Already anticipating the coming out process at the dress shops. Wondering if I should have my mom call ahead and let them know so there is no awkwardness for me, maybe just for them. I know they’ll say, “so, tell me about your fiancé,” and I’ll respond, “well, she’s great….” If I’m lucky they’ll call her Ginny and not Jenny. Close [X]

Participating in the institution of marriage does not have to provide legitimization for the same-sex couple, but it can provide social visibility of non-normative relationships while challenging mainstream society’s notions of who should and should not be married. If queers resist marriage in order to resist normalization, their non-normative relationships remain out of the public sphere in some sense because they are not recognized. Large-scale marriage equality movements include queer and public articulation of same-sex relationships; if queers refuse to insist on marriage rights, those insistent, advocating queers are more easily removed from the public eye. And isn’t this what opponents to gay marriage want? I believe that same-sex marriage, through a queer lens, could offer a potential for disruption from inside the institution, rather than a social and cultural critique from the outside.

Reading Butler, Sarah Claeys points out that “in this way a public sphere is created in which ‘only certain kinds of views may be heard, only certain kinds of images may be seen, and only certain interpretations of reality are authorized’” (5). I would agree, and I would add that by excluding same-sex couples from marriage rights, the nation-state, and society by association, limits the types of relationships that are seen, represented, and allowed in the public domain. Extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is only one step in opening and expanding representation. Taking advantage of the opportunity to marry, legally, moves the queer relationship into the public, since marriage is a pubic articulation [5].

What effect might queers getting married have on the line that distinguishes between the public and private? Rather than be relegated to the bedroom, behind closed doors in private, queer will wear, present, and flaunt its private in public: marriage provides this opportunity for visibility.

Subverting marriage. From the inside

Insightfully, “Judith Butler argues that ‘there is no guarantee that exposing the naturalized status of heterosexuality will lead to its subversion’ (1993, 231)” (Alexander 124). The same can be said for marriage: exposing the naturalized status of marriage isn’t enough, but I would also argue that resistance to marriage isn’t enough. How can queers queer the institution? In what ways can marriage be disrupted, re/formed, and reconstituted? Anzaldua reminds us that the non-normative and marginalized must remember they are the real threat. Instead of viewing the institution of marriage as a threat, queers must realize their potential as a threat to the institution of marriage. Rather than buying into the idea that marriage will necessarily change the marginalized, turning them into some hetero-homonormative drone of the state, the marginalized need to remember they have already changed and expanded marriage, and notions of family and family structures, which is why many conservatives are so desperate to salvage the institution in the first place. In the past three years alone, we have witnessed the repeal of DADT, a Supreme Court ruling that found DOMA unconstitutional, and seen marriage equality movements progress to include seventeen states offering same-sex marriage.

It could be said that gay marriage is inherently queer since it is demarcated in opposition, or as being fundamentally different, from regular, normal hetero marriage. And even if/when full rights are extended to same-sex couples, they will still be seen as lesser than and adjunct to traditional/normal, hetero marriage. There is no doubt that any person that participates in marriage will be assimilating to dominant culture to some extent, but that doesn't mean they are always accepted or treated equally.

Mainstream culture will always remind the marginalized – the immigrant, the woman, the single mother who relies on food stamps, the queer, the non-native speaker: the oppressed – that they are different, that they are deficient, and that they will never really fit, no matter how hard they try. The most pressing issue, of course, is the systemic, cultural logic that tells itself that once slavery is abolished, once women are granted the right to vote, and once same-sex marriage is legalized, discrimination disappears and equality abounds. Because we all know this couldn’t be further from the truth.