As we’ve seen the issue of marriage equality gain success, swooping the nation in election after election, we have to question its position as The Gay Rights Issue.
Fighting for sexual liberation and equality is, of course, so much more than fighting for the right to marry, but how is the positioning of marriage equality as the major issue also promoting homonormativity?
Marriage as an issue sets up the requirement that all relationships should mimic this heteronormative standard of sexuality and family structure. It promotes the idea that all people want to emulate straight monogamous couples.
When we focus only on this issue, we exclude polyamorous and other non-normative relationship structures as acceptable, as well as, of course, those who don’t want to get married.
Even as marriage becomes inclusive of a particular kind of queer relationship, it perpetuates a policing of other kinds of relationships, maintaining the borderline of what is an “acceptable queer relationship.”
The focus on marriage challenges very little, prioritizing the legal sanctioning of one’s relationships over real relational and societal transformation.
By showing that people outside of the heterosexual norm want the same things that “traditional, straight America” wants, the marriage equality movement fights to gain access to this social institution by reproducing, rather than challenging, heterosexual dominance and normativity and using this as a basis for who deserves rights.