Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Future of Marriage

Some excellent essays on marriage, from a variety of perspectives, are available at The Immanent Frame under "The Future of Marriage." They include historical and cultural overviews of the institution of marriage as well as reflections on the future for not only same-sex marriages but also other kinds of intimate relationships.

One in particular, "The race to marriage" by Tey Meadow and Judith Stacey, highlights some of the others, as well, and concludes with its own wide-ranging proposal:
As Stephanie Coontz signals in her post on “traditional” marriage, a long history of state intervention into religious doctrinal disputes underlies the installation of monogamous, heterosexual Christian marriage as the singular government-sponsored family form.

. . . .

Some contemporary critics of the movement for same-sex marriage, in contrast, underscore its implicit whiteness. In “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black?” Kenyon Farrow argues that, for decades, social science research and “family values” rhetoric have stigmatized black families by positioning the monogamous marital family as the sole socially and psychologically healthy model. Instead of confronting this ideology or addressing the core concerns of poor, black Americans—housing, health care, employment and the over-incarceration of black men—that undermine black heterosexual marriages and families to begin with, the campaign for same-sex marriage insensitively places black churches and communities in the cross-hairs of an ideological battle between white religious conservatives and primarily white gay activists.

. . . .

We endorse Polikoff’s policy framework for “valuing all families,” along with Ann Pellegrini and Janet Jakobsen’s call for a conception of “sexual ethics” that is far broader than any notion of consensual marriage, whether straight or gay, and we would add, whether monogamous or polygamous. Sexual and gender justice require getting the state out of the marriage business altogether, returning marriage to the province of diverse religious and secular communities. A democratic state should award equal dignity and respect to all consensual, responsible forms of intimacy and care. Racial and economic justice require the same thing. We cannot achieve one without the other.
I'm still struggling myself about how to best to respond to the defeat of Proposition 8 in California and similar issues surrounding the struggle for equal rights with respect to sexual orientation and relationships. These and other articles ask some deeper questions about what the goals should be in terms of government instituted rights and benefits.

Kenyon Farrow's 2005 essay on “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black?” also speaks to the conflict between blacks and what he sees as the predominantly white GLBT activist community, with the white religious Right actitvely driving the wedge between them. One may not agree with his conclusions, but his observations may provide valuable insights into what needs to be done within the black community to help garner their support for same-sex marriage and other legal protections for GLBTs of all races and religions.

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