Because June is Pride month for many cities around the U.S., I’m hoping to highlight some critiques of the larger and more mainstream LGBTQ+ community. I’m also planning to write about the history of Pride and some of the key people behind it. Starting off though, I wanted to address the critiques that many other queer individuals have brought up regarding the mainstream marriage equality movement and the Human Rights Campaign that started roughly 35 years ago.
First and foremost, let’s start with the criticisms of the movement for marriage equality. I know that marriage means a lot to many people and I do think that if you and your partner want to get married, you should. However, the focus on marriage equality as the biggest issue for the entire LGBTQ+ community is incredibly problematic because it is often painted as this end all solution to a plethora of different issues (health care, visitation rights in hospitals, immigration, etc). When in reality, there are so many pressing issues like youth homelessness, violence, employment and housing discrimination, racism, and others that impact the every day life of so many within the community.
And marriage shouldn’t be treated as this solution to the broken systems that already exist (again like health care and immigration). There are broken systems within the US that won’t be fixed by allowing everyone to marry and we shouldn’t treat marriage equality like this end all solution to so many problems. Instead, we should work to address those problems. Drew Ambrogi wrote it best in an opinion piece about who marriage equality leaves out, saying that:
Talking about marriage as if it is the most important issue for the LGBT community silences those of us with needs that access to marriage will not address. Marriage won’t provide adequate health care to those of us who are without it. Marriage won’t address the domestic violence many of us face in our relationships. It won’t save the one in four LGBT youth who are homeless, and it won’t help those of us living with HIV as crucial assistance programs face budget cuts. It won’t address the routine violence faced by trans people and it will do little for LGBT people who are undocumented. And it will probably make things more difficult for those of us living outside of nuclear family formations.
Against Equality has a plethora of different queer challenges to inclusion, including queer critiques of the marriage equality movement. Marriage equality is one of the issues they address but they also have resources and critiques on the military and the prison industrial complex. But for right now, they do have a long list of resources to look into about the challenges posed by many different queer individuals about marriage and have highlighted the problematic nature by saying:
Gay marriage apes hetero privilege and allows everyone to forget that marriage ought not to be the guarantor of rights like health care. In their constant invoking of the “right” to gay marriage, mainstream gays and lesbians express a confused tangle of wishes and desires. They claim to contest the Right’s conservative ideology yet insist that they are more moral and hence more deserving than sluts like us. They claim that they simply want the famous 1000+ benefits but all of these, like the right to claim protection in cases of domestic violence, can be made available to non-marital relationships.
We wish that the GM crowd would simply cop to it: Their vision of marriage is the same as that of the Right, and far from creating FULL EQUALITY NOW! as so many insist (in all caps and exclamation marks, no less) gay marriage increases economic inequality by perpetuating a system which deems married beings more worthy of the basics like health care and economic rights.
There are also a lot of criticisms being lobbed at the Human Rights Campaign. One of the biggest (for me) is the company’s complete lack of intersectionality and diversity. Marriage equality is their biggest concern, rather than issues like youth homelessness (which is significantly more likely to impact LGBTQ+ youth), employment or housing discrimination, or others. Derrick Clifton wrote a great article for the Huffington Post about the criticisms of the Human Rights Campaign, saying among other things that:
With marriage equality occupying so much space in the conversation, many people have grown tired of the perfunctory strategies that eat up time, money and resources to address surface-level issues rather than work intersectionally to address the root cause of systemic issues impacting LGBT communities. That’s not to say marriage doesn’t matter — it’s indeed a big step that’ll move us closer to achieving equality — but the high, high level of its prioritization is troubling to many.
And the Human Rights Campaign has a rather terrible track record of excluding parts of the LGBTQ+ community in order to get parts of legislation passed, including repeatedly throwing the trans community under the bus. Personally, I can’t get behind a multi million dollar organization that repeatedly shuns a part of the larger LGBTQ+ community AND has repeatedly focused on issues that usually the more privileged only have access to.