Letters to the Portland Editor: July 10, 2009

Dump gay marriage and regroup!
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  July 8, 2009


A recent EqualityMaine campaign letter claimed that gay marriage is "the fight for our lives." I wonder whose lives they are talking about, when AIDS service organizations and community health/reproductive clinics across the state have been tightening their belts and desperately trying to crunch numbers so that more queer folks don't end up unemployed, uninsured, or worse yet, dead.

This queer boy in Lewiston can't help but feel terribly saddened and angered by the current LGBT political moment. The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling us to give up our last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities.

I see gays and lesbians of all ages obsessing over gay marriage as if it's going to cure AIDS, stop anti-queer/anti-trans violence, provide all of us uninsured queers with health care, and reform racist immigration policies. And who could blame folks for getting caught up? The gay-marriage campaign frames itself in a crisis model, and its logic goes something like this: "We must do this and we must do it now! Don't ask questions! And if you don't agree, you must be homophobic!" But this marriage model sets up a limited set of options to gain access to basic human rights like healthcare, as if marriage should even be a pre-requisite to staying alive. Neither this model, nor this campaign, reflects the community needs assessment done at the LGBTQ Symposium hosted by the Maine Community Foundation in 2007 or the data collected from the January 2009 queer/trans, Bangor-based Family Affairs Newsletter, where nearly 70 percent of respondents said gay marriage was not their top priority.

So who is pushing this narrow agenda and why aren't they doing real social-justice organizing that addresses the expressed needs of the community? Could it be that this campaign is being used to consolidate power, money, and property among already-privileged gays?

Even more terrifying, what kind of collateral damage does this kind of crisis campaigning create? In the last year we have seen the Maine Speak Out Project and the Charlie Howard Memorial Library close their doors in Portland while the few remaining LGBT youth advocacy groups across the state scrounge just to keep their doors open.

And how big is the campaign budget for gay marriage in Maine? Early estimates shared by EqualityMaine at one of their "community meetings" was nearly $2 million, but would likely be much more. Imagine what could be done to make queer and trans life in Maine better with that kind of funding. The possibilities seem endless when you're hoarding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

It's seriously time to dump gay marriage and regroup; we've got much more fierce and fabulous queer futures worth fighting for.

Ryan Conrad

Lewiston

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