It doesn’t need to be legal to be commercialized

Contributed by Miriam Zoila Pérez, Radical Doula
This article in last week’s NY Times brings up some hotly debated issues in the progressive LGBTQ movement. In reaction to the way that mainstream gay political movements have been overtaken by the fight for gay marriage, some radical activists have asked the question: Why marriage?
Activists like Mattilda Bernstein have pointed out that gay marriage is really an issue for mostly upper-class, white and privileged members of the gay community. It’s they who suffer from the tax penalties of not being legally married, and worry about how their inheritances will be passed on to their partners. She asks, shouldn’t we invest our resources in fighting poverty, homelessness and discrimination? She also points out that we shouldn’t be fighting for inclusion in a system that is corrupt and has inherently racist and sexist histories. She makes a similar argument about the fight for LGBTQ inclusion in the military.
The other side of this issue is the increasing commercialization of gay partnerships and ceremonies. Even though LGBTQ people can still only get legally married in MA (and the new civil unions in NJ) businesses all over the country are already catering to the gay wedding market. I went to the Gay Wedding Extravaganza in Philadelphia last year–where traditional wedding vendors came to sell their wares to LGBTQ couples planning ceremonies–even though there is no legal recognition in the state of PA. M any of these businesses had never even worked with gay couples before, but as one chocolate fountain vendor put it, “Money is money.”
The RainbowWeddingNetwork calls these events “Same love, Same rights.” It sounds deceptively political, and although they usually include a speech from an LGBTQ legal rights activist, really it’s about the same rights to waste tons of money on stupid wedding crap, like tuxedos, cakes, chocolate fountains and the like. I’ve never been a fan of wedding ceremonies (gay or straight) because I think they can get overtaken by commercialism and people forget the real purpose: to celebrate the love and commitment of two people. What does that have to do with cakes, bridesmaid dresses, housewares, flowers or food? Especially when the average wedding the US costs close to $30,000. Yikes.
While I understand the desire to commemorate your commitment publicly, with friends and family, I think that LGBTQ people should seize this opportunity to do things differently, rather than replicating a model that hasn’t really worked for straight people either.

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