Thursday, October 1, 2009

Marriage, Equality, and Segregation Part II

Yesterday, we saw how the "marriage defense" ideology of "gender complementarity" is, in actuality, a theory of male domination. In light of that, internet "marriage defender" On Lawn's claim that it is only a heterosexual marriage that "re-enforces gender equality" rings hollow. When he takes his argument further and suggests that same-sex marriage is actually a "pollution of equality" in the same way that "an all-white school is a pollution of equality" he becomes absurd.

To delve into his analogy, I think some historical context would be valuable to keep in mind. Clearly, On Lawn's argument is a standard equivocation. From a dictionary standpoint, segregate generally means something along the lines of "to separate." Yet, words also have connotations that culture, society, and history imbue them with. To many, segregation means more than "separation;" in light of our nation's history of racial segregation, to many it also means something akin to "invidious separation for purposes of maintaining hierarchy."

And within these details lies On Lawn's equivocation. While it is true that two men married to each other have romantically "separated" themselves from women, this separation was neither intended to nor causes the maintenance of hierarchy.

A wealth of popular and academic writing is available regarding racial segregation in the US and I would encourage those tempted to whimsically make comparisons to avail themselves of the literature before doing so. It is a sophomoric argument to compare two people's same-sex marriage to racially-segregated schools just because the word "segregated" could be applied to both.

In the US (and elsewhere, of course), government-imposed segregation was (and is) effectuated in order to maintain racial hierarchy. Whites, who held societal power, constructed whiteness as superior while constructing non-whiteness as inferior. At their core, all forms of apartheid involve pointing out a difference and then establishing a hierarchy by exaggerating the meaning of that difference. Historically, blacks were not free to marry whites, because to do so would be to taint the "white race," which was constructed as "better than" blackness. If the races mixed and procreated, there would be no visible signifier of who was and was not superior to whom. And, under the ideology of white supremacy, depending on the state, blacks could marry other people of color, because white supremacy was not threatened if non-white races "mixed."

In short, our nation's history of racial segregation had an overarching theme of white supremacy. The segregation of the races was not an unmotivated, capricious decision; whites holding power segregated the races because, believing whites to be superior, they believed that white people deserved to retain political and economic power. A key way to maintain that power was to continually mark and exaggerate difference to make it Obvious To Everyone How Superior Whites Are.

So, to bring On Lawn's argument back into the conversation, we see that while it is true that same-sex marriages segregate (as in "separate") men and women from one another, it is absurd to argue that this is the same flavor of "segregation" that perpetuated racial hierarchy. When two women, for instance, marry each other, they do not do so under an ideology that women are superior and that men are inferior. Likewise, when two men marry, they do not do so to create or maintain male supremacy in society. The marriage of two people of the same-sex does not create or maintain a gender hierarchy. If On Lawn thinks that it does, and if he is going to compare same-sex marriage to racial segregation, he needs to put forth an argument demonstrating more than a superficial equivocation.

He will be unable to do so, of course. It is the current marriage scheme that perpetuates hierarchy. For, LGB people marry despite the fact that most "marriage defenders" tell them that they are inferior in nearly every way to Normal People. In fact, as we saw yesterday, it is same-sex marriage that knocks the sex/gender hierarchy flat on its outdated, over-inflated ass. It is On Lawn's beloved "traditional marriage" that perpetuates sex/gender hierarchy.

There's a reason that the more appropriate, and much more accepted, argument is that the current marriage structure in the US, which for the most part either excludes same-sex couples from marriage completely or relegates them to "domestic partner" or "civil union" statuses, marks same-sex couples with a badge of inferiority. The segregation between heterosexual married couples and those who are relegated to, if anything, some sort of non-marital "union" is invidious separation for purposes of maintaining a hierarchy that places the heterosexual dyad (and individual) above the same-sex couple (and lesbian, gay, or bisexual individual). The phrase "separate but equal," and all of those connotations, come to mind.

I don't think many "marriage defenders" would even argue that a main point of their opposition to same-sex marriage is to send the message that heterosexuals are superior to those who are not hetero and that heterosexual unions are better than homosexual ones. That On Lawn himself acknowledges that that is his view only speaks to a bizarre cognitive dissonance.

And, of course, a projection.

For, when one combines the heterosupremacy of "marriage defense" with the sexism of "gender complementarity," the two gorillas taking 800-pound dumps in On Lawn's room become quite apparent. And smelly, also.

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