In times like these, when many people's rights and benefits are shrinking, it's easy for the Right to set us at each other's throats. And if the past is any guide, that's just what we're in for, as Radical religionists fire up their engines against gay marriage. The arguments will be cast in terms of choices and morality, but what it is, make no mistake, is wedge politics.
As the attack on same sex marriage takes off, we're likely to hear all about difference: what entitles some people to the rights and benefits offered by the state -- and not others. But marriage isn't about difference. It's about a common longing to be part of communities that love and care for us. In stressed-out times, that longing for connection -- and protection -- grows particularly sharp. "Belonging's only for some," say some. "Let us in!" say scared-to-death outsiders.
Which brings us to wedge politics. It's great for the state of California to welcome a new group of people into the community of those whose partnerships the state helps and protects. Thanks to the Supreme Court of California and the movements that have pushed this issue forward, the door of belonging has been shoved open a bit. But winning marriage equality in order to access benefits and rights doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot if those longed-for benefits and rights are gurgling down the economic drain or entering the government's shredder.
To counter all that rationing of rights, what's needed is strategic thinking, not just about how to defend letting some in through the benefits-door, but how to throw the door wide open. We could dis-empower the wedge-thinkers, for example, if we started with the premise that we all belong and we all have rights. Have your weddings, but lets wise up to wedges, and defend our rights to communities that love and care for all, married and unmarried.
You can see this commentary and a panel discussion about gay marriage with writer/activist Kenyon Farrow and others today on GRITtv at GRITtv.org. Or watch on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415, directly following Democracy Now!)