Why Gay Marriage Isn't Good Enough

When people say “legalize love,” what they really mean is “legalize heteronormative, binary couples’ love.” About a month ago the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8, making federal recognition of same-sex marriage legal in 13 states and Washington, D.C. and recognizing a lower court’s rejection of Prop 8 from 2012.

We could call this a victory for the LGBT community if it actually helped all of the LGBT community. Legalized same-sex marriage leaves out transgender people who want to marry their same-gender partner, but can’t because of a state law that prevents transgender people from changing their gender on official documents unless they have sex-reassignment surgery (SRS). It also excludes people in “non-normative,” non-binary relationships, such as polyamorous people.

The court's decision certainly benefits the lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who live in those 13 states and D.C., but not the rest of the people in the LGBT community. Some laws require transgender people to have “the proper treatment” in order to change their gender on official documents. This means that some transgender people can’t marry under the gender they identify as. For example, a gay transgender man who lives in Massachusetts, which is a state that has legalized same-sex marriage but has a law that requires transgender people to have sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) in order to change their documents, can’t marry his cisgender male partner as a man unless he goes under the knife. If all transgender people wanted to have SRS and marry their partner in a state that had no laws to restrict them from doing so, then the court's decision would have been a huge advancement for the queer community. However, a lot of transgender people don’t want to have SRS or can’t afford to, and requiring surgery to change an F to an M or vice versa on a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, and so on is unfair and classist.

Same-sex marriage also leaves out another group in the queer community. Polyamorous people cannot marry all of their partners and receive healthcare benefits and tax breaks that married couples have. Polyamory is still misunderstood by most people and is usually a social stigma or the punchline of a joke. We aren’t really “legalizing love” if polyamorous people can’t legalize their relationship. If someone wants to marry their partners, why can’t they? This is the exact argument some have used to fight for same-sex marriage. It’s not marriage equality if not everyone of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and relationship types can get married.

Same-sex marriage excludes many people in the LGBT community and in non-binary relationships. Transgender people have to deal with one more legal obstacle than lesbians, gays, and bisexuals do in order to marry their partners. Polyamorous people can’t even marry their partners in the first place. Unless all of the states legally recognize all forms of relationships and have both legalized same-sex marriage and a law that lets transgender people change their documents without SRS, a lot of transgender people still can’t get married and all polyamorous people can’t legalize their relationship. Unfortunately, only a few states have fair laws affecting transgender people, and our society is a long way from accepting non-monogamous relationships. For now, many queers are still being oppressed by our cissexist and classist society.