Same-Sex Marriage, America, and You: A Reading List

Photo: Ted Eytan

The United States wasn’t built on pluralism, unless you consider “which extremist Protestant denomination are you?” and an oppressed native population pluralism. The Founding Fathers had some good ideas (democracy!) but diversity and inclusion—by our contemporary definitions—weren’t among them. I like to think we’re getting there, that one day, we’re going to be known as a place where superficial tolerance or outright hate aren’t the norm, but wholehearted acceptance and appreciation are. That we won’t use religion as an excuse for bigotry or stasis. That marginalized communities will have equity, not just equality. That’s what I choose to ponder on the Fourth of July. How far we’ve come, how far we have to go.

This year, unsurprisingly, I’m thinking about Obergefell v. Hodges, better known as the case resulting in the Supreme Court decision to institute the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I’m thinking about the weight of marriage and its legal ramifications, about assimilation versus acceptance. I’m reading, a lot, about how marriage equality isn’t the endgame. At its best, it’s a step on the way to something, somewhere better. At worst, it’s a misstep or a distraction. In the following list, I share different perspectives about same-sex marriage (all written by members of the LGBTQ+ community), as well as Pride, religious opinions, family and stereotypes.

1. “The Supreme Court. The Law. And My Same-Sex Marriage.” (Leah Lax, Houston Chronicle, June 2015)

Leah Lax left Hasidic Judaism and found happiness and intimacy with another woman. She shares the technicalities of their journey—healthcare, tax benefits, marriage—and the beauty in the details of of waking up next to the person you love.

2. “I’m Still Not Getting Married, Even Though It’s Finally Legal.” (Sally Kohn, Elle, June 2015)

Sally Kohn and her partner have been together for over a decade, but she’s not interested in wedding bells: “It’s the very idea that I’d have to get married to win some official government seal of approval over my relationship that’s reason enough for me not to marry my partner of 11 years. I always thought I was fighting for the right to be different from straight folks and still be treated equally, not have to get married just like straight folks in order to have basic rights.”

3.  “We Are Not ‘Just Like Everyone Else.'” (Ben Anderson-Nathe, Bitch Magazine, February 2015)

I stumbled upon Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity at my local bookstore, and I was happy to find Bitch Magazine published an excerpt online. This essay blew my mind. Ben Anderson-Nathe’s take on creating queer families could not be more timely. He rejects traditional marriage, insisting that the diversity of queer families transcend this norm: “It simply solidifies as valid one form of relationship, of family, and by virtue of claiming recognition for that one form, it pushes the rest of us further out to the margins and leaves us further behind. Poly families, drag families, multiple couples co-parenting the children they created together, trans* and genderqueer families, poor queer people with no access to the assets marriage promises to protect—will still struggle for recognition of their families and relationships, and our communities fracture even more.”

4. “Lesbian Marriage in Early America.” (Laura Miller, Salon, June 2014)

Same-sex marriage is not a recent phenomenon. Sylvia Drake & Charity Bryant lived together, married in all but name, beloved by their communities and each other. How did their relationship survive in 19th-century Vermont?

5. “It’s Time to Stop Assuming Black People are Homophobic.” (Collier Meyerson, Fusion, June 2015)

Collier Meyerson rejects the idea of a homogenous, homophobic “black community” and instead advocates for a diversity of black communities, plural. Stereotypes like this erase the important work undertaken by people of color–especially queer people of color–and their involvement in the LGBTQ+ community.

6. “Unwelcome Advances: AirBNB’s Pride Charm Offensive.” (Jeremy Lybarger, SF Weekly, June 2015)

Many critics of Pride celebrations decry the corporate/capitalist influence on parades and festivals. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, I saw dozens of companies change their logos to rainbows, as though they’ve always been huge supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. On a microcosmic note, AirBNB (which has transformed from a house-swapping grassroots business to a multi-million dollar company with ramifications for local hotels and rental agreements) took a hipster vehicle to the streets of San Francisco for a pre-Pride mini-party. Some residents were not impressed.

7. “Future Queer” & “Where Do We Go From Here?” (Alexander Chee, The New Republic, June 2015)

How can you feel at home in a place that denies your basic rights? Alexander Chee explores this question in this pair of beautiful essays, bookending the Supreme Court decision.

8. “After Gay Marriage, Expect Conservative Amnesia.” (Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service, July 2015)

“History is not always written by the victors. Often the losers knit together a version of past events that disposes of the more damning details and casts their side in a more favorable light.” I’m already witnessing what Jonathan Merritt describes in this essay: my conservative peers downplaying their bigotry, claiming victimization, and urging the liberals in their lives not to “gloat” about their Supreme Court victory.

9. “An Evangelical Pastor at His First Pride Parade.” (Adam Phillips, HuffPost Religion, June 2015)

When Adam Phillips and his nascent congregation welcomed LGBTQ+ folks, his denomination disowned their church plant. Undeterred, Phillips attends his first Pride parade to apologize to the queer community on behalf of bigoted Christians.

10. “An Interview with My Dad: Catholicism & Coming Out.” (Cameron Esposito, A.V. Club, February 2015)

On the day the Supreme Court announced its decision, comedian Cameron Esposito re-shared this touching interview with her dad, who struggled initially when Esposito came out to her conservative Italian family in her early 20s. Now, her dad is one of her biggest advocates, attending her stand-up sets and welcoming her fiancée into their family.