Not all Gays and Lesbians Advocate and Support Same-Sex Marriage

Thursday 13 April 2017.

Not all Gays and Lesbians Advocate and Support Same-Sex Marriage

Not all of those who self-identify as gay and lesbian advocate for and support same-sex marriage. There are gays and lesbians who self-identify as queer and they are the ones who generally oppose same-sex marriage. This opposition to same-sex marriage comes from their ideology for sexual liberation. This opposition to same-sex marriage also is historical, in that it was an ideological division from the very beginning of the modern gay and lesbian movement. This ideological division is framed in the discussion of assimilation or liberation in how homosexuals, gays, lesbians, and queers should relate to the culture and society in which they live. For more information about ideological division of "assimilation" or "liberation" at This opposition to same-sex marriage may be read in the extensive writings by gay and lesbian authors.

Homosexuals have hardly been unified in their support for same-sex marriage (Egan and Sherrill 2005). The division comes in two relevant forms. On one hand, many homosexuals, like many heterosexuals, do not personally aspire to become married. On the other hand, some homosexuals oppose marriage as an institution. Especially during the early years of the gay liberation movement, some voices rejected everything they associated with heterosexuality, including sex roles, marriages, and the family (Chauncey, 2004, 89). For many men, gay liberation was about sexual experimentation, not monogamous coupling. For many lesbians, marriage was an inherently patriarchal institution, which played a central role in structuring the domination of women (Rom, Introduction: The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage, p. 15 in The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage, editors Craig A. Rimmerman and Clyde Wilcox)

The campaign for marriage, never a broad-based movement among gay and lesbian activists, depended for its success on the courts. It was launched by a relatively small number of lawyers, not by a consensus of activists. It remains a project of litigation, though with the support of the major lesbian and gay organizations. (Warner, The Trouble With Normal Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, p. 85)

First, marriage will not liberate us as lesbians and gay men. In fact, it will constrain us, make us more invisible, force our assimilation into the mainstream, and undermine the goals of gay liberation. Second, attaining the right to marry will not transform our society from one that makes narrow, but dramatic, distinctions between those who are married and those who are not married to one that respects and encourages choice of relationships and family diversity. Marriage runs contrary to two of the primary goals of the lesbian and gay movement: the affirmation of gay identity and culture and the validation of many forms of relationships. (Ettelbrick, Since When is Marriage a Path to Liberation? p. 21 in Lesbian and Gay Marriage Private Commitments, Private Ceremonies, editor Suzanne Sherman.)

But the picture is more complex than coverage of recent events suggest. Gays and lesbians have been debating the desirability and importance of same-sex marriage for years, and this intracommunity debate reflects deeper tension and oppositions within gay and lesbians’ communities, conflicts over the political and cultural goals of the gay and lesbian movement and over the tactics used to accomplish those goals. In particular, the marriage question reveals a fault line among gay and lesbian activists and commentators, a divide between those who emphasis a rights-orientated approach to social change, viewing assimilation as the ultimate goal of gay and lesbian activism, and those who advocate a liberationist or queer ethic focused on deconstructing fixed sexual categories and transforming dominant cultural understandings of intimacy, sexuality, family, and the state. (Hull, Same-Sex Marriage The Cultural Politics of Love and Law, p. 78-79)

Gay and lesbian critics of marriage, by contrast, view marriage as fundamentally incompatible with the defining principles of queer life and activism and argue that the costs of pursuing marriage outweigh its supposed benefits. (Hull, Same-Sex Marriage The Cultural Politics of Love and Law, 81)

The tensions evident in this intracommunity debate on marriage reflect deeper divisions within gay and lesbian communities and movements along the fault line of assimilation vs. liberation. For those on the queer/liberation side of the divide, the desire for marriage represents a problematic effort to integrate into mainstream society without challenging its oppressive power structure. Critics view the institution of marriage as fundamentally flawed, both because of its patriarchal history and because it grants the state undue control over sexual behavior and intimate commitments. They dismiss the idea that gays and lesbians will fundamentally alter and improve the institution of marriage by becoming part of it. For those on the assimilation/equality side of the divide, however, the lack of marriage rights symbolizes one of the few remaining barriers to full social and legal equality for American gays and lesbians. Marriage supporters argue that the institution of marriage has changed over time and will continue to evolve, such participation in marriage signifies the chance to reshape an important social institution into a more egalitarian form, rather than capitulation to an inherently oppressive and stratifying arrangement. (Hull, Same-Sex Marriage: The Cultural Politics of Love and Law, p. 83-84)

What may be seen alarming is those gays and lesbians who voice their support for same-sex marriage as a part of a greater goal, that starts with same-sex marriage, but ends with cultural support and legal recognition for all kinds of relationships regardless the age and the number of the participants in a relationship.

A significant number of influential voices on the gay left reject the idea of same-sex marriage, suggesting marriage itself is oppressive. They tolerate same-sex marriage only as a transitional movement toward the eventual abolition of marriage. (Byrd,Conjugal Marriage Fosters Healthy Human and Societal Development, p.9 in. What’s the Harm? Does Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Really Harm Individuals, Families or Society? Editor Lynn D Wardle.)

In fact, soon after same-sex marriage advocates suffered a defeat in Washington State, a group of 250 academics and celebrities including Cornell west, Gloria Steinem, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Judith Stacey, Nan Hunter and Armistead Maupin signed the manifesto, Beyond same-Sex Marriage, A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships which petitions for legal rights and privileges of marriage for all arrangements, like extend families living in one household and friends in long-term, care-giving relationships. (Byrd, Conjugal Marriage Fosters Healthy Human and Societal Developmen, p.9 in. What’s the Harm? Does Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Really Harm Individuals, Families or Society? Editor Lynn D Wardle.)

A web page, Beyond Marriage has been created and you may access it through this link

Those advocating for same-sex marriage say the argument that same-sex marriage will lead to more than two people in a relationship is a slippery slope argument. And they are right. It is not a slippery slope argument because multiple partnered relationships are taking place now among gays, lesbians and homosexuals. An article in the June 6, 2006 of The Advocate discusses such relationships. The magazine cover carries the phrase, National gay and lesbian newsmagazine. The cover has a picture of three male figurines on top of a cake, and the headline is Polygamy & gay men, Dirty laundry or sexual freedom? How gay men handle multiple partners. Here is a link to the Advocate article at

The cover story, Dose gay polygamy work? also mentions the HBO’s (Home Box Office television network) show, Big Love. The Advocate article contains the following. HBO’s Big Love has ignited debate about hetro polygamy, but polyamorous relationships are not news to the many gay men with multiple log-term partners. The article begins with discussing the relationship between 3 men and a woman from Somerville, MA. The Advocate also has an article interviewing an out (openly gay) man who is a writer for the HBO show Big Love.

Polygamy is the word used for heterosexual relationships and it used in the context of men with multiple wives. The word used for multiple partnered homosexual relationships is polyamory. A polyamorous relationship is an open homosexual relationship, usually allowing sexual relationships among the multiple partners in the relationship. Often in these multiple partnered homosexual relationships there is full knowledge and consent to this sexual relationship by all the partners involved. The Advocate article writes about four polyamorous relationships and has pictures of all four polyamorous relationships including the Somerville, MA group.

Another article that may be found on the internet and contains more details and information may be found in a conservative political magazine was published in 2003. The article Beyond Gay Marriage and authored by Stanley Kurtz.The link is

Although those gays and lesbians who are honest and sincere, with the best of intentions for wanting to be able to enjoy and participate all the benefits of marriage, especially the legal benefits, an honest, meaningful and open discussion is in the best interest for our culture and society, today and in the future.

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