Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Follow LeftTurn:

Special Offer from PM Press

Now more than ever there is a vital need for radical ideas. In the four years since its founding - and on a mere shoestring - PM Press has risen to the formidable challenge of publishing and distributing knowledge and entertainment for the struggles ahead. With over 200 releases to date, they have published an impressive and stimulating array of literature, art, music, politics, and culture.

PM Press is offering readers of Left Turn a 10% discount on every purchase. In addition, they'll donate 10% of each purchase back to Left Turn to support the crucial voices of independent journalism. Simply enter the coupon code: Left Turn when shopping online or mention it when ordering by phone or email.

Click here for their online catalog.

The Left & Gay Marriage

Kouross Esmaeli
Date Published: 
September 14, 2004

Images of same sex couples kissing in wedlock on the evening news has literally screwed the right-wing agenda of family values. The debates have come at a time when the right wing has seemed unstoppable, and the mainstream gay establishment deserves much credit for successfully inserting itself in the public discourse.

However, from the radical Queer politics expressed in the last issue of Left Turn to left liberal theorists writing in The Nation, progressives seem to not understand this event for what it shows: the right wing is having to battle over their agenda of family values, at least when it comes to rallying the majority of Americans against gays and lesbians. It shows that there’s still some life in the sick, and perhaps dying, American body politic. It also shows how alienated the progressive left has become and how unable it is to connect with the larger society even at an opportune moment.

“Marriage” is the issue that the right is using to rally people against gay people, and in the process, the issue is politicizing many people. According to the gay weekly New York Blade’s description of this year’s Gay Pride March: “Dominating the [two-million-strong] march were political themes. The messages were nearly unanimous: pro-marriage, anti-Bush, encouragement to vote and a general political fervor not seen in years.” (July 2, 2004). Considering this fact, it seems like the left radicals are operating in a parallel universe to the rest of us.

This is not the first example of progressives having to figure out how to participate in the fight for a minority’s right to participate in institutions of mainstream society. But the discussion in not even there yet. There are an estimated 160 ways that gay marriage will legally empower people who identify as gay and lesbian. This is not a small victory for people whose lives will improve in terms of health care, immigration rights, domestic and custody rights, etc. Dismissing these gains as insufficient or a process of assimilation is nothing but radical privilege.

If anything, the question of gay marriage can give the progressive left the ability to express and push the envelope on its own ideas. More flexible ways for union and dis-union, dissolving all marriages into secular civil unions, domesticity between more than two people: these are ideas that can make politics of sexual liberation relevant to the questions of not only marriage but gay politics in general. And none of these ideas are necessarily IN OPPOSITION to the right of same sex couples to get legally married.

The question of gay marriage is a live controversy in American society. The overwhelming support of mainstream America for the legal acceptance of same sex unions shows that this can be a polarizing issue exposing the neo-con agenda to a wide layer of people. For the progressive left, this moment calls for swallowing some of its ossified theoretical prejudices and dealing with American society on its own terms and within its own dynamics.