Gay Rights are Straight Rights

One fact that always seems to be overlooked in the debate over gay rights is that it actually impacts the rights of straight couples, too. Laws that reform the way we view couples to include gay rights- such as our own Civil Unions bill- have generally also extended new rights to straight couples. Not only can a straight couple now receive pretty much the same benefits as marriage without the heteronormal religious overtones, but de facto couples, regardless of sexuality, now have additional rights and protections that they were not afforded before because they are automatically considered equivalent to civil unions after a period of time.

Likewise- laws that protect “family values” tend to do the opposite- They aim to enshrine marriage as gender-specific, when it already is. They overextend themselves to taking away rights and protections from couples that are committed and may even have children, but aren’t married. Or they make adoption harder, don’t allow equal access to adopted kids, prevent co-adoption by unmarried couples, or make things even more difficult for single parents.

The other issue is that they often imply that marriage ought to be universal. Trying to imply that everyone ought to be happily married and popping out kids actually undermines marriage on its own- marriage is hard. It involves a very high level of commitment, compromise, and understanding from both partners. It involves choosing a good partner. In short, we should be encouraging good marriages, but that’s at odds with assuming everyone will get married. Because not everyone is ready for it. Some are, but they’ve not got a good partner. Some will never be ready for marriage. That’s part of why I feel that denying gay marriage is so wrong- when two people really do love each other well enough to spend their lives together, that’s so precious that it deserves celebrating no matter how weird you might find the people involved or the nature of their relationship.

The battle for gay civil rights is far from over in New Zealand, too. Right now there is no way for gay couples to legally adopt children, meaning that they have to resort to artificial insemination to become parents. That’s even ignoring gay marriage.

Personally speaking, I think gay marriage is inevitable, but I think enshrining it in the law is the wrong way to go. It would make far more sense to redefine marriage as a civil union with religious blessing, and then leave the fight over equal rights to the churches and other similar institutions themselves. Because really, most of the opposition seems to be in taking away the decision from religions. I agree they should have to make the decision. And I have confidence that eventually we’ll get them to make the right one, and that doing so will let us open our eyes to the reproductive and social rights we need to extend to everyone, straight or gay, couple or single.

Privilege, Sexist Privilege, and Counter-Privilege

So, having tipped my hat on this post in the comments, I should really get around to publishing it. Feminists use the term “privilege” to describe the advantages men have over women because of sexist attitudes that dominate society. It can also be generalised to apply to any such advantage- there’s male privilege, white privilege, straight privilege, the privilege of being an english-speaker, cis-gendered privilege… I could keep going, but it’d be boring.

Privilege is particularly destructive because generally, people feel they are entitled to it. It becomes a normal part of life. People wanting to do perfectly reasonable things- like keep their own names, or keep their jobs and be a parent, or earn as much as anyone else who does the same job, are seen as somehow trying to take something they don’t deserve. Continue reading

Equal Rights means managing jealousy

In some areas, men are far behind women in realising the immediate effects of equal rights. One of these is in the recognition of the achievements of our partners.

Women have learned to recognise, practically from infancy, that there are men who will have their achievements recognised as superior to their own. Women, however unfairly, have been prepared well to play a supporting role. This prepares better them for the hardest part of equality- realising that when/if you commit to someone, you and your partner could work as hard and be just as skilled, yet one of you could receive more recognition than the other. The indoctrination of submission and support prepares them for this more than adequately. This brings up its own problems that I’ll get back to later. Continue reading