Some People of Color Aren't Wedded To the Idea of Gay Marriage
1 year ago
New York's law allowing same-sex couples to wed is historic, but some feel it wasn't passed with Black and Hispanic LGBT in mind
A couple of Fridays ago, I was on my couch reading a novel when my cell phone started buzzing. Friends around the country were texting heartfelt messages congratulating New York for becoming the sixth state in the United States to pass a gay marriage bill into law. My response to the news was an audible "meh," and I returned to my book.
My ambivalence about gay marriage is an echo of things past and reflects an unexpressed feeling that, as a gay woman of color, I am still separate from the larger collective of gay people often featured as the face of the movement. On June 25, the day after the gay marriage bill passed in New York, many of the celebration photos posted on television news programs and on the Internet showed ecstatic, glowing white faces. A perusal of the background of these images showed a scant smattering of brown faces among the crowd. Being part of a minority group—black lesbians—I felt even farther away from what was a genuine political victory for the larger gay community.
This feeling of exclusion is something I've heard again and again among friends and colleagues. Gay community organizer Kenyon Farrow, who is also the former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice, says it best: "The marriage equality movement has bet its chips on this strategy of painting the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community as white, upper-class, kind of gay/lesbian versions of 'Donna Reed' and 'Leave it to Beaver.' If your strategy is normalizing gay people in that respect, that's always going to benefit white people more because even straight black people aren't seen as normal. It means that black LGBT people, when they look at those images and the way in which the movement is talking about itself, don't feel particularly moved by it."
Sensing the emotional and economic distance that is felt within LGBT communities of color from the gay community at large, the Gay Men's Health Crisis advocacy group (GMHC) under CEO Dr. Marjorie Hill issued a statement nine days before the passage of the New York same-sex marriage bill emphasizing the benefits of marriage equality for black and Latino/a gay couples and their families. Citing census records, GMHC noted that, "those with the most at stake in the current debate are black and Latino/a same-sex couples, and especially black and Latina lesbian couples. This is because those in black and Latino/a same-sex relationships are more likely to be raising children than white same-sex partners. They also earn less, on average, and are more likely to rent than own their home." The argument here is that under the new marriage laws, these families will have economic protections and "peace of mind" should unforeseen occurrences befall a parent.