Marriage Equality Movement Glosses Over Ongoing Fight for Full Equality

May 21, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

As noted here recently, marriage equality, as important as it is for many lesbians and gay men, can hardly be seen as the key to full equality for the LGBT community in America. But what has not been noted on this blog, or overlooked by it, has been placed in perspective at Jacobin’s blog by Kate Redburn.

In a post earlier this month Redburn lamented the fact that the marriage equality movement “is designed to distract liberal consciences and give Democrats political cover to gut social services.” She notes that Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded President Barack Obama’s embrace of marriage equality days after pushing a budget that contained whopping slashes in funding for homeless shelters for the youth, “in a city where 40% of homeless youth are LGBT.”

Many other states are also cutting services to their most vulnerable, at a time when the nation’s middle class is shrinking and its number of poor is swelling. And the topic of the nation’s gaping wealth gap is not one that is particularly enjoyable for many to engage.

The nation’s right wing is hostile to the discussion and tars those who point to the disheartening and destructive nature the growing concentration of wealth is having on the nation as rants from crazed collectivists. Even the allegedly upbeat and inclusive conferencing group dubbed TED, devoted to providing “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world,” couldn’t handle a talk that hit upon economic inequality. As Alex Pareene reports for Salon, TED head Chris Anderson in an e-mail exchange with Nick Hanauer, author of a forthcoming book on the wealth gap, explained, in part, why Hanauer’s “TED talk,” would not be one of the talks featured on the TED website. Part of the reason centered on comments Hanauer made during his talk that could insult entrepreneurs. Read Pareene’s article for more about what exactly a TED talk is, but one of Pareene’s most enjoyable observations is, “At this point TED is a massive, money-soaked orgy of self-congratulatory futurism ….”

In addition to the nation’s increasing tattered safety net, laws protecting the LGBT community from all kinds of discrimination are too few or limited.  

And the nation has a long tawdry tradition of treating minorities, already among the country’s most vulnerable, with great contempt. So the slashing in funding for social services is bound to hit the LGBT youth especially hard, and when they try to land jobs they will do so in many areas of the country that do not prevent corporations from discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even the federal government has been unable to pass a measure, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) aimed at ensuring workplace equality for LGBT workers.   

Redburn also points out that the marriage equality movement has had the effect of sanitizing the struggle for LGBT equality. Stonewall she notes was not a wedding, “it was a riot, led by the very queers who are now erased from the public image of gay equality.”

There is reason to applaud the advancements of marriage equality, but far more compelling reasons to understand that equality for the LGBT community does not hinge upon government recognition of same-sex marriage, far from it.