Marriage Equality and shit

Rally 19 October 2013, QEII Square, Ablury

Rally 19 October 2013, QEII Square, Ablury

Those of you who’ve had the misfortune to hear me rant on about marriage might find it odd that I promote events like this upcoming Equal Love Rally in Albury. I’m no fan of marriage. I don’t think the state has any business telling us how we will live our lives. I happen to think that life long monogamy is just a lie we tell each other.

And I heartily campaign for marriage equality.

But marriage be damned.

In Australia, same sex marriage is explicitly banned. This ban is not about marriage, it’s about marking out queers as less than equal.

Young queers grow up being told that marriage “is the cornerstone of our society”, and that they can’t get married. The conclusions should be pretty fucking obvious to even the most dense. Young queers are being told they are not normal, they are wrong, they are threatening, they are being told they are less than human.

A ban on same sex marriage gives very real comfort to homophobes and religious freaks, it tells them that their beliefs are supported by the state. It serves the interests of conservative religious institutions, reinforcing their power; the ruling class it seems still has some need for their role as moral police.

But first and foremost its about dividing people, it’s about dividing the working class. Dividing the working class into marginalised and privileged groups is key to maintaining the power of the ruling class. Your jobs are threatened by foreigners! Your marriages are threatened by queers! Your property is threatened by the blacks! NOW GET INTO LINE.

This is no greatly hidden process. Divide and rule works, and is consciously practised. The Howard government’s explicit ban on same sex marriage occurred in the lead up to the 2004 election. “Illegals” no terrified like they did in 2001, and Mark Latham looked like offering the Howard government a bit of a challenge. We now know this ban was adopted at the same time as the Howard government conspired to enact a massive attack on the conditions of the working class in the form of Work Choices.

Anarchist and Socialists who I consider friends critique this position, on the grounds that the campaign for same sex marriage is vulnerable to co-option by the ruling class.

Of course it is! Every campaign is! Today’s radicalism is tomorrows product, re-branded, packaged and sold back to us. Anyone for a Cherry Guevara icecream, or your very own Guy Fawkes mask?

If we reject every campaign that risks co-option by the ruling class, if we demand nothing short of total revolution now, we will find ourselves in an isolated self serving political ghetto of the most pure, the most self righteous, the most ineffective and the most irrelevant, for all time. Sound familiar?

You can’t will a revolution out of thin air, and you cannot some how expect that the mass of people will come around to your point of view as if by magic.

"Stonewall was a riot not a brand..."

“Stonewall was a riot not a brand name”

Yes, Stonewall was a riot, and yes, the radical history of the liberation struggle MUST be defended. But we’re not at Stonewall and it’s not 1969.

The sad fact is that we don’t get to pick the political terrain. Radical ideas will only be advanced when radicals meet people where they are at now.

And an increasingly large cross section of the working class is at events like Equal Love Albury Wodonga, or at Reclaim the Night, or at demonstrations against 457 visas.

I want to make it clear I don’t endorse any of these campaigns uncritically (especially NOT the 457 campaign). But the skill and task of the radical is to be able to engage critically with what exists, and advance an alternative and more systematic explanation of the vectors of oppression that at least some people have decided to confront.

1 Comment

  1. ablokeimetJuly 16, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Kieran is quite correct about the central issue of gay marriage:

    “In Australia, same sex marriage is explicitly banned. This ban is not about marriage, it’s about marking out queers as less than equal.”

    Gays in Australia hadn’t been all that keen on getting marriage rights before Howard came out and banned it. It had become an issue in the US because some gay groups there started campaigning for it and the Religious Right went berserk. Congress therefore banned it. The more religious of the Right-wingers here then started going on about it, too. Howard picked up on the issue in a complex way – demonstrating how he was the smartest Tory PM Australia has ever had. He banned gay marriage, but also legislated to remove some of the most significant forms of anti-gay discrimination on the statute book.

    Why did he do this? Howard was determined to draw a line in the sand. Marriage was the issue he chose as the one which defined gay people as being less than straight people. The point of removing some other aspects of discrimination was to ensure that the battle lines were drawn on Howard’s chosen territory. And it was only when Howard drew that line in the sand that gays in Australia decided that the right to marry was one they were interested in.

    In the last 10 years, however, social attitudes have changed tremendously. A position that Howard thought could be defended for a generation or more has become dangerously exposed in a decade. The market logic of neo-liberalism has undermined the social values of conservatism. We’ve suffered enough defeats at the hands of neo-liberalism, it’s good to see the Right copping one or two as well.

    So let us support the removal of anti-gay discrimination in the Marriage Act. Gay people, like straight ones, deserve the right to marry and the right to divorce. Let us do it, however, while emphasising the larger point that the State has no right to regulate consenting human relationships.


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