It was with some delight that I read Kate Bornstein's open letter to LGBT activists in the US about the push for "marriage equality." For the very few of you who don't know, the path to adequate recognition of non hetero relationships in the US was for years stymied by the DOMA (the Defence of Marriage Act), which established in the US legal code that "marriage" was a state that could exist only between two persons of the opposite biological gender, and that states were not obliged to recognise anything otherwise that had been carried out in another juristriction. A nasty, hateful, spiteful and vicious piece of legislation which has done nothing but cause pain to LGBT folk and encourage the bile of the far right in the US.
Its no irony that even in Europe, the vast, vast majority of states which now recognise what the LGBT recognise as "full equality" - which basically means that they are either regarded as having equal status in law, or permitted equal rights in the areas of finance, welfare, parenting and health - in almost every single case initially had piecemeal legislation bringing in some kind of civil partnership arrangement. The reasons for this were simple (and now almost entirely ignored by LGBT activists) - until about a decade ago, a significant chunk of marriages worldwide took place in faith based environments. If ever there was tyranny of the majority, this is it. The problem with such laws isn't just that they violate the rights of minorities or the principle of federalism, its that they have not just split into a tit-for-tat populist push towards ever more restrictive laws against the gay community on the basis of relationships, but they effectively have validated and vindicated the kind of bigotry and hate which ultimately ends up as violence against the gay community or those even perceived as gay.
What is ever more chilling is how the overspill of funding is now coming to Europe and is already inflicting a powerful negative influence over developing countries such as Uganda.
On the other hand, as I think Bornstein tries to make out, so much resources are being pumped into the battle for civil unions that other parts of the battle for proper legal rights are being sidelined. For example, the Matthew Sheppard Act in October of this year. A far, far, far more important law with much far reaching consequences for the minority communities, not just LGBT elites, yet it and other laws are far less publicised, despite having greater impact.
I am continuously stunned by the vast hypocrisy of the LGBT elite in Ireland who accuse greying groups like GLEN of selling out. Where were they 5 years ago when a call for submissions by the Dept of Justice on the issue resulted in about 1000 submissions, almost all of them by right wing fundamentalists opposed to marriage? Where were they 10 years ago when the 2 old lobby groups initially started bringing up the issue in the context of death and healthcare issues? Where were they when other groups were taking a lead on demanding a response to the attempted murder of Robert Drake? Something which they've totally forgotten about - not one Irish paper looks back on this - something which I am utterly ashamed to admit to my journalist friends in LA, friends and ex collagues of Roberts. Yet the Philly Reporter hasn't forgotten and there are occasional reminders in the US press.
But Ireland - yeah we've conveniently forgotten all about that. We've forgotten about the people who can't meet anybody because they are isolated in rural areas, excluded from mainstream communities, or living in fear of discovery despite working in a company which preaches diversity but allows its employees to maintain a hostility towards anybody different. Just like our brothers and sisters in the US who live the priv life, dance at white parties and don't have to think twice, we've forgotten all about the folks who have the shit kicked out of them in major cities because they look gay, we ignore the interests of children caught between warring parents, not to mention the ongoing discrimination against lone parent families, who gain nothing from this either way. Worst of all, groups like Marriage Equality and Noise routinely ignore the comments I've made regarding a failure by either group to correctly address the implicit desire for "property ownership" style parenting rights, perceived as "equality" with married heteros who are already deeply uncomfortable enough in the context of the Baby Leane case, to put an end to the appalling discrimination there is against children of hetero marriages whose parents are untouchables because of constitutional "protection" for the family. It seems like we are a bit pissed because we too cannot just "own" our children like we own a Porshe or a holiday home in West Cork. Only Suzy Byrne has bravely stood alone in objecting to the glorification of the two-parent families and thus reiterating existing injustices, rather than showing real support for childrens rights and lone parent families.
I'm pretty stunned that there has been so little commentary on this anomaly, even within the community. I've posted numerous comments on forums, websites, blogs etc, to no avail. Does this silence mean that LGBT folk agree that childrens right should be secondary to parenting rights? Also I don't see any support coming from the LGBT community for the proposed Childrens Rights referendum, which if it passes, could work in our favour. Nor a single comment about the revisions to the Adoption laws, which don't work in our favour at all. But what I find most worrying is that wider issues of concern to the LGBT community are met with a defeaning silence: for example, the discrmination at work (the most serious issue in the context of the "Burning Issues" study which LGBT organizations are busy ignoring) may be more of a problem given the funding pull for the Equality Authority. Likewise housing and debt - serious issues, given that there appears to be a particular difficulty with LGBT folk to access stable and good quality housing and all kinds of issues that heteros don't have to worry about.
I would be so happy in particular if the lobby could stop bickering among themselves and start to build bridges based on what we have in common. The fragmented and limited nature of the lobbies is weakening our case enormously. Its also critical we work with non LGBT groups with similar interests, such as that for lone parents and womens rights. It seems we've lost our way in a mindset mired in luxury and privilige and to simply blame GLEN for this is nonsense as every one of the groups is largely the same.