Thursday, July 07, 2011

Look who gets married ...

It's the women, naturally. The media is noting that when enough data begins to accumulate on who gets married once marriage is legalized for same sex couples, lesbians outnumber gay men by a lot.

In Connecticut, 3,252 lesbian couples have been married since 2008, compared to 2,053 male couples. In Massachusetts, 8,404 female couples, 4,911 male. In New Hampshire, 1,113 pairs of women, 411 pairs of men. In Iowa, 1,376 lesbian marriages, 772 gay male marriages. In Vermont, 1,157 to 597.

This doesn't surprise me at all. Women's first thought is often about coupling up; guys' ideas are more often about getting laid. I don't believe this is genetic, but it sure is what society teaches us from childhood. Actually, the stats are probably more equal than they would have been before contemporary feminism -- less women feel the need to marry right away and more guys have an inkling of the joys of reliable partnership than did 30 years ago.

What's interesting is that I don't think that it has been women who were the gay movement leaders who made marriage the central demand in the struggle for gay equality. That impetus came first from the lawyers because, better than most of us, they understood what material hits our partnerships were taking because we didn't enjoy the legal benefits of marriage -- all the 1138 federal benefits that we still lack, for example. Of course some of the lawyers were women; of the current crop, Kate Kendall from the National Center for Lesbian Rights comes to mind.

But some of the sharpest lawyers doing the strategic thinking about how to win gay equality were always gay men. I think of Matt Coles who wrote San Francisco's first Domestic Partnership law and who went on to be director of the national ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project. Many of the leaders of the DC advocacy outfits, notably the oh-so-Beltway HRC, have been guys, as have the leaders of Equality California and Marriage Equality New York This is not to say that women didn't and don't work in these advocacy and ballot measure campaigns, but when it comes to political maneuvering, men often still push out front. Look at Congress: still only 16 percent of members are women. Women are still more likely to be doing grunt work than thinking up the strategies.

The strategy that came from these male lawyers has proved not only successful legally -- with lots more to come -- but also tremendously appealing to mainstream straight folks. A couple of decades of work now has yielded majorities believing something like "oh -- they want to live the way we claim to think is good. They love each other. They're really not so different from us after all. It's only fair ...."

This has the advantage of being true, always good in a campaign message. The lawyers have put us in a position to erase many of our differences from straight folks.

But I still find it incongruous and maybe a little sad that it is gay men and lawyers who are leading us beyond the multiple injuries of exclusion and social derision. It took gender-bending fags and uncompromising feminist dykes to break the closet. But once our existence was shoved out into the open, it was some of those who needed liberation least who set the direction for trying to get it -- and are winning something the masses of gay folks seldom dreamed of.

All very curious ...

Photo of Lorri L. Jean and Gina Calvelli demonstrating for marriage equality. REUTERS/Phil McCarten


Damon said...

Interesting thought on the not believing the difference is genetic. I'm not going to say I disagree, but I'm not going to say I agree either. Either way, I'm glad the option to marry is becoming more and more available. I wish our President would stop "evolving" and just openly support gay marriage. I'm tired of government officials at the federal level who only respect states' rights when it's politically convenient.

Kay Dennison said...

I'm just glad that it's finally here as an option and growing. Lawyers should be happy -- they'll garner the profits from gay divorce. I'll be interested to see the stats on that when it happens. I don't really know what happening on this here in Ohio -- we're to busy trying to keep our governor from killing us.

Betty Johanna said...

I wish I could find the study, but.... Ten or more years ago, a grad student in Social Work at the University of Washington did a study of lesbian and gay couples. My partner and I were as surprised as he was -- more gay men than lesbians were in long term partnered relationships. This was, of course, before "gay marriage" was even a distant possibility. Wonder what an identical study would show now.

janinsanfran said...

Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled we're winning gay marriage and we've even said we'll probably do it once we win in California. That will happen soon enough.

Kay - that's a good question about divorce. I've only seen anecdotes and I think those tend only to make the press when children are involved. So that biases the sample toward reporting lesbian breakups as more of us have kids. But it will be interesting. I see little reason to believe that sustaining marriages will be any easier for gays than straight folks.

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