The Defense of Marriage Act centered around how the law — and how we as a nation — define marriage.
When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the DOMA as a violation of the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause, it afforded proponents of marriage equality a tremendous opportunity to utilize the language of Justice Kennedy's opinion to advocate for equal rights for all, in every state of the union.
Now is the time for the LGBT community to focus on terminology which is inclusive for all LGBT identities and expand beyond the term “gay marriage” to the more inclusive term “same sex marriage.”
1. To Be More Inclusive to the Entire Community
“Gay marriage” as a term leaves out many of the identities which comprise the LGBT community. Though the media and conventional rhetoric have conflated “gay” to also mean “lesbian,” “gay” never includes bisexual, pansexual, transgender, or queer identities. The term “gay marriage” silences the voices of those identities outside of the G in the LGBT community. Using only the “gay” identity to define a diverse and varied group of people is dangerous, calling everyone in a same-sex relationship “gay” implies that even people within the LGBT community do not view the other identities as real or as equal to the gay identity.
2. To Raise Awareness Rather Than Limit Exposure
On the bridge of equality is not the time to cast shadow on the rest of the LGBT community. Proponents of the term “gay marriage” understand that simplification of terms is often helpful for gaining media exposure and widespread understanding. However, how can the LGBT community reach equality if only the gay male identity is the face of the movement? Bisexual, pansexual, transgender, and queer individuals already suffer a great degree of misunderstanding both in and out of the LGBT community. The quest to marriage equality is a prime opportunity to raise awareness and educate the media on the multifacets of the LGBT community which fosters the long term goals of acceptance and equality. Giving exposure to identities which may be less understood or less commercial than the “gay” identity makes them more human and relatable — the LGBT community should strive to take pride in all aspects of our community and not just some. Trying to simplify language is never an excuse to silence individual identities or experiences.
3. Heteronormative Doesn't Have to Be the Only Normal Anymore
“Gay marriage” does not award deeper visibility to the LGBT community; it awards deeper visibility to the G in the LGBT. Playing into the patriarchal and macho-focused aspects of society the term “gay marriage” highlights the males in the LGBT community and steps away from those society historically oppresses — women those who are transgender and those who do not conform to any gender identity. Same-sex marriage equality is a step towards a society which is overall more inclusive to all orientations and identities — there is no reason for same-sex marriage to mirror the patriarchy and power structure which exists in heteronormative society.
The ultimate goal in discussions of equality does not live and die in a label. my wife and I aren't “gay married” — we're just married. For my wife and me, the eventual goal is not that everyone will embrace us with open arms and rainbow flags but to have respect and equal opportunities. The love between heterosexual couples is the same love which exists within same-sex couples. At our current point the term “same-sex marriage” is the most inclusive to the identities within the LGBT community. As LGBT equality and awareness progress, society moves away from a present which calls for defining labels like “gay marriage” or even “same-sex marriage,” and embraces a truly universal and equal term: marriage.