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I Do? Towards an (Alternative) Alternative Sexual Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Introduction This paper is simultaneously a critique of gay marriage politics, an examination of the queer response to gay marriage politics, and a nascent articulation of an alternative progressive sexual politics. 1 I am interested foremost in the latter of these objectives, but such a project is only accomplishable by confronting sexual politics’ contemporary focal points: same-sex marriage and its queer 2 discontents. Whereas Gerald Rosenberg (forthcoming) argues that the judicial effort to legalize same-sex marriage has invoked a populist-turned-legislative backlash that has partially eclipsed its limited successes, here I am concerned less with this judicial agenda and its political potential than with the normative presuppositions that inform both the agenda and the queer objections raised to it. In a route one might describe as meta-queer, I expound on what I take to be the best and worst of gay marriage politics, the queer response, and the intersectional rejoinder, to anatomize a politics and theory of sexual justice that is at once cross-identitarian, structurally attentive, and politically efficacious. I proceed by way of critique. This inquiry begins not with the most prominent pro-gay 3 arguments for same-sex marriage, espoused by public intellectuals like Andrew 1 I thank Professors Patchen Markell and Martha Nussbaum for their insights and important critiques. My gratitude to the members of the 2007 Political Science Master’s Thesis Workshop and the 2007 Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop at the University of Chicago. Cathy Cohen, Gerald Rosenberg, Igor Souza and Marissa Guerrero were also tremendously helpful. All errors, shortcoming and polemics are my own. 2 As I have circumscribed this paper to problematize progressive sexual politics, I do not directly consider conservative, traditional, and religious arguments against same-sex marriage. Also, “queer” is a contentions, ambiguous, politically fraught term. I use it to refer to the widest spectrum of sexual minorities. Although when contrasting “queer” politics to “gay and lesbian” politics, queer is a heuristic for resistance to culturally dominant sexual norms. Implicit throughout this paper is the contention that “queer” activism falls short of its purportedly cross-identitarian cutting political potential. See Cohen (1997) discussed at length below. 3 There are feminist arguments in favor of same-sex marriage that I do not directly consider. There are at least three separable feminist positions: first, antipathy towards same-sex marriage cloaks anxiety about the collapse of traditionally-gendered marriage roles and patriarchy (Nussbaum 2004, 250-71); second, the statutory prohibition on same-sex marriage is a form of sex-based discrimination (Koppelman 1994, Nussbaum 1999); third, same sex marriage rightly troubles the gendered division of labor; likewise, the roles of homemaker and breadwinner may not be as clearly demarcated within same-sex couples (Hunter 1991; Nussbaum 1999, 200-04; Graff 2004, 215-29). The third argument is the feminist upshot of the conservative anxieties diagnosed by the first argument.

Authors: Fischel, Joseph.
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background image
1
Introduction
This paper is simultaneously a critique of gay marriage politics, an examination of
the queer response to gay marriage politics, and a nascent articulation of an alternative
progressive sexual politics.
1
I am interested foremost in the latter of these objectives, but
such a project is only accomplishable by confronting sexual politics’ contemporary focal
points: same-sex marriage and its queer
2
discontents. Whereas Gerald Rosenberg
(forthcoming) argues that the judicial effort to legalize same-sex marriage has invoked a
populist-turned-legislative backlash that has partially eclipsed its limited successes, here I
am concerned less with this judicial agenda and its political potential than with the
normative presuppositions that inform both the agenda and the queer objections raised to
it. In a route one might describe as meta-queer, I expound on what I take to be the best
and worst of gay marriage politics, the queer response, and the intersectional rejoinder, to
anatomize a politics and theory of sexual justice that is at once cross-identitarian,
structurally attentive, and politically efficacious.
I proceed by way of critique. This inquiry begins not with the most prominent
pro-gay
3
arguments for same-sex marriage, espoused by public intellectuals like Andrew
1
I thank Professors Patchen Markell and Martha Nussbaum for their insights and important
critiques. My gratitude to the members of the 2007 Political Science Master’s Thesis Workshop
and the 2007 Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop at the University of Chicago. Cathy Cohen,
Gerald Rosenberg, Igor Souza and Marissa Guerrero were also tremendously helpful. All errors,
shortcoming and polemics are my own.
2
As I have circumscribed this paper to problematize progressive sexual politics, I do not directly
consider conservative, traditional, and religious arguments against same-sex marriage. Also,
“queer” is a contentions, ambiguous, politically fraught term. I use it to refer to the widest
spectrum of sexual minorities. Although when contrasting “queer” politics to “gay and lesbian”
politics, queer is a heuristic for resistance to culturally dominant sexual norms. Implicit
throughout this paper is the contention that “queer” activism falls short of its purportedly cross-
identitarian cutting political potential. See Cohen (1997) discussed at length below.
3
There are feminist arguments in favor of same-sex marriage that I do not directly consider.
There are at least three separable feminist positions: first, antipathy towards same-sex marriage
cloaks anxiety about the collapse of traditionally-gendered marriage roles and patriarchy
(Nussbaum 2004, 250-71); second, the statutory prohibition on same-sex marriage is a form of
sex-based discrimination (Koppelman 1994, Nussbaum 1999); third, same sex marriage rightly
troubles the gendered division of labor; likewise, the roles of homemaker and breadwinner may
not be as clearly demarcated within same-sex couples (Hunter 1991; Nussbaum 1999, 200-04;
Graff 2004, 215-29). The third argument is the feminist upshot of the conservative anxieties
diagnosed by the first argument.


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