The issue of marriage is one I have thought on sporadically for many many years. I have always had concerns in general, largely based on giving the State more control over one’s life (with the role of the Church being effectively removed some time ago). For example, why should someone (i.e. government department or Church) other than the two involved decide if and when they should be in such a relationship or not? In short, I have long had concerns before debates around marriage equality/gay marriage gained public attention.
The current state of electoral politics in Australia, specifically the potential for a very damaging plebiscite on marriage equality/gay marriage (in which those who speak the loudest an most vile will gain far too much coverage and cause significant harm), has added further layers the the question. Within this context, I still feel that a way forward is consistent with removing State control over this aspect of our lives.
I have been reading Dinesh Wadiwel’s (2015) book The War Against Animals over the last few weeks. Alongside prompting me to think in interesting and consutctuve ways about the animal question, I foresee it will be quite influential in Critical Animal Studies, and intersectional scholarship more broadly, for some time to come. Many of the insights and aguments presented have far reaching implications, even if unintended. For example, in seeking to reflect on how we perceive Other animals and moving towards a more just approach, there are clear paralells with challenge heteronormativity and associated bigotry.
In discussing Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s (2013) Zoopolis (a ‘remarkable work of political theory’) Dinesh confronts and challenges calls for granting citizenship rights to Other animals, which are considered as a means to address anthropocentrism:
Another approach is to abandon citizenship altogether as a means of constituting community… Sovereignty, at least in Agamben’s conception, arises precisely at the decision on exception; a decision on who is in and out, a decision on which Agamben notes is by definition biopolitical. If, as Agamben describes, biopolitics is an expression of the distinction between humans and animals—a veritable moving zone of conflict—then we might perceive that any model of political membership that prescribes citizenship based upon inside/outside relationships will already be biopolitical, and will already rein scribe the borders between human and animal, even if the terms of that political membership might change. Thus while we may bend citizenship to include other “fellows,” the fact that political community is by definition based on an inside/outside relationship (that is between those who belong to a political community, and those who don’t) already recreates the border between human and animal, between those who are owed rights and those who are not… (Wadiwell 2015, 248)
Replacing ‘citizenship’ with ‘marriage’ comes close to a simple challenge to a number of the imlicaitons of calls for marriage equality/gat marriage. Rather than bend the (religious) notion of marriage to include those who do not ascribe to heteronormativity (in the broadest sense), we can do away with marriage altogether. There is lot to unpack here, and I may revist it at some point in the future…
Abandoning marriage — as in removing any legal status whatsoever — addresses a number of the questions and concerns raised about the moderation/assimilation/de-radicalisation of queer activism (see Jess Ison’s Queer Nation is Dead). Many are visibe in simply replacing citizenship with marriage in the above excerpt (and ‘human and animal’ with human people).
This may currently be unique to a small number of countries, including Australia — previous governments effectively removed any differences between the legal status of what are termed ‘de-facto relationships’ and marriage. That aside, I see that as a political campaign much more useful than working towards for marriage equality/gay marriage.
To put it a more simple, direct way, fuck marriage. Let the bigots in the Church have it — removing any social benefits/consequences. Make it a matter for the Church, with no legal or social implications…