By Keith Hennessy
Winter Solstice, 2008

I’m middle-aged, white, male and gay. I tend towards long-term, mostly monogamous relationships that leave a little room for occasional, unashamed sex with others. My last gay partnership lasted nearly 7 years, involved sharing a bed in a fabulous apartment we renovated together, and we twice lined up to get married during Gavin Newsom’s renegade Valentine’s campaign. I’m also a legal, non-denominational priest who has married several couples, straight and gay. I love weddings and I think that everyone who wants one ought to have one. I don’t think that the state or government or any church should stand in the way of any 2 (or more) people who choose to celebrate a loving commitment. Love and blessing and community need each other.

Like many people I am a fan of equal rights for all couples yet think that the battle for gay marriage should be fought in whichever religious institutions one wants to be married in. (1) There is no stopping any couple from inviting their friends and families to their wedding. If you want to get married, get married. Andrew Sullivan writes, “My own marriage exists and is real without the approval of others.” (2) There are many churches, parks, mountaintops, country clubs, backyards, dance studios, temples, dojos, street corners and rented halls where your marriage would be very welcome. If you can get your family, friends and co-workers to come to your wedding, the healing of queer wounds will happen faster than by any court-ordered mandate. If you can’t, then it’s tough to imagine that the pains of being queer and abject will be abated. Either way, the struggle for justice will continue. And for many of us, this struggle is easier when our families recognize and celebrate our loving.

When I think of the fight for gay marriage I think:
• wasted money
• misdirected passion and effort
• a small clique known as the gay leadership
• reactionary assimilation
• a lack of awareness and/or strategy
• oh how much I miss the pre-Clinton days of ACTUP, Queer Nation, Lesbian Avengers...

Proposition 8, funded mostly by Christian and Mormon political conservatives, attempted to outlaw gay marriage by limiting the legal definition of marriage to include only marriage between a man and a woman. The electoral battle was one of the most expensive in US history; in 2008 it was exceeded in spending only by the presidential contest. Imagine if the pro-gay marriage forces had spent $27 of their $37 million supporting queer resource and drop-in centers throughout central California, and opening storefront LGBTQ centers in places where they don’t already exist, and then spent another $10 million investing in a better future through a fund for LGBTQ artists, scholars, and organizers. Or imagine if the $35 million was spent only on securing equal rights for gay and lesbian couples nationwide.

In California the difference between marriage rights and domestic partnership rights are legally insignificant for most couples. Did over $70 million dollars just get spent fighting over a word? It sometimes seems that way. Immigration rights, which are federal, would be denied California gay couples regardless of state laws. This injustice is rarely mentioned in gay marriage campaigns and needs to be addressed at all levels of struggle for equal rights.

When Prop 8 won, there were immediate protests throughout California, then throughout the US, with additional protests internationally. Mostly I was embarrassed that no one, especially those motivated to take the streets for social justice, protested the failure of Proposition 5, which would have reduced jail terms and increased treatment options for non-violent drug offenders. Signs referencing Prop 2, which called for increased cage space for farm animals, read, “Chickens 1, Gays 0” and “Chickens have more rights than me.” Yes it’s true that more people voted for chickens to have more room in their cages than for gays and lesbians to have the right to marry. But it’s even more tragic and ironic that more people voted for chickens to have more room in their cages than for PEOPLE to have more room in their cages.

California has the biggest prison industrial complex in the world. A growing cancer that eats up more people and resources every year. Think about this: Prop 5 could have made a huge impact on the men and women in jail for non-violent drug offenses by decreasing punative jail time, depopulating the racist prisons, exposing the failures of the war on drugs, re-uniting people with families and communities while increasing their chance of survival and success by increasing their treatment options. Are the supporters of gay marriage who filled the streets after Prop 8’s win out of touch with the political issues facing California prisoners and the communities they come from. Sadly, yes, drastically out of touch. So when too many gay people jumped to blame Black and Latino voters in the wake of Prop 8’s win, that out-of-touch-ness was ignorantly flaunted.

I can’t conclude this better than Bob Ostertag, so here’s the intro to his recent piece:

It's just plain sad what the gay and lesbian movement has come to. November 4 was so extraordinary, so magical. The whole world seemed to come together. Except for gays and lesbians in California. We were supposed to feel crushed over Proposition 8. And now the whole scenario is gearing up to repeat itself on January 20: the whole world will celebrate the inauguration of the first black American president and the end of the George Bush insanity - the whole world except gays and lesbians who will be protesting Rick Warren's presence at the inaugural.

How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.

"Gay marriage" turns the real issues of equal rights for sexual minorities upside down and paints us into a reactionary little corner of our own making. (3)

1.Bob Ostertag, Why Gay Marriage is The Wrong Issue, Dec 21 2008, The Huffington Post
PACS, pacte civile de solidarité, Wikipedia

2. Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, The Daily Dish, Nov 5 2008,

3. Ostertag, ibid 2008.