With due apologies to Bryan Adams, the Summer of ’69 was the summer of Stonewall. New York City became a beacon for social justice in the otherwise hostile world when for the first time, the gays—ever oppressed as non-masculine—organized their confrontation against the American police and legal order—ever privileged as the symbol of masculinity.
In more ways than one, Stonewall rebellion is the single most valiant act of resistance of the oppressed against the oppressors in the recent history. And the many marginalized resistors of New York City stood at the helm of this progressive activism.
However, this path of defying the towering institutions of Big Apple has been strewn with many struggles. The latest one unfolded today at the court. Even as almost four decades have passed, the Summer of ’06 has exhibited how backward, how oppressive, and how conservative our law and order system still continues to be. How adamantly ignorant, and how repulsively inconsiderate the human judgments are till date proving to be.
With its legal verdict against gay marriage, New York State could not finally secure a position as the second enlightened state in the US (the only one is Massachusetts). One hoped, sincerely hoped, the city famous for peoples’ movements against the existing unjust orders, would have also acknowledged this one struggle by the people marginalized because of their sexual orientation. But that was not to be. Rather, the city, post-Stonewall, has now reverted back to conservatism of a shameful order and perhaps now has been turned into a beacon for social injustice—to declare gay marriage as illegal everywhere!
A Mockery of Justice:
Judge Robert S Smith on behalf of majority view rationalized Thursday:
“Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted.”
While opining these callous statements, Judge Smith has not brought in the slightly alternative and hugely profound perspectives that until a few decades ago, it was also an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived in any society in which human beings existed, that we had only a few elite white privileged men ruling over the majority in most inhumane manner imaginable, and it used to be considered that they were the ones to decide the definition of civilization and the barbaric. Not very long ago, everyone assumed that it was perfectly judicious to enslave people of color as it was considered that people who were not white, and people who were not men, were indeed not full humans.
Despite all trumpets that ‘Greek democracy’ exemplified, for centuries until only a few decades back, it was well taken for granted by everyone who ever lived that only a small number of ‘free men’ were qualified to conduct elections and define democracy in the world. Till then it was considered only so normal that people needed to be segregated to study in different schools basing on their skin color so that only some elite white men ended up owning all three branches of governance and left the manual works for the slaves.
So Judge Smith’s brilliant exposition to justify decision against gay marriage lacks this small authenticity of history fact-sheet.
Mockery is the norm?
On an even closer perusal, it will be well noted that Judge Smith was actually correct in his assumptions, only that the present era needed to be integrated in the historical perspective that he has taken. The fact is, its not “until a few decaded ago”, but even today under this current legal structure, we have widespread unjust social practices. White men are still being paid dozen times higher than Latina women for the same work. Poor workers are being retaliated against by their employers for bringing up harassment charges. And gay people are still being denied their basic human rights. Immigrants are being called ‘illegal aliens’ in the ‘modern’ country founded solely by immigrants. Poverty, homelessness, lack of access to basic healthcare are formidably overbearing upon the American society in 2006 Common Era.
The judgment against gay marriage in New York is a blot in the history which will be invariably questioned generations later and all of us will be held responsible for such irresponsible and apathetic sensitivity. Law is at times based on conventions, but if going by Judge Smith’s summarizations, law is solely based on conventions, then we do not need a court of justice to demarcate the norms. We only have to look at the utterly racist, sexist, homophobic society of today for solution. When the courts of justices are approached, it is done in want of judgments that are absent amidst conformism, not to seek vindication of unjust conformities that have been present “at all ages” or being practiced by “all human beings that ever lived.”
In what could be blatantly misinformed opinions, the court has passed verdicts to uphold traditional monogamous heterosexist marriages, in the following manner:
“It (the legislature) could find that an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born. It thus could choose to offer an inducement – in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits – to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other. “
Some of us could be highly amused by the naivety of these thoughts, springing as they are, from prepositions that are invalid. The judgment that decries the gay marriage citing scientific evidence (“Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman”) is itself unscientific insofar as the fact remains that the world has not seen so far many cases where “child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like.” The point is not whether children without parents have done progress (which the judge dismisses as exception), but the fact is the “living models of men and women” are actually thousands or million times more outside the family than inside it. The judgment is unsound; basing as it is on unscientific claims.
What lies beneath?
If we shift from the amusement, one can note that the more serious side to this exercise lies in the systematic perpetuation of historical injustices by the oppressive class.
Sociologist and critical political theorist Frederick Engels while challenging the status quo of monogamous marriage had said (in “Origin of the Family Private property and the State”, p 218):
“What will most definitely disappear from monogamy…is all the characteristics stamped on it in consequence of its having arisen out of property relationships. These are, first, the predominance of the man, and secondly, the indissolubility of marriage..”
Engels way back in 1880 said,
“Marriage based on sex love is by its very nature monogamy. We have seen how right Bachofen was when he regarded the advance from group marriage to individual marriage chiefly as the work of the women; only the advance from pairing marriage to monogamy can be placed to the men’s account, and historically, this consisted essentially in a worsening of the position of women and in facilitating infidelity on the part of the men.” He said in a socialist economy alone, the women would have “regained the right of separation, and when the man and woman cannot get along they would prefer to part. In short, proletarian marriage is monogamian in the etymological sense of the word, but by no means in the historical sense” (ibid p. 209-210).
Alas, the judgment of the US court has acknowledged the aspect of marriage only in the historical sense. Only in the dominant historical interpretation of monogamous heterosexist marriages that prevented a) the women to refuse domestic oppression, and b) people from practicing their different sexual orientations or refusing assigned gender roles. A history that has denied self-expression to majority of people who have either not found solace in the preaching of the Church or in the actions of the elite ruling classes. A history that speaks the dominant narrative of the establishments, not of the peoples’ version of how the establishment thrived on exploitation legacies. A history that has hitherto stood by the side of the unjust conventions of war as a solution, oppression as a ruling tool, and fraud as a valid tactic of gaining powerful positions.
Although the mainstream history would be funded to picture New York City through the lens of its founding ‘fathers’, its mayors, its judges, and the owners of the ‘Statue of Liberty’; the peoples’ history of the city will not forget this day as one of shame, and of systematic sham.