read the rest of the piece. (And as always, if you feel inspired to comment on this blog, please consider cross- posting your comment to the Blowfish Blog. They like comments there, too.) Enjoy!

5 comments

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  1. 1
    J. M.

    This is a very thought-provoking post. That seems a very strange situation to be in. I’ve always agreed that same-sex couples being allowed to marry would be equal rights, and not special rights; however, it never occurred to me that the people who had gotten married in this brief window would, in effect, have “special rights.” I’ve always thought that allowing only heterosexual couples to marry was an example of special rights (though, like you said, I don’t think heterosexual couples should refrain from marrying until their homosexual and bisexual friends are allowed to marry).
    Thanks for another great post, Greta (or perhaps I should call you Ms. Christina).

  2. 2
    Buffy

    I agree. My wife and I don’t enjoy being part of this “marriage island” and this sordid mess that is Proposition 8 has made us positively sick.

  3. 3
    DuWayne

    While there is much more to it than the fact that most of my friends aren’t legally allowed to marry, that has definitely been a factor in my refusal to marry. It’s not that I feel like it’s a solidarity thing – it’s more that I just don’t feel comfortable engaging in an inherently exclusive institution.
    Ultimately, this has morphed into a very firm belief that marriage should be abolished as a civil institution. Not just because of my same sex friends either. I have come to believe that a civil joining that doesn’t imply anything about the nature of the relationship should be the legal standard. I have more than one friend who got married to a platonic partner for a variety of reasons. The most striking to me, was a “couple” that had been roomies for years and decided to buy a house – they had already been together so long that most of their property was pretty joint anyways. Allen has had several bouts of cancer and they wanted to ensure there would be no complications when he died – that and they both are pretty well estranged from their natural families and want to be in a position to make important decisions for each other.
    I think it makes more sense for people to have the ability to legally join without implications and choose to define their relationship how they wish.

  4. 4
    Elin

    Cross-posting this from Blowfish: I agree, this is weird. But: how would you feel if it the court had not made the exception for the same-sex couples who married during that time period? It would seem like a bit of a betrayal for people who married in those few months (including my mom and her wife) in good faith that the marriage would be honored by their state, regardless of the outcome of Prop 8. Because Prop 8 is a constitutional amendment, making the straight-marriage-only rule retrospectively effective would have been unfair, too. It would be a little like if, after the passage of amendment instituting Prohibition, the cops had started arresting people for selling liquor prior to the amendment.
    If the court had to uphold Prop 8, this is probably the most fair way to go about it. On the other hand, how much good is the fair institution of an unfair law?

  5. 5
    John A.

    You got the ruling you wanted. Stop complaining

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