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I Do? Towards an (Alternative) Alternative Sexual Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  3 friendly investigations of sexually-regulatory policy to articulate a sensible progressive sexual politics and theory beyond “Beyond Gay Marriage.” I. Beyond “Beyond Gay Marriage” Michael Warner’s “Beyond Gay Marriage” is a cautionary tract, deploring the fact that the right to marry became the primary ambition of gay rights groups at the turn of the 21 st century. The politics and pursuit of marriage, he asserts, degrades and eclipses the sexual liberation politics of queer activists of yore: As long as people marry the state will continue to regulate the sexual lives of those who do not marry. It will continue to refuse to recognize our intimate relations … It will criminalize our consensual sex … it will restrict our access to sexually explicit materials … Even though people think that marriage gives them validation, legitimacy, and recognition, they somehow think that it does so without invalidating, delegitimating, or stigmatizing other relations, needs, and desires. (1999, 96, 99) Warner objects to marriage as an institution that both normalizes and privileges. Marriage is an aspiration to normalcy, and as such relies upon an implicit and invidious politics of shaming queers outside the model of heteronormative respectability. As a site of privilege, statutory marriage is not innocent, Warner argues, structured definitionally by a politics of exclusion and a political hierarchy of legitimacy. Rather than pushing the police out of Stonewall, we are pushing the state into our bedroom. Gay marriage sediments the statutory function of sexual regulation, and therefore naturalizes the conferral of material and cultural benefits through spousal relations. (117-8) Warner also scrutinizes the depoliticized, emotive language of gay marriage—the rhetoric which couches marriage as an expression of formerly-repressed love, a “love that is beyond law.” (103; see also Sullivan 1995, 184-87) Warner argues that this apolitical self-fashioning is itself implicated in the politics of shaming, situating alternative sexual relations as inauthentic, immature, stained with political subversion: “These [other] options are not equally weighed, for the simple reason that marriage has a taken-for- grantedness and an apparently natural emotional force.” (105) Indeed, when one canvasses pro-gay marriage arguments penned by, among others, Jonathan Rauch, Andrew Sullivan, and William Eskridge, there are two powerfully complementary

Authors: Fischel, Joseph.
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friendly investigations of sexually-regulatory policy to articulate a sensible progressive
sexual politics and theory beyond “Beyond Gay Marriage.”
I. Beyond “Beyond Gay Marriage”
Michael Warner’s “Beyond Gay Marriage” is a cautionary tract, deploring the fact
that the right to marry became the primary ambition of gay rights groups at the turn of the
21
st
century. The politics and pursuit of marriage, he asserts, degrades and eclipses the
sexual liberation politics of queer activists of yore:
As long as people marry the state will continue to regulate the sexual lives of
those who do not marry. It will continue to refuse to recognize our intimate
relations … It will criminalize our consensual sex … it will restrict our access to
sexually explicit materials … Even though people think that marriage gives them
validation, legitimacy, and recognition, they somehow think that it does so
without invalidating, delegitimating, or stigmatizing other relations, needs, and
desires. (1999, 96, 99)
Warner objects to marriage as an institution that both normalizes and privileges.
Marriage is an aspiration to normalcy, and as such relies upon an implicit and invidious
politics of shaming queers outside the model of heteronormative respectability. As a site
of privilege, statutory marriage is not innocent, Warner argues, structured definitionally
by a politics of exclusion and a political hierarchy of legitimacy. Rather than pushing the
police out of Stonewall, we are pushing the state into our bedroom. Gay marriage
sediments the statutory function of sexual regulation, and therefore naturalizes the
conferral of material and cultural benefits through spousal relations.
(117-8)
Warner also scrutinizes the depoliticized, emotive language of gay marriage—the
rhetoric which couches marriage as an expression of formerly-repressed love, a “love that
is beyond law.”
(103; see also Sullivan 1995, 184-87) Warner argues that this apolitical
self-fashioning is itself implicated in the politics of shaming, situating alternative sexual
relations as inauthentic, immature, stained with political subversion: “These [other]
options are not equally weighed, for the simple reason that marriage has a taken-for-
grantedness and an apparently natural emotional force.” (105) Indeed, when one
canvasses pro-gay marriage arguments penned by, among others, Jonathan Rauch,
Andrew Sullivan, and William Eskridge, there are two powerfully complementary


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