Get Adobe Flash player


August 2008


Scan the rhetoric of today’s gay political groups and you’ll find “equality” as a theme. Many organizations incorporate the word into their names, and the nation’s best-funded gay lobby uses an equal sign as their logo.


It’s easy to understand why equality is an appealing principle to gay people. When homosexuality is seen as criminal or sinful or disreputable, gay people endure inequitable treatment. And since some of these bias-inspired inequalities impair people’s ability to pursue their civic lives — to do jobs they are qualified for, to live wherever they want, to speak out as they wish — more equitable treatment is a legitimate goal.


But, regrettably, gay organizations all-too-often use equality as just a slogan. Recent campaigns for hate-crime laws and for gay marriage reveal just how profoundly almost all our political groups misunderstand, and misuse, “equality.”


Hate-crime laws assert that crimes committed against some people (those politically strong enough to win legislators’ approval) should be more punishable than crimes committed against others (those not on the approved list). It is no triumph of equality to win the addition of “sexual orientation” to some laundry list of groups meriting special defense. “Extra protection” for some inherently means less protection for others. Homeless people, sex workers, ex-cons, and others lacking political muscle are sometimes targeted for violence because of who they are — but because of their political impotence, they will never win the enhanced protections afforded the politically more palatable. Hate crime legislation is antithetical to the noble concept of all citizens being equal under the law.


And ongoing campaigns for gay marriage have adopted “equality” as a rallying cry. Indeed, existing marriage laws discriminate against homosexuals. But a moment’s reflection reveals that, as with hate-crime laws, allowing gay people to access benefits denied to deserving others is no victory for equality.


Without doubt, there should be the same legal protections available to same-sex couples as are granted hetero couples. But the state should not be in the business of rewarding coupled households with benefits denied to deserving households with other arrangements. When Vermont wanted to expand its civil unions law to include elderly sisters who made house together, or a grandson tending to his grandparent, gay marriage activists protested vociferously that such inclusivity was a denigration of gay couples. They echoed the argument made by those who oppose gay marriage for its supposed assault on the sanctity of traditional marriage, revealing that privilege — not equality — was their goal.


Even as a slogan, “marriage equality” carries more than a whiff of oxymoron. Equitable access to health care, hospital visitation rights, inheritance and insurance benefits — valid concerns cited by gay marriage activists — should not depend on ones marital status: single people should not be compelled to marry to gain access to a partner’s health insurance; mutually devoted spinsters should not be forced to declare themselves a sexual unit in order to legally protect their relationship; and communal households where more than two people take responsibility for each other should not suffer couple-centric discrimination.


Those concerned about anti-gay violence can and should insist that police, prosecutors, and courts treat crimes against all people with the same vigor and resources, no matter the victim’s social station or demographic particulars.


And those who recognize the unfairness of rewarding only heterosexually-coupled households will demand that the state get out of the business of legitimizing only sexual couples and instead allow any household to register their legal commitments to one another. Furthermore, they will realize that many benefits sought by gay marriage advocates — such as access to health care — are better understood as individually-held human rights that exist independent of ones marital status. They will understand that attempts to have gay couples join the privileged elite while leaving others out is unfair. That is, if they believe in equality.


Pasted from <>


Leave a Reply