On eight

This morning, in my daily ritual of visiting Iranian.com, the random advertisement box which for some time now has replaced the heading of this site took my attention.  I have trained myself to ignore the large advertisements in the heading of Iranian.com and have come to accept that the large advertisement which overpowers the site is a reflection of the times in which we live.  The economic man in consumer capitalism has no choice but to buy the idea of choice through advertisement, market himself in an economy where everything is measured by cost and profit, and become a self-responsible individual in a market that needs political intervention to insure profit.

But this morning, a day before the elections, what caught my eyes was an election advertisement which presents the election consumer with an uncanny union of the smiling Republican and Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates.  It announces jubilantly that the point of consensus among the competitors of the presidential campaign is that marriage is between a man and a woman: “At Least They Agree on Something: Yes on 8!”  This anti-gay marriage advertisement also contains a video of the debates where all candidates, unequivocally announce that they perceive marriage to be exclusively heterosexual (I was thinking the support for Israel is the other point of consensus in this marriage pact between the Republicans and the Democrats, but we will leave aside that minor detail).

Now, if you have read an old post of mine [Gay Geography], you would know that I am against marriage sanctioned by the state, be it straight or queer. I do not see “queering” and re-signification as being necessarily subversive and have reservations about rushing to the City Hall to get married.  I think rather than subscribing to the institution of marriage, one has to question its regulatory role in the production of docile subjects. However, since the eradication of heterosexual marriage is not on the ballot, I believe America needs to live up to its claims of equality and justice and stop discrimination against those who it has excluded from full citizenship rights for so long.

I think the issue is no longer about critiquing the normalization of queers or about questioning the institution of marriage. It is about the false claims of equality and justice in American democracy.  Unfortunately, the political situation does not allow a nuanced analysis where one can intervene and interrogate the new forms of governmentality and the imposition of moral codes on queers through marriage.  What is at stake now, I am afraid, is discrimination against people who are constituted through the discourse of freedom and equality, but are denied those very rights.  Ironically, in the civilizational thinking that operates on binaries of freedom and oppression, queers in the US are celebrated as free citizen-subjects of the American democracy vis-à-vis their oppressed counterparts in Iran, for example.  This is the paradox of American citizenship, which is not exclusive to queers, but has a history, especially among racialized subjects.   

Of course, any anthropologist could tell you that marriage has different meanings and different functions in different historical periods and in different places.  Regardless of what one thinks about marriage, its roots, its function in capitalist economy, and its shifting connotations through time, if one has claims of equality for all, then one needs to live up to those claims and see the hypocrisy hidden in Proposition 8.  If one subscribes to the rhetoric of rights and responsibilities in the American democracy, then one needs to hold the state accountable for its promises.  That is why I would like to reiterate some specific points about proposition 8, which I have borrowed from the No on Proposition 8 site.  If you are a California voter and if you believe in equality for all, I encourage you to vote NO on 8.

* Fiction: Prop 8 doesn’t discriminate against gay people.
* Fact:  Prop 8 is simple: it eliminates the rights for same-sex couples to marry. Prop 8 would deny equal protections and write discrimination against one group of people—lesbian and gay people—into our state constitution.

* Fiction: Teaching children about same-sex marriage will happen here unless we pass Prop 8.
* Fact: Not one word in Prop 8 mentions education. And no child can be forced, against the will of their parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues at school. California law prohibits it.
California’s top educators including Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell and California Teachers all agree: Prop 8 has nothing to do with education.

* Fiction:
Churches could lose their tax-exemption status.
* Fact: The court decision regarding marriage specifically says “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

* Fiction: A Massachusetts case about a parent’s objection to the school curriculum will happen here.
* Fact: California gives parents an absolute right to remove their kids and opt-out of teaching on health and family instruction they don’t agree with. The opponents know that California law already covers this and Prop 8 won’t affect it, so they bring up an irrelevant case in Massachusetts.

* Fiction: Four Activist Judges in San Francisco…
* Fact: Prop 8 is about eliminating a fundamental right. Judges didn’t grant the right, the constitution guarantees the right. Proponents of Prop 8 use an outdated and stale argument that judges aren’t supposed to protect rights and freedoms. Prop 8 is about whether Californians are willing to amend the constitution for the sole purpose of eliminating a fundamental right for one group of citizens.

* Fiction: If Prop 8 isn’t passed, people can be sued over personal beliefs.
* Fact: California’s laws already prohibit discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This has nothing to do with marriage.

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