Off the chopping block

For my Feet in 2 Worlds post on immigrants and gay marriage in New York, I asked Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, for his response to skeptics of marriage equality efforts in the state.

I pointed out that some queer activists question the energy and resources put on passing gay marriage legislation by LGBT advocates and groups when queers of color face larger and more pressing problems like poverty, unemployment and inequality. Moreover, doubters object to the heteronormative nature of marriage which privileges the nuclear family over other kinds of families.

Evan sent me an email, part of which was quoted in the article. Here is his entire response:

The denial of the freedom to marry with all its tangible and intangible protections, consequences, and meaning hurts everyone — not least because it is state-sponsored discrimination based on who we are and who we love, which is intolerable. But it falls harshest on those who are most vulnerable — people dealing with illness, immigration status, low means, and other challenges — because it means denial of an extraordinary safety-net that touches virtually every area of life from birth to death, with health and taxes and in between. What’s more, the work to win the freedom to marry has spurred more progress across a variety of fronts we all care about — non-discrimination laws, gender identity and youth protections, other forms of family recognition. Rather than imposing false either/or’s on LGBT people, we should be working together for full equality and inclusion as well as enlarged possibilities for all, and ending the exclusion from marriage is a big part of, and engine, in that advance.

Personally, I am for marriage equality and support efforts to make it a reality at the state and federal levels. I nonetheless agree with queer activists who complain that little attention is given to the concerns and issues of those in the community who are of color, foreign, poor and transgressive of the predominant gay norm. Gaining the freedom to marry will be a boon to many lesbian and gay couples but not necessarily to those who need help most.

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