Why I can’t get excited about same-sex marriage

When David Cameron addressed the Conservative party at the October 2011 conference he assured them – ‘I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.’ This statement could be mistaken for spin, but on closer inspection it reveals the truth of the logic behind Cameron’s championing of same-sex marriage. Whilst the Marriage Bill may appear to be a progressive piece of landmark legislation granting gay couples equal recognition, it is best understood as part of a conservative agenda to shrink the state and confine the burden of care to the (married) family unit.

The struggle for same-sex marriage diverts our more radical energies and instead leaves us hankering after the privileges of straight folks. In all the excitement about what ‘gay weddings’ might be like (they’ll be swans and sequins, rainbows and unicorns!) we might forget about the way in which LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by cuts to housing and social services (check out Queers Against the Cuts for more info) or the way in which Britain demands gay asylum seekers ‘prove’ their sexuality or risk deportation (as reported in this recent Guardian article).

Let’s not forget that the Marriage Bill still needs to go through the House of Lords and there are still a few issues to be ironed out. Namely, the highly gendered and heterosexist definitions of consummation and adultery in law. There was a well-written and well-humoured piece in Autostraddle on this subject which I recommend you read for the sheer pleasure of the title ‘Faulty Deflowerings’ 

If you want to draw up a contract of legal obligations for your love, then fine. Ideally, everybody would be free to draw up their own contracts specifying what commitments they wish to make to whoever they wish to make them too. I, however, do not want lawyers, religious figures, or the state involved in my love; the tangled web of connections that I hold dear.

And that is what bothers me about the same-sex marriage debate, the idea that it is all about love. The word ‘love’  is frequently used as synonymous with ‘marriage’ and the main campaign group for same-sex marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships calls itself ‘Equal Love’. Yet, as far as I am concerned this is not about love but the economies of intimacy that structure our society.

A friend of mine used the following three words in favour of same-sex marriage – ‘Taxes. Visas. Banks.’ Same-sex marriage might make your life admin easier. Woohoo! But does that really sound like liberation to you? I don’t think so.

Somebody who does have a radical vision of a liberatory queer politics is Amber Hollibaugh, Executive Director of the freaking fabulous organization Queers For Economic Justice. I’ll leave you with some of her deliciously wise and inspiring words.


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