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updated: beyondmarriage

Over 250 activists and community leaders have signed the Beyond Marriage initiative which seeks to encourage the LGBT community to refocus its mission to include a broad range of issues.
Their manifesto marks the return of the gay liberationists of yore, whose predecessors since the time of Stonewall (and before) have seen battles over sex and homosexuality, gender and gender identity, as a way of liberating all of society from traditional ways of thinking that are inherently unfair, "-ist" and "-phobic."

Emerging from the Reagan years and countless gay men's funerals, activists were once galvanized by the early-'90s battle over gays in the military. From that point on, the "gay civil rights movement" has been much more narrowly focused as a political fight for equal rights—nowhere better symbolized than by the giant "equals sign" made ubiquitous by the Human Rights Campaign.
This week's manifesto may well mark the revenge of the liberationists, ready to pounce on a series of defeats by equal rights advocates as a sign that we're fighting the wrong battle. - Washington Blade

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

On July 26, more than 150 prominent LGBT activists and thinkers signed on to and released Beyond Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships. The document was written by 17 individuals, eight of whom are or have been intimately involved with the Task Force over the years.

We welcome this statement and embrace its fundamental premise that all families deserve respect and that legal recognition and essential protections and benefits should not be limited or flow only through marital status. It rightfully honors those for whom marriage is the most meaningful personal choice while calling for recognition of other forms of family that make up the majority of families in this nation, gay or straight.

The statement also makes the point that the right's "marriage movement" is about much more than denying LGBT people marriage equality, it is part of a much larger reactionary and coercive social and religious agenda that disproportionately harms poor people and people of color.

As a movement for justice and liberation, we can and must advance on many fronts at the same time. While we fight the anti-marriage state constitutional amendments, we must work to pass legislation to protect LGBT people from discrimination. Where we win marriage equality, we must fight to preserve and extend domestic partner benefits that help protect our partners or others who are "family" to us. While we fight to win equal access to Social Security benefits for our families, we must also fight to ensure that the system serves all families.

Our vision is that every one of our families gets the recognition and protections it deserves. Yes marriage, but beyond marriage too.

Bay Windows Coverage 08/03/06:

Michael Bronski on Why He Signed The Manifesto

"Activists Call For A Shift" - Ethan Jacobs

"I will never accept 'genderqueer' as a valid category" - read Richard Rosendall's column of shame and misunderstanding.

It is good to finally see these issues raised in the gay news publications. These are issues QueerToday has been raising since the beginning of the gay marriage boom and we will continue to do so. We've taken a lot of criticism for these opinions but it seems that the tide just might be changing. Now we need to work on networking and joining forces. In the coming weeks I hope to work with anyone who wants to get involved to ad some features to our blog and web site to help us stay connected and networked with the queer community throughout Massachusetts.


John Hosty said...

This is a great post Mark. I do believe what was said here, that the fight for gay marriage is about more than just preventing marriage for sex same couples. It is about trying to re-assert the old school ways of treating the gay community. The reason I am fighting this tooth and nail is because we have an opportunity to make more of a difference today than we ever have before.

It is time for all of us in the gay community to put aside our differences and come together for our own common good. If we can all focus some attention to a common goal we will have a new and stronger voice for the world to hear.

Top notch job guys, thank you.

jason said...

Hey all,
I'd like to add another aspect to this conversation. Gay Shame (an amazing organization based in San Fransisco and which should also have a chapter in Boston if we got our act together) put out this really great response to gay marriage. I'm happy to send other things by them as well if folks are interested, but this is what I'll start with. I must say I love the title.

in struggle,

Marriage is Murder :on the discursive limits of matrimony

So what is wrong with gay marriage?
In order to answer that question we must first understand what this thing called marriage is. Marriage is essentially a financial and legal contract that allocates the movement of property, power and privilege from one person to another. Historically it has been a way of consolidating family power amongst and between men, through women. In more recent times marriage in the United States has functioned to solidify the American middle class. Marriage does this through concentrating wealth and power through family lines and inheritance (both in terms of money and power). Because of marriage's ability to discipline class structures it is now, and always has been a primary structure of a capitalist economy. In reality most people marry within their own socioeconomic class. Marriage, earlier through miscegenation laws, and currently through racist values also contains wealth through racist ideologies of matrimony. Because of these realities there has been a long history of critique of the institution of marriage launched by feminists of color, white feminists, and queer people among others.

What about gay marriage? Isn't gay marriage going to change all of this?
NO. The current push towards gay marriage is, in fact, not going to subvert the systems of domination we all live through. Ironically, the gay marriage movement is standing on these same legacies of brutality for their slice of the wedding cake. Take for example the Freedom to Marry stickers created by the freedom to marry organization. Not only are these stickers falsely equating the intervention of the State into ones life (marriage) with freedom (when was the last time the State helped you to become more free?) they are trying to work this idea through horrifying star-spangled stickers. Instead of critiquing the ways US imperialism has rendered most transgender people, queer people, people or color etc. as expendable through its countless wars here and abroad, the Freedom To Marry stickers simply disguise these histories and reproduce this red-white-and-blue national theme for every married gay and guilt filled liberal to wear with PRIDE.
If straight people can marry why should gay people not have the same privilege?
What we are calling for is an abolishment of State sanctioned coupling in either the hetero or homo incarnation. We are against any institution that perpetuates the further exploitation of some people for the benefit of others. Why do the fundamental necessities marriage may provide for some (like healthcare) have to be wedded to the State sanctioned ritual of terror known as marriage?

Won`t gay marriage help couples stay together where one person is not a US citizen?
The way immigration is being used by the gay marriage movement is not only un-thought-out but also relies on racist notions of the white man saving his brown lover. Although it is true that because of the US policies on immigration some lesbian and gay couples may be split, gay marriage does not at all question these systems that allow some people into the country( white) while excluding others (people of color). Where are the gay marriage activists when the INS is actively raiding and deporting whole families ?(such as it is currently doing just blocks away from the Castro in San Francisco's Mission District). Also missing from the picture of immigration that gay marriage advocates are painting is the reality that there are queer couples in the US where neither person is a US citizen. How will gay marriage help them stay in the US if that is what they want to do? Gay marriage will not challenge citizenship but simply place some bodies within its grasp while holding others out.

I agree with your argument, but isn't gay marriage a step in the right direction?
This liberal model of progression is one of the primary ways many of us are ideologically trapped into a reformist way of thinking. To understand how gay marriage, like voting, will never lead to liberation we can look to the histories of many social justice movements that only address oppressions on a level of the symptomatic. Gay marriage and voting are symbolic gestures that reinforce structures while claiming to reconfigure them. This scheme will undoubtedly become apparent with marriage equality advocates. As they have positioned gay marriage as the last great civil rights battle, will they continue to fight after the Honeymoon?
Won't gay marriage help get health care to more people?
It may help some people get healthcare but for the vast majority of Americans with NO healthcare it will do nothing. And within the rhetoric of the gay marriage movement working towards healthcare for all (people and animals) is nowhere to be found. This argument also relies on the false assumption that one person would already have healthcare.

So if you are against gay marriage then you are allying with the Christian Right and the GOP!
NO. This is amongst the most troubling aspect of this current epidemic of gay marriage. The way the marriage movement is framing any critique of their precious institution is either you are one of us (gay married) or you are one of them (homophobe). This helps to silence the much needed debate and public discourse around such issues. It seems as if everyone has been shamed into submission and subsequent silence by the marriage movement. Even in allegedly progressive circles any mention of the implicit links between marriage, misogny, and racism in the U.S. gets shutdown by a gay married. Ironically, if you look at the rhetoric of the freedom to marry movement and the Republican Party their similarities are frighteningly apparent. In their ideal world we would all be monogamously coupled, instead of rethinking the practice of coupling. They want us working our jobs not working towards collective and self-determination, remembering anniversaries not the murder of trans-people, buying wedding rings not smashing capitalism. The vision of the future the republicans and the gay marriage movement has offered will render most of us already in the margins of the picture (trans-people, sex workers, queers of color, HIV positive people, non-monogamous people etc) as the new enemy of the regime of married normalcy they hope to usher in.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Jason I must learn more about this Gay Shame organization! I truly feel that gay shame is our community's biggest enemy at this point.

Jason said...

why would you say that gay shame is our biggest enemy? i find them to be our best friends and people who are challenging us to remember that we are cooler than hetero's and don't need to assimilate into a nasty state-sponsored culture...

Brian Rainey said...


I think Mark meant that "gay shame" (that is shaming people because they are queer or have different sexual practices) is the biggest problem, not the organization Gay Shame. I guess the pun has sort of run amuck!

Mark D. Snyder said...

I meant the rampant shame in our community - shame about sexual liberation, shame about gender variance - assimilation = shame. I'm with YOU Jason! (PS see my speech about shame given on pride day in our June archives)

Anonymous said...

Could you add an RSS feed to your page?

Mark D. Snyder said...

Mark D. Snyder said...

Let me know if that is what you wanted:

laurel said...

Am I the only one to notice that many non-LGBT people are signatories? Now, I highly value my non-gay allies, and I heartily welcome and encourage the dialogue set forth, but I have recently experienced so much pseudo-liberal lazy-assed hetero hypocracy that I want to vommit. How many of the non-LGBT signers are legally married right now? Until I know that they are not, and so are not benefitting from the system they seek to broaden while most of us are shut out of it, they have no credibility with me. Can anyone provide the facts in this matter? [By benefit, I mean any of the following and more: do they refer to each other as husband and wife in public? do they give a thought to crossing state lines? does one cover the other on their health insurance policy even when the employer is self-insured (even in MA self-insured companies can legally exclude married gay spouses)? has either taken advantage of the federal family medical leave act to care for the other or the other's family? are any of them getting social security benefits from a former spouse? you get the picture.]

Blue-Xela said...

I think we need to secure the right for same-sex marriage in Mass first before we take on a broader battle.

More importantly it's about not being bullied by the religious right and if we backslide on the marriage issue, I think we'll just come across as kind of flaky.

And also legislatively (sic?), it seems that offering a menu of concerns and demands about different types of relationship recognition may be hard for some reps. to sink their teeth into.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about moving forward with more progressive definitions of family, but this BEYOND MARRIAGE document seems too half-baked and too late ... or, in my opinion, it's not the type of issue that should be raised in Massachusetts right now, but maybe it's a fertile subject in other states?

Anonymous said...

QueerToday has been saying we need to form coalitions and broaden the movement from day one. Focusing just on one issue leaves us very vulnerable to attacks in schools and other areas of our lives.

Look at what happened at Boston University - now gay partners can't get any benefits unless they are married. People actually lost benefits.

laurel said...

Dear Anonymous 10:48 AM,
So you blame gay rights advocates (for marriage) for the deliberate anti-gay bogited policies of B.U.? Please do some homework before pointing fingers in wrong direction. Numerous slippery and unethical businesses and institutions in MA have found ways to dodge marriage equality and the MA antidiscrimination laws by relying on federal laws. in the federal realm, it's a-ok to discriminate against gay people. Others use the advent of marriage equality to openly descriminate against unmarried couples, both gay and straight. They are showing their true colors. Do you blame the parents of molested Catholic kids for the Vatican protecting their criminal priests? No? Then why are you doing the equivalent here? Think! Don't let the haters poison and divide us and blame each other for their abhorrent behaviour. Think! It is rediculous to expect a few years of any kind of advocacy, for marriage or anything else, will have solved all the social problems and closed all the loopholes. Pick an advocacy organization you agree with, and get to work solving these problems!

Mark D. Snyder said...


The anonymous post was me being lazy - I apologize for that!

I absolutely did NOT mean to blame the marriage movement for BU's bigotry, but was rather saying that the gay community at large should be fighting strong on all fronts so that BU cannot get away with their bigotted behavior.

I do not believe our power and attention is being utilized the best it could be and I would like to be able to point that out without being accused of being divisive or anti-gay marriage.

Your reaction to my criticism is exactly what Michael Bronski talked about in this week's bay windows. Anytime we queers have an opinion about how to better win rights for all people or a criticism of the way gay marriage has been acheived, we get blamed for being divisive, or anti-gay marriage. It just isn't true.

I'm not sure how many times the queer left has to repeat this but... we support gay marriage we just want to broaden our agenda, form coalitions, refocus our priorities, and not allow marriage to be the only issue that our community spends its time and money on. For reasons why we view that singular focus as a dangerous thing please see the many previous posts about this, the many queer books, and the recent michael bronski article.

We want to unite, not divide!

Gerry Scoppettuolo said...

The "Gay Shame" manifesto and, to some extent Michael Bronski's article in Bay Window's are helpong to point the way to the theoretical reasons for why we need this new movement. Please let me add another:

Gay Liberation should not just say "capitalism is bad", capitalism should be struggled against itself. It is the engine, the driving force of LGBT oppression, racism, wage exploitation, etc..

The Gay Liberation Movement was anti-imperialist and it was thoroughly anti-war. Our chant from the streets back then, as I remember it at Boston Commom during the protest of the Pentagon Christmas bombings of Hanoi on December, 1971 was this: "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF (National Liberation Front or Viet Cong) is going to win!" AND "Ho, Ho, Ho, Homosexual, the ruling class is ineffectual!".

This is relevant today as the butchering of the Lebanese population should prove to us.
Our community could use a study group to learnfrom the lessons o
f the past and give power to our current struggles.

Laurel said...

Hi Mark,

I also post anonymously sometimes for same reason, so no worries!

I really don't disagree with much of what you and the 'beyond' folks are after. But you have to understand that the timing of this proposal is seen as a sucker punch. Yes, all criticisms are valid, and you're right that one shouldn't be tagged divisive for having a different point of view. But there are ways (and times) to convey that point of view that are more persuasive. Timing is very important. Bad timing really can be divisive.

I honestly don't understand where all this 'it's all marriage and nothing else all the time' point of view comes from. Right now, in MA, yes that is the major focus. But before the Goodridge decision in Nov. 2003, marriage equality was hardly a footnote in the annals of gay civil rights pursuits. It's only been ascendant for a few years, and only ADD Americans should expect any social issue to be settled in that time or less. The SJC decision happened to change the status of the marriage quest from minor to major, and I know you agree that we'd be utterly stupid not to see it through. Seeing it through may mean other issues not getting the spotlight for a few more years. THat's unfortunatley the way it is with limited resources. It is the national Republican strategy of get-out-the-bigotted-votes that has forced we gay people to take up marriage defensively in most other states. But again, we'd be stupid to let them railroad us, so until election day our resources are being sucked into marriage in those states too, like it or not. When judging whether marriage really is overshadowing all other lgbt-related issues, one really needs to look at the national scene and exclude the fights against those republican-instigated anti-gay marriage amendments. For example, I now live in WA (formerly lived in MA), where the focus was getting "sexual orientation" included into the state's non-discrimination code for housing, services and insurance. That has been the focus here for 30 years! 30 years!! It finally happened this spring. In MI where I'm from, the marriage issue has never been taken seriously because it's such an anti-gay, hateful state. Simply not getting skulls smashed for being out has been the major focus. No national plan or agenda can be one size fits all. And I say what I've said before that there is no Gay Dictator pulling the strings nationally. There is, for example, no one keeping BU students, faculty and staff from starting a campaign to change the BU anti-gay policies you opined. All it takes is a few clipboards and a few people willing to DO THE WORK. Can you get your non-lgbt coalition partners to join in, perhaps even spearhead the effort?

That brings me to a sincere question I have for you, after this long-winded preamble: I have worked for civil rights and against bigotry since I was 7. Yes, 7! And I'm now in my 40s. In all that time, there have been many non-lgbt communities that were happy to receive my time and dedication, but only a precious few individuals who could leverage themselves off their lazy asses to reciprocate. Most straight people apparently just DONT CARE that we are not full citizens. Or they'll care in theory, but not be willing to help do the work to change the situation. how do you propose to solve this problem? coalitions should make us stronger because the 'us' gets bigger. But I've found the reality is sometimes that the smaller groups like lgbts get nothing more than lip service after the collection plate has been passed.