The price of normal

THE QUEER ISSUE: Who, exactly, does gay marriage benefit?
An early Gay Liberation Front
poster from the 1970s

With a 2010 state proposition on gay marriage in the works and a national gay rally on the Washington Mall being planned for October 10-11 of that year, it's obvious that more and more of the LGBT community's resources are being funneled into the battle for marriage equality, while other causes go begging.

Already gay marriage has become a black hole that is sucking untold amounts of money, time, and energy out of our community. In the 2008 election alone, gay marriage supporters raised $43.3 million to defeat Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative that California voters passed by 52 percent. It may be the biggest chunk of change the community has ever spent for a single fight.


I'm not against gay marriage. If queer couples want to be as miserable as straight ones, that's their choice. Marriage is a failed institution. With a 54.8 percent divorce rate nationally and a 60 percent rate here in California, there's no doubt in my mind that heterosexual "wedded bliss" is more of an oxymoron than a reality.

What's troubling to me as a queer activist of almost 40 years (much of that time spent on economic justice work) is that, with the tremendous amount of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment in our community, we are spending so much dough on the fight to give a minority of folks — those who opt for tying the knot — rights and privileges that straight married folks have.

Sure, it's unfair that married straights get tax breaks, not to mention the status of next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions when one partner is ill, and queers don't. Altogether, married couples have 1,400 benefits, both state and federal, that domestic partners and single people don't enjoy. It's a matter of simple justice that the playing field be leveled. Only a right-wing idiot could disagree with that. Now, if only we could fight to give everyone (including singles) those 1,400 benefits.

For me it's a question of priorities. We are living in scary times. Unemployment is sky-high; millions are without healthcare, including children; foreclosures are robbing homeowners and tenants alike of their housing; and business collapses are leaving a lot of people out in the cold and unable to pay the rent or the mortgage.


The queer community is no better off.

It's a popular misconception that queers have a lot of disposable income. The "double income, no kids" (DINK) myth was promoted in the 1980s by gay publishers who wanted to expand their advertising base and their profits. These days, to read many gay publications, you'd think that all queers are going on fabulous vacations and buying expensive clothes, jewelry, and electronic gizmos.

That myth was easily dispelled by a recent study, "Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community," published this March by the Williams Institute at UCLA. Like "Income Inflation: the myth of affluence among gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans," the groundbreaking 1998 study by M.V. Lee Badgett of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Williams report found that many members of our community aren't shopping 'til they drop. They can barely afford to put food on the table.

Nationally, 24 percent of lesbians and bisexual women are poor compared to 19 percent of heterosexual women; 15 percent of gay and bisexual men are poor compared to 13 percent of heterosexual men.

Queers aren't just low on cash — we're homeless, too. A 2006 report, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness" from the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force and the National Coalition on Homelessness, showed that 20 percent to 40 percent of the 1.6 million homeless youth in America identify as LGBT.