can I talk about gay marriage?

Posted in CA Budget, hiv, lgbt, transgender by SCHA-LA on August 10, 2009

some thought off the top of my head after reading this article:

I am uncomfortable writing about this, because my wife and I got married and our marriage was upheld, so in a way I feel that I’ve lost the right to discuss this issue. I don’t want to come off as “ha ha! I got married and you can’t … but let’s move on”. Because I don’t feel that way. In fact, we have really had to – and continue to – soul-search about what it means that we are married now.

But if I had the right, I would say this:

It is unconscionable to pursue marriage in the state of California during this budget nightmare, which is hitting the most vulnerable folks in our various lesbian, gay, trans- communities very, very hard. And which isn’t going away or getting better.

Before the budget situation, I had qualms about centering marriage in the public gay & lesbian discourse because it took focus off of issues with real-world, on-the-ground ramifications (incarceration, the criminalization of poverty and poverty itself, HIV rates, homelessness etc. in our communities to name a few examples). Plus, there are the political and ethical issues which retain to marriage: propping up a sexist institution, inequality, assimilation, freedom etc., which, while all worthy of thought and discussion, don’t have the same material impact. And then there was my now-wife’s adamant insistence on political grounds that she would never get married. We were already domestic partners, and there are no real material benefits to marriage here in California. It’s not like I can sponsor her green card if she gets laid off just because we’re gay-married in California.

Of course it would be a different story all together if we were talking about federally recognized marriage with all of the rights and responsibilities it accrues. But we’re not. And since we’re not – I have to say that soliciting money to move forward with anti Prop 8 ballot initiatives now is wrong.

And social service organizations that serve the LGBT community are worried that there won’t be enough money for social services, especially after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $52 million in AIDS services from the state budget last month.

Actually, it was $82 million, and remember that this budget isn’t going to hold. the state is expected to be $7 – $8 billion dollars in the hole at the start of the next fiscal year. Which will certainly mean more cuts to HIV – if there is anything left to cut.

If we really want to put our proverbial money where our mouths are, we could do well to remember that virtually all services for transfolks in California are funded through HIV money. As an “LGBT community” I think that we need to consider this when we are thinking about where to donate money.

And many of the non-HIV-specific cuts the state has enacted disproportionately impact HIV+ folks and the people most at risk for HIV infection or transmission. The cuts to HIV in the state include, in addition to care, HIV testing, prevention and education and risk reduction. Keep that in mind.

One of the reasons to press on with a ballot initiative in 2010 that the article lists is that they have been reaching out to new audiences. And by that, they say they are talking about communities of color, and communities in the central valley. I wonder what it looks like to those communities – both hard hit on many fronts – by the budget cuts. I would imagine that it would seem, at best, to be a campaign that is out of touch with the people of the state and their financial concerns. At worst, it looks like privileged gay and lesbian couples who don’t care about anyone’s issues besides their own.

I fear that both of those are true to an extent.

If I just got laid off (or, in my case, furloughed – which I already have) and I opened my mailbox to a solicitation for money for this issue, I’d be fucking furious! And I’m gay! Imagine how irritated someone might be who is on the fence about gay marriage, or who is willing to give this issue some thought. Anyone who has done the slightest bit of research knows that there are no real benefits which are going to accrue to CA gay marriage. Yet they are informed that a successful campaign will cost $50 million.

Even though they got the figure wrong in their article, stating that $52 million was being cut to HIV – how can anyone look at that, and compare $50 million to get this on the ballot and think that this makes sense right now? If they can raise $50 million and they throw it into an election – what does that say about what we think about our community: who we are, what our needs are, or what values we hold?

So why muddy the waters for the agencies which are going to go under – whether it’s HIV prevention, small community agencies or health clinics, or whatever – why make it harder for them to fund-raise? If we believe that gay marriage is an equal rights issue, just like any equal rights issue, than we must consider that the right to stay healthy, housed, or HIV-negative – the right to attend college, (or to know how to read, for that matter!), the right to be free, the right to be safe in one’s school or community (or family), the right to eat –  are also civil rights. And these rights are life-and-death for many people in our communities.

So please … let’s lift up the most hard-hit in our communities. Let’s figure out how to get our people healthy, safe, and strong – then we can all move forward together. And that will provide the strong foundation we need to build true community and strong coalitions and alliances.   And then we can (and must) debate on the issues around marriage itself.


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