I previously posted a brief blog post on the legal developments in New York which have enabled same-sex marriage. As the celebrations were in full swing, the academic George Chauncey reached for a large bucket of water to pour over proceedings:
“Most of the time, an awful lot of the nation doesn’t want to be like New York at all,” Chauncey told the New York Times.
“I suspect that many people will take this as one more sign of what happens in the Northeast, and in New York in particular, that they don’t want to have happen in their own communities.”
He is of course probably right. Passing of gay rights in the diverse and arguably, more liberal Northeast is one thing but it is not representative of America, in much the same way that London does not represent the UK.
His comments were joined by those of veteran campaigner and writer Larry Kramer. Today, he increasingly appears like some ghost of Christmas past who happens to share a wardrobe with Steve Jobs. So he appears rattlign his chains in a black turtle neck and is easy to dismiss as an angry old man. Of course, that doesn’t make him wrong – and far far far from it! Also according to the NYT:
“These marriages, in whichever state, are what I call feel-good marriages,” Mr. Kramer said. “Compared to the benefits heterosexual marriages convey, gay marriages are an embarrassment — that we should accept so little, and with so much hoopla of excitement and self-congratulation.”
He’s absolutely right. Someone asked me earlier this week how the new right to marry might impact on immigration rights, say a Brit now wanting to marry someone in New York. It makes no difference. Nada, nilch. Why? Well, we have to thank that piece of legislation that Bill Clinton signed into law and which Obama has said he’d like to see repealed – the Defence of Marriage Act or DOMA.
DOMA means that same-sex marriages are not recognised at a federal level – presenting a huge limitation on same-sex marriages in the USA and also meaning that the federal law can’t recognise such a marriage for immigration purposes.
The developments in New York are therefore an important step but the challenge is to both repeal DOMA and ensure the continued spread of same-sex marriage (and other forms of legal relationship recognition) outside the existing pockets of progressiveness.
The recent developments in New York are an important step, but merely a step.