Same-Sex Marriage: A Basic Right, a Just Demand

April 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two lawsuits demanding that the government recognize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriage is a basic right and a just demand. If two adults love each other and want to commit to a marriage, then denying them that right because of their sexual orientation is cruel and oppressive. It is telling them they are less than human in the eyes of society. And every day the government refuses to recognize same-sex marriage is intolerable.

A Basic Right

Why shouldn’t two adults of the same sex be able to marry? The voices of bigotry complain: “That’s not traditional marriage.” And, they insist, men having sex with men, and women having sex with women is “not natural.”

There is no such thing as “natural” sex. In the Bible—if that’s where you want to go—“god” seems to have mandated that at least some men have sex with dozens of wives and mistresses.

Much more recently, it was considered “unnatural” and against the law in many states for Blacks and whites to have sex with each other or intermarry. In 1965, the Virginia courts upheld the 1959 criminal conviction of a “mixed race” married couple in which the trial judge had stated this definition of what was “natural”: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.”

And attitudes and laws about sex itself have changed. In 1998, oral sex—even between married heterosexual partners—was illegal in Georgia. And as recently as 2003, consensual sex between same-sex couples was illegal under “sodomy” laws in 14 states, with penalties as severe as life in prison.

Marriage and “traditional morality” emerged with the division of society into oppressors and oppressed, as a form for enforcing patriarchy (men dominating women). Attitudes toward sex and marriage are rooted in that history. And like all human institutions, marriage—and attitudes towards sex—have evolved and will continue to evolve.

So there is nothing “unnatural” about any particular kind of sex and nothing “sacred” about “traditional marriage.” Sex between people who care about and respect each other can be great—no matter what their gender. And to the extent that LGBT people coming “out of the closet,” asserting their pride and their rights shakes up “the way things are,” that is a good thing.

Anyone with a sense of basic justice, anyone who hates the oppressive order, a world of exploitation, oppression, and repression, a world of rape, torture, war and police murder... should be outraged that same-sex couples cannot marry. And should be loudly and proudly demanding equality, now!

A Challenge to Inequality
at the Supreme Court

The BIG LIE about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the So-Called "Shadow of Roe v. Wade"

by Sunsara Taylor

This past week the Supreme Court heard arguments over two cases pertaining to same-sex marriage... What I want to speak to here is the way that many—on both sides of these cases—have cited Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her claim that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion in 1973 went "too far, too fast."

Read more


A Challenge Around Marriage Equality
from Carl Dix

There's been a lot going on around marriage equality lately. I want to issue a challenge around this, especially to Black people and other oppressed people, people this system beats down.

Read more

One case before the Supreme Court challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA outlaws federal recognition of same-sex marriages even where they are legal (as is the case in nine states plus Washington, DC). DOMA deprives even legally married same-sex couples of over a thousand rights and benefits. Surviving gays and lesbians can’t get social security from their partners’ accounts. Same-sex couples are denied medical leave to care for their spouses. Nor can they petition for their partners from other countries to join them in the U.S.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against DOMA, Edith Windsor, was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes when her spouse died—taxes she would not have owed if her spouse had been of the opposite sex. The financial penalty she paid is unjust. The larger point is even more vicious: in the USA, same-sex couples are not considered full human beings, and their relationships are not considered legitimate.

The other case challenges California’s Proposition 8. In 2004 San Francisco’s mayor declared City Hall open for same-sex marriages. In five weeks, 4,000 couples exchanged vows. A state court ordered the weddings stopped and they were declared invalid. That court order was challenged and in May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were legal throughout the state, and thousands more same-sex couples were legally married.

But in November 2008, after a multimillion-dollar campaign spearheaded by right-wing Christian organizations—especially the Mormons—Proposition 8 passed, banning same-sex marriages. A basic right was ripped away with a vote. And, it should be noted, an outrageous precedent was set: that any right of any group of people can be put “up for a vote,” at the mercy of religious lunatics, people locked in the grip of ignorance and fascist manipulators. (For more on Proposition 8, see “Gay Marriage: A Basic Right! A Just Demand!,” November 23, 2008, at

The Real Situation for
LGBT People in the USA

Life for LGBT people in the USA is a horror—suffocating, dangerous, and traumatic in a million ways. Even with all the culture changes going on, it is still the case that outside of a few neighborhoods in a few big cities, or some college campuses, if you are lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual, wherever you go you face insults, threats, humiliation, and physical danger. While fundamentalist preachers insist that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” it is not just red-state Christian fascists imposing mean-spirited prejudice. In Brooklyn, New York, a school board president had the book Heather Has Two Mommies, which promotes pride among children of same-sex couples, removed from the district’s curriculum.

If you are in high school and you are LGBT, or just unsure about your sexual orientation, you face bullying and humiliation. A New York Times article in 2011 brought to light that of eight suicides in two years at a suburban Minneapolis high school—at least four were gay students. Several 14-year-old LGBT students sued the school district for failing to protect students perceived to be gay. One said she had repeatedly been called “dyke” while teachers looked the other way; she was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

And persecution and denial of equality for LGBT people is legal. Immoral, yes. Unacceptable, yes. But it is legal: There is no federal law that specifically outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the private sector.

A Legitimacy Gap... 
and the Supreme Court

There is a great chasm in society between rapidly changing attitudes, on the one hand, and laws that overtly discriminate against LGBT people, on the other. That gap poses “legitimacy” problems for those who rule over the global empire of plunder known as the USA. This is a ruling class that enforces its rule with police (witness the occupation of inner cities, and the violent removal of Occupy protests) and wars around the world. But it also relies on the allegiance of sections of people, many of whom are outraged that LGBT people are not considered equal under the law.

And the increasingly bold assertion of LGBT pride in society in many ways, including protests like the National Equality March in DC in 2009, has helped put the question of LGBT rights and marriage equality onto the national stage.

There are conflicts within the ruling class of the U.S. over how to handle this. Some sections of the ruling class (more or less associated with the Republican Party) argue that a brutal enforcement of “traditional values” is the only way to maintain the system in times of great social and economic turmoil. Within that mix, the head of the Christian fascist Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, told a right-wing talk show host that “I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the Court goes too far on this.” By “revolution,” Perkins and others of his ilk mean violent fascist repression in one form or another.

Others (more or less identified with the Democrats) see a need to make superficial concessions to “diversity,” even as they continually reframe their agenda within terms set by the more fascist sections on questions like traditional morality, abortion and other women’s rights, and the power of religion in society. (See “The BIG LIE about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the So-Called ‘Shadow of Roe v. Wade’”).

Into this picture stepped the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is an institution of the ruling class. And part of the role it has played, historically, is to act to try to resolve societal crises and conflicts that call into question the right of those who rule this country to run society.

An instructive example is when and why the Supreme Court overruled the 1965 Virginia court decision (referred to at the beginning of this article) that held marriage between a Black and a white person to be “interference with [God’s] arrangement,” without which “there would be no cause for such marriages.” Two years later, in 1967, the Supreme Court overturned that decision in Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia (the last name of the Black and white couple who challenged the Virginia law is Loving).

The Supreme Court took up this case at a moment when the image of the USA around the world was of the National Guard occupying cities like Detroit and U.S. troops marauding through Vietnam, when the credibility and legitimacy of the rulers of the U.S. was being challenged at home, and when their empire was under siege in large part by national liberation struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Under those circumstances, the Supreme Court suddenly “discovered” that laws barring marriages between white and Black people (and every Southern state had such laws in 1967) were “racial discrimination” and violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But for a hundred years, the Supreme Court found such laws fully in tune with the same 14th Amendment.

It wasn’t the wheels of justice grinding slowly but surely that caused the Supreme Court to overturn these laws. The ruling was a call on the part of the Court that these laws had to go in order for the system to regain credibility, to regroup, and continue to oppress and exploit the people of the world. And in the years since, new forms of discrimination, the New Jim Crow, have resulted in stop-and-frisk police terror and the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people.

We raise this as an analogy, not as a direct parallel to the Court’s decision to consider challenges to bans on same-sex marriage. But there is a lesson here regarding the nature and role of the U.S. Supreme Court, why it acts in certain cases and with what aims.

Equal Rights, Now!

Anything less than a Supreme Court ruling that overturns DOMA and Proposition 8, and recognizes the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide, would be an outrage.

Some mainstream legal “analysts” (that is, ruling class mouthpieces) are saying that the way the court deliberations are going—the kinds of questions the justices are asking and the opinions they are implying—point to a ruling that would throw out Proposition 8 and DOMA on a very narrow basis, and not legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

Even worse, there are indications that the Supreme Court might strike down DOMA and Proposition 8 on an explicitly “states’ rights” basis. Same-sex marriage is banned in dozens of states. A ruling that explicitly or implicitly invokes “states’ rights” would institutionalize the “right” of states to outlaw same-sex marriage. Such a ruling would potentially create a situation similar to the U.S. before the Civil War, when there were “free states” and “slave states,” except that this time there would be states where same-sex couples could marry and states where they could not. The rights of same-sex couples would not be recognized under state law in states that banned same-sex marriage. And “states’ rights” was the rallying cry of the segregationists during the civil rights movement. This is not a logic that anyone opposed to prejudice, discrimination, and the violent enforcement of those things should want to have anything to do with!

It is within the spectrum of possibilities that the Supreme Court might let both DOMA and Proposition 8 stand. That would be an extreme, egregious outrage. Millions in society would likely see it—correctly—as a vicious slap in the face. Such a scenario would require everyone who believes in equality and justice to immediately take to the streets in determined resistance.

Fighting for Equality...
Getting Beyond Discrimination and Prejudice

It’s already an outrage that LGBT people are denied the right to marry, or that their marriages are not recognized as legitimate and legal by the federal government. That needs to change, now!

The struggle for marriage equality and the larger issues of equal rights for LGBT people has great stakes for the future. And it poses the big question: what kind of change is needed?

People need to continue to take to the streets, and stand up for pride and equality in all kinds of ways, with determination and conviction that history and right are on our side.

And in the midst of that, we strongly urge everyone to compare two constitutions that represent opposite futures. One, envisioned as a tool to enforce slavery, genocide, and the oppression of women (who, until 1920, were denied even the right to vote) has historically been interpreted in ways that adjust but never challenge profound inequality rooted in exploitation. That is the Constitution of the United States of America.

But there is another way society can be organized. Seriously study the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. This constitution bans all discrimination against people whose sexual orientation doesn’t fit into traditional, patriarchal forms and norms. Beyond that, it outlines a society whose education system and culture brings to light the real history and background of backward prejudices, and how they stem from different forms of oppression—changing not only laws, but hearts and minds.

And study “On the Strategy for Revolution,” a statement from the RCP, and get into the strategy to bring that revolutionary society into being.

Resistance to discrimination, prejudice, and violence directed at LGBT people and the righteous assertion of “pride” are positive elements in today’s situation. That resistance needs to grow and be strengthened, and more and more needs to feed into a powerful movement for revolution to bring about a whole different society where all forms of oppression will be overthrown.


We also need to be aware of the positive—and in significant ways “subversive of the system”—potential of the assertion of gay “identity” and gay rights, even with the very real contradictions in this, including the narrowing tendencies of “identity politics” as well as conservatizing influences related to traditional marriage, and, for that matter, the campaign to be allowed to be part of the imperialist military while being openly gay. Even with all that, in its principal aspect this has, and can to an even greater degree have, a very positive, “subversive of the system” effect. This is a contradiction which, in the society overall, is “out of the closet.” It could be forced back into the closet, and underground, with not only the stronger assertion of the kind of fascist movement that is being supported and fostered by powerful ruling class forces in this period, but with the actual assumption of a fascist form of bourgeois dictatorship. But the struggle against the oppression of gay people is not going to be easily suppressed. We should understand the potential of this as well, and the need to relate correctly to this, to foster the further development of its positive potential and its contribution to the movement for revolution.

Bob Avakian
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,
BAsics 3:25




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