Untying the Knot

Last week, the Equality Campaign and dontamend.com launched a series of Internet ads (dearmary.com) targeting Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, with the tagline "Dick's daughter sold out to help Dick run again." With simple stick figure images, the animated ads tell the story of how Mary Cheney came out, recruited gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender voters for George W. and her father in 2000, and continues to be a key, paid figure in their re-election campaign—all this despite the fact that her dad and his buddy want to make her and her partner second-class citizens. If you're queer, chances are you've got a complicated relationship with your parents, or at least it was temporarily complicated when you came out. Some gays are estranged from their parents, others are tolerated but not embraced, and still others have wonderful relationships. But what if your parents had the power to effect real change on a national level that touched you personally? That's why many of us cannot imagine how a daughter not only stands by her dad but actually supports him when his party and his administration want to deny her basic rights simply because of who she is and who she loves.

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman," says the text of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment." The week of July 12, there will be a full vote by the Senate on the FMA. It's a testament to the LGBT civil rights movement that we continue to be a prime target of the right wing; our visibility, activism, and progress have made us a true threat. The fact that they're freaking out at all is a small victory, but the war is far from over. Oh, and speaking of war, isn't it convenient that Republicans are whipping Americans into a frenzy over same-sex marriage, making it the hot-button issue of the election, so they can avoid addressing the economy, education, Medicare, and oh, that nasty little disaster called the war in Iraq?

Once again right-wingers are better organized than their lefty counterparts, mobilizing anti-LGBT groups to bombard senators with e-mails, phone calls, and letters encouraging them to vote for the FMA. (Pick up the phone or log on, people.) In another "you don't even want our money?" moment, a study by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that gay marriage would be worth $1 billion a year to the United States economy, but Republicans could care less. The right has swung into action, but what it has not done is make any compelling argument against same-sex marriage. Like a traditional yet out-of-touch mother of the bride, the conservative agenda has given us:

Something old: The Bible condemns homosexuality, and God does not believe in queer nuptials.

Something new: The FMA introduces hate and discrimination into a document that is supposed to be about rights.

Something borrowed: More moderate Republicans, as well as plenty of Democrats—shame on you, John Kerry—support LGBT civil unions. Separate-but-equal, gee, that sounds familiar.

Something blue (as in out of the blue): Pundits argue that if same-sex marriage is legalized, the floodgates will be open to bigamy, polygamy, incest, bestiality, you name it. It will be the end of marriage as we know it.

Well, that last part—about the end of marriage as we know it—is not far off. Conservatives are trying to hang on for dear life to this pretty idea of a heterosexual two-parent nuclear family, which is a true dying breed. They are attempting to give marriage this mythic status, one we know is totally false. If we stick to the headlines, marriage is the territory of reality-show weddings, talk show paternity tests, cheating, separation, divorce, custody battles, domestic abuse, and murder. Less cynically put, marriage is not the '50s archetype anymore; the American family has evolved into a diverse picture of single-parent households, kids with two moms or two dads, stepparents and half-siblings, and the list goes on.

Queer Nation raised my baby dyke ass, feeding me direct-action tactics and clothing me with "Assimilate my fist" stickers in the early '90s. Yet I still cannot get behind the argument that no self-respecting queer person should want to marry because marriage is a patriarchal, heterosexual institution that we should neither support nor subscribe to. First, I can be in favor of the right for other queer people to marry but make the personal choice not to. Second, marriage does not have to be patriarchal or heterosexual, and it won't be once we're through with it. It'll have the most fabulous Queer Eye makeover yet. When we marry, we don't have to simply mimic the hetero-nuclear family. By being queer, we fuck up marriage to begin with, we redefine it, we challenge it, we move it forward, something you're not going to read a lot about in the Human Rights Campaign literature. I do not have to be a monogamous, gender appropriate, conformist lesbian Stepford wife just because I walk down the aisle in a white dress and vow in front of friends, family, and the universe that I am committed to my genderqueer trannie boyfriend.

Even if the FMA is defeated, we still have to fight for same-sex marriage. I will fight for my right to marry because I'm a citizen who votes, pays taxes, and contributes to this country as much as any other citizen. I will fight for my right to marry because my relationship with my partner deserves the recognition, respect, and the 1,049 benefits that straight couples can get by going to City Hall today. I will fight for my right to marry because my gay father did not have that right. I will fight for my right to marry, and I will untie the old knots to free marriage from its conservative stranglehold.

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