Maybe Portland is the only place that has a handle on this...*nobody* should be getting married!?!
OVER THE PAST month, I've grown accustomed to the fawning coverage of "Saint Newsom" in the gay press. But the subhead of Bay Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond's article ("Civic Disobedience," 3/17/04), which reads, "Newsom, gay marriage, and the politics of the revolutionary gesture," was enough to really shake me.
How quickly people forget that Newsom's first "revolutionary gesture" toward the "gay community" was to hold a $120-a-plate preelection fundraiser for the San Francisco LGBT Community Center (Feb. 6, 2003). This was a blatant move by a straight, ruling-class politician to pander to the privileged gay vote. After police escorted Newsom inside, they immediately began bashing peaceful Gay Shame demonstrators who gathered (outside "our" center) to protest Newsom's virulently antihomeless policies. A police officer hit one protester so hard in the jaw that he shattered one of her teeth and left her with blood dripping down her face.
Neither Newsom nor the center has ever made a statement condemning the police violence of Feb. 6. Newsom won the mayoral election, in large part due to the support of the same powerful gays who paid $120 a head to stand on a balcony and watch anticapitalist queers getting bashed.
When Redmond compares Newsom's decision to direct city officials to grant same-sex marriage licenses with "AIDS activists who crashed meetings to demand action [and] pacifists who tried to shut down the war machine," he misses the point. AIDS services are being gutted due to a state budget that slashes health care to the most vulnerable, and Newsom has made no attempt to save these services. Nor has he ever made any statement condemning the U.S. war in Iraq. In a city overwhelmingly against the war, we can only assume Newsom's silence means he supports it.
Newsom's marriage stunt is anything but a "revolutionary gesture." It's a risk-free giveback to the gays who got him elected and a ploy by a power-hungry, ruling-class politician to get national attention.
As the city granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, My Place, a SoMa bar renowned for decades as a gay cruising venue, was shuttered by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control because of sex occurring on the premises. A state budget passed that will decimate welfare, education, health care, and other social services. The U.S. government engineered a military coup to overthrow the only democratically elected government in the history of Haiti.
The debate over gay marriage presents only two sides to the story: foaming-at-the-mouth conservatives who think gay marriage marks the death of Western civilization (I wish), and rabid gay assimilationists who act as if gay marriage is the best thing since Will and Grace. It's no coincidence that queers who oppose gay marriage are shut out of the picture, since we challenge the notion that marriage is a civil rights issue instead of an issue of accessing privilege. Gay-marriage proponents admit their goal is to attain benefits long conferred only to middle- and upper-class heterosexuals, like tax breaks and inheritance rights.
Gay-marriage proponents want to fundamentally redefine what it means to be queer and erase decades of radical queer struggle in favor of a sanitized, "we're just like you" normalcy (with marriage as the central institution, hmm ... sounds familiar). It's embarrassing that the Bay Guardian has joined the gay-marriage bandwagon instead of challenging the real goal of gay marriage: assimilation into the imperialist, bloodthirsty status quo.
If gay-marriage proponents wanted real progress, they'd be fighting for the abolition of marriage (duh) and universal access to the services that marriage can sometimes help procure: housing, health care, citizenship, etc. Gay marriage is just a fake issue for straight, white, male ruling-class politicians like Newsom, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Kerry, and George W. Bush to argue over, while the real goods stay in their pasty palms.
Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, is the editor of Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving, the author of Pulling Taffy, and an instigator of Gay Shame.