Marriage Debates and Post-Stonewall History

Watch the short video posted on our syllabus page.  Then, after you have watched it leave a comment here answering one of the following questions:

~ What were you most surprised to learn about from this era of LGBTQ+ rights?

~ What kinds of debates around LGBTQ+ rights are still going on today? Can you connect them to this history?

~ Do you see any of the ways that we can connect our other readings to this quick overview of history? In other words, were any of our readings already engaging with this history? How?

22 thoughts on “Marriage Debates and Post-Stonewall History”

  1. One of the surprising things about this video was how nosy legislators are. I don’t really understand how they could be so concerned with something that does not involve themselves. Why do you get a say on if I can get married? Marriage and adoption is an issue that is still lingering today. Some countries won’t allow gay couples to adopt a child from their orphanage just because of their sexual orientation. I have never understood why that block exists because that child would be going to a loving home, so why does it matter if it’s two men or women? Most gay parents are usually better parents to their children because they had so many extra hoops to jump through in order to have their children. Growing up in a really diverse area, there are tons of gay couples in my neighborhood and had kids that were my classmates. It was never something I really thought twice about since they had two parents just like I did. Now with my current job as a gymnastics instructor, we have a ton of kids with gay parents. I was working one day and one of my students asked me if I had two moms like she did, which is a question I get a lot more often than you’d think. In my experience with hoards of 5 year olds, the ones with gay/queer parents are a lot better behaved than the rest. I think growing up in an urban area with a very accepting community has lead me to have a very open mindset in general that has been so useful in almost every aspect of my life. I often take for granted how open my community and even my family is. I forget that others do not have the space to be themselves and that’s something that crushes me to hear, and it never really gets any less crush-y. I think that the queer community has come a long way, but there are still some big fish to fry ahead.

  2. I always knew DADT was a ‘thing’ in the military but was never taught that it was an actual policy. I found this to be so disturbing, especially since it was so recently ended in 2011. The conservative arguments made about queer involvement in the military are full of cruel stereotypes and are completely devoid of critical thought. This disturbing piece of queer history is also topical to today’s political climate as Trump’s ban of trans people from joining the military was so recently repealed.
    I also found pink-washing to be very interesting and a compelling form of propaganda that occurs constantly today. The U.S. continues to do this- condemning other countries for human rights issues while hiding the very real and disturbing American violations that affect citizens and the global victims of America’s imperialism.

  3. I think one of the most surprising things to me about this video was the timeframe of recent LGBTQ history. I grew up in a fairly conservative country that was (and still quite isn’t) LBGTQ friendly as the US today, but I was always under the assumption that there were more freedoms and rights to self-expression in the States.

    I remember being a teenager in the early 2010s when the gay marriage debates were going on, and when they legalized it in 2015 I was like, “wow, this is so progressive”. What I didn’t know at the time was the murky history, that even now I feel like I miss out on by being an outsider to the US’s history, a history so dark that it glosses over very often how reforms came to be. We see this with racial equality as well, where history is narratively whitewashed and the bad spots ignored. Now being in the US physically, I see and understand things differently, and it helps the cultural landscape has shifted. We are now in a much more progressive time for LGBTQ+ rights, and even in that 5-7 year timeframe of the last few years it’s hard to realize how much acceptance has happened so fast in so short a time. It feels like it should be longer, is longer but the truth is many things from representation to legal rights are a recent development (which a certain administration also set back, but that’s a whole post of its own).

    Anyway, what I think I’m trying to say is the general surprise I think most of us younger people have not realizing how far we’ve come from the 60s, and how much has happened in the last 5-10 years that have made it easier for LGBTQ+ folk to be in the public space in the United States.

  4. What surprised me the most was how much I did not know about gay marriage rights! The situations dealing with estates and the turning over of properties or possessions to partners was extremely interesting and also seemed ridiculous. Furthermore the rights and responsibilities concerning the parents and their adoptive children was hard to wrap my head around. So many gay couples do adopt children, the fact one of them might not have guardianship or rights to the child is mind-blowing. Which brings me back to marriage. The fact that it was so widely debated by everyone except the people it pertained to is absurd because it should be their decision to begin with.
    I thought the point about removing rights through marriage was not a bad idea. If everyone had rights without having to get married it would allow everyone to live how they saw fit. However I understand how the many issues that come with de-institutionalizing marriage concerning different benefits and situations might make it a challenge.

  5. Like a lot of my peers in the comments, I was surprised by the variety of terms within the marriage debate. It seemed like people were trying to tiptoe around using the word “marriage” when they came up with terms like “civil union” or “domestic partnership.” If people were willing to recognize LGBTQ relationships in some capacity (marriage without saying marriage), then it seems silly to me that they wouldn’t allow them to have joint custody of a child. The foster care/adoption system is a whole other can of worms with many issues as well so why would people threaten to put kids back in the system if their parents were LGBTQ? I never considered what happened to adopted kids whose parents don’t have joint custody, but the fact that that is what happened is heartbreaking. Adoption and LGBTQ parents are still something that I think I hear people talk about, which baffles me. If the parents, regardless of gender, are willing to give a child a loving home, why would you keep a child from that? By excluding LGBTQ parents from having children, it appears to be another way to keep LBGTQ families as an “other” and “not a real family.”

  6. What kinds of debates around LGBTQ+ rights are still going on today? Can you connect them to this history?

    In response to question two, it’s interesting to trace back the relationship between LGBTQ+ individuals and the police. Historically, the state has played an oppressive, defining, and antagonistic role to the community, yet in more recent times, police (as well as state and corporate entities more broadly) have involved themselves in Pride. More curious are the specific debates around police and pride parades. With such a large gathering of people who have been historical targets of hate, would the police offer safety or danger? Interactions between police and LGBTQ individuals regularly go awry, but does that outweigh the risk for potential violence? Moreover, contemporary police forces sometimes enroll LGBTQ members into their ranks, and any exclusion of police would by extension ostracize those individuals. Counter arguments contend that police have a regulating and subversive effect on the events in which they attend. Police presence, by extension, limits the political opportunities of Pride and brings LGBTQ culture and struggles into the mainstream. This may in turn provide a great deal of visibility, but at the cost of infusing Pride with the capitalist and heteronormative aspects which it originally resisted.

  7. After watching the video about LGBTQ rights, I was especially surprised to learn about the role of children in LGBTQ marriage rights. I have never heard of the ‘save our children’ movement, and it is strange to me that children are a contesting point in adult marriage rights/other LGBTQ rights in general. Unfortunately, I have some family members that are against gay marriage– their argument is that marriage is a structure that helps couples procreate, so only couples that are able to procreate (straight-passing couples) should get married. When combatting this argument and the argument that children should be ‘saved’ from exposure to LGBTQ representation, I think it is really important to recognize couples such as April DeBoer and Jane Rowse, who need same-sex marriage to ensure the safety of their children.

  8. Thank you for this fascinating video synopsis, Prof. Kersh! I think something that really surprised me about this history was the two court cases Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas. It really blows my mind to think that there was ever a debate that people can’t have sex in their own private homes without getting arrested and charged for doing something that should be private and no one else’s business. These cases really reminded me of the killing of Breonna Taylor last year.

    One connection that I noticed between the cases is in the Bowers v. Hardwick case, the police burst into Hardwick’s house, stating that the door was ajar. This is very similar to the Taylor killing when the officers said that they announced that they were the police before entering, but no one in the house heard them.

    There are some differences in what happened to Taylor and the two cases above, but I couldn’t help but think that their connection lies in when it is alright for police to enter a private space unannounced or forcefully. I don’t have an answer to this, but it’s so infuriating that things like this keep happing and very little is done about it.

  9. While watching this video and seeing you talk about the different court cases, it reminded me of a case I had to debate in another one of my classes. For a class I’m taking on religion, I had to debate the case of the Masterpiece Cakeshop that denied to make a gay couple a wedding cake in Colorado because of the shop owner’s religious beliefs. I had to defend the side of the bakery and its owner which was really hard for me to do because that isn’t who I personally believe should have won the case. Of course, in the official Supreme Court case, they did end up siding with the bakery. This case wasn’t that long ago and it just shows how far we still have to go in order for members of the LGBTQ+ community to stop facing such discrimination based on their sexuality or gender expression.

  10. This whole video was so informative. I have heard about some of these momentous cases, but I didn’t really know them that well. Most of my knowledge was superficial and I never drew much of a conclusion over them.
    I was most surprised by the arguments over gay marriage. Usually discussions about this within my family always turns into a debate “for gay marriage” or “against gay marriage,” with these arguments usually revolving around the religious aspects of marriage. However, I never thought about gay marriage debates in the context of an argument against the institution of marriage itself. Those arguments are so interesting to me because I have never really questioned marriage as an institution. Which, when I’m really thinking about it, makes no sense because my parents are divorced and yet I have never questioned if the institution of marriage was flawed. Which makes me question if my religion, and its romanticization of marriage, has somehow convinced me that marriage is the ideal for all relationships – that marriage itself is that important.
    In that context, the arguments against marriage but for rights are very compelling. The institution of marriage is flawed – when you think about it – and it often promotes one image of a couple as the only image of a relationship. Perhaps the attention should have been drawn more towards strengthening and changing non-discriminatory laws – this way, if folks choose not to marry, they still have laws that protect them and are given the benefits that marriage would have extended to them. However, I still mostly side with the case for marriage. Marriage should not be limited to straight couples only and the rights that come along with marriage need to be available to same-sex couples as well. If people want to marry, then they should be allowed to make that choice.

  11. I was most surprised to learn about the different physical buildings and outward anti-gay stances written throughout the public. Specifically, the Westboro Baptist Church and their hateful agenda on how “f*** and enablers all burn in hell, lemonade won’t cool any tongues”, struck me. Growing up in a socially conservative town, I was used to hateful rhetoric being thrown around by students at my high school, unfortunately, but I have never seen such hateful words displayed in my town, especially directed against the LGBTQ+ community. If that were the case, I would have been outraged, and after seeing these photos on the presentation, I was taken aback. It is truly unfortunate that religion is used as a ‘backbone’ against a community that solely wants to display who they love outwardly.
    The kind of debates that I am seeing still going on today is the health education or the lack thereof regarding the same sex. For my English Lab final this semester, I researched the ways in which the education system has failed those within the LGBTQ+ community, specifically how the sex education is extremely limited. Specifically, my research spanned across the U.S. and U.K. and over the 2000’s up until the present day. Many scholars argue who truly is to blame, whether that be the education policies, the state, or the beliefs of the teachers themselves. Regardless, I still see this occurring throughout my high school, as the only instance of same-sex education I received was abstinence.
    One of our readings have engaged with this history, however, it is quite the opposite in regards to outwardly expressing your sexuality and having a safe space to essentially do so. In Samuel Delaney’s novel, we were able to see how he and other LGBTQ+ individuals were able to express their lust, desire, and even love towards others in this theatre. The theatre itself became a safe space for those to engage in sexual acts that were considered ‘taboo’ at the time. In reference to this sense of forced secrecy, specifically in the presentation slides, laws were created and cases were fought over regarding LGBTQ+ peoples and how they were able to represent themselves, if at all. The Lawrence v. Texas and the Bowers v. Hardwick cases/laws were certain instances where any “homosexual activity”, even in private, was considered almost criminal.

  12. A prevalent issue in LGBTQ+ rights today is the restrictions on healthcare for transgender people. One recent example of the obstacles trans people face in regards to healthcare is the recent decision in Arkansas to bar transgender minors from access to hormones. On April 6th, it became the first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth. This bill uses rhetoric about the “protection” of children, in order to do something that will harm them. The passage of this law connects to the failure of over twenty-one states to have any sort of gender identity/sexual orientation non-discrimination law. Arkansas is among these states. This type of healthcare-based discrimination is going on in other states as well. The senate of Alabama, another state without non-discrimination laws, is attempting make it a felony to provide care such as puberty blockers or hormones for trans minors. Non-discrimination laws are critical for the protection of the welfare of trans and nonbinary people.

  13. I think that what most surprised me about this was the arguments either against marriage as a whole or against marriage but for rights for queer couples because I had not previously considered that there were more sides than just being “for” or “against” marriage equality. I was also heartbroken about the case involving rights for adopted children to live with their parent who was not on their adoption form because I had never considered that as another potential outcome of a situation in which a couple were unable to both have rights to guardianship of their own child.
    I think that current debates are mostly about the rights for trans people, such as the discussions of military rights or the rights for trans people do to things in medical capacities (I.e. not having discrimination in medical situations) or other places. Another common debate now is about the right to not be discriminated by state.
    I think that this information relates to almost everything we have read in this class in one way or another because the legal discrimination of queer people has led to the feelings that we have read about. It has probably only worsened homophobia in rural areas, and when I think of readings about the AIDs crisis I am now also thinking about how many people died in hospitals without their partners being allowed to be there. Oppression from a federal or statewide level is bound to lead to the feelings of anger and hurt that are present in so many readings, and marriage rights relate to so much of that since sexuality is often defined by who we love.

  14. I thought the part about “Case Against Marriage but for Rights” was interesting. I feel like more and more people recently have adopted the view of marriage as something more financial and practically advantageous than something that’s done purely for love, for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It’s one of a number of reasons people are waiting longer in their lives to get married, evidenced by the fact that the average age of married couples has increased from 20 to about 30 in just the past century or so. For that reason the “Case Against Marriage but for Rights” seems pretty relevant nowadays, since I think the motivations behind marriage nowadays are continuing to shift. None of this takes away from the fact that all people should have the same chance to get married, but I think it’s interesting to see the varying opinions on topics like this even within the queer community because it shows that no group is completely monolithic and that every person has a unique perspective on things, even when the goal for all in the queer community on this particular issue appears to be essentially the same thing: equal rights for same-sex couples.

    1. That’s a smart connection, Chris! I think we have, as a culture, begun to ask questions about the institution of marriage. For so long it has signified so very monolithically in culture. Perhaps that is beginning to shift.

  15. It always blows my mind that so many civil rights victories for the LGBTQ+ community have only happened during this century, and I would argue, largely in this last decade. To be reminded that it was only in 2016 that same-sex marriage was made legal across the United States is always an experience that leaves me dumbfounded (and kind of angry). In addition, the pinkwashing, or using LGBTQ+ military strides in order to divert attention away from the U.S. government’s and military’s other, more destructive behaviors, really reminded me, in a kind of backwards way, of how I felt during the Trump years. More specifically, that Trump had to be throwing tantrums about small things in order to distract the general public from larger, more problematic actions his administration was taking. This is only a conspiracy theory of mine, but it was interesting to see that the government has done things like this in the past – made a big deal about one thing in order to keep our attention from other, worse things. Finally, it was nice to see the faces behind the court cases that redirected history in such monumental ways, who have made the world a slightly better place for us all because they dared to love who they wanted and fought against the oppression that their love unjustly exposed them to. They truly are American heroes.

    1. I think that is a valid connection to make. This is in part why I think it’s so essential to teach people how to close read and analyze– for LGBTQ+ histories and the histories of other minorities, it is dangerous not to ask questions and analyze the situation.

      If you liked seeing the faces of folks, I suggest following some social media sites about LGBTQ history. Instagram has a number of really good ones. I’ll make a quick list.

  16. This was an interesting video to recap on momentous times in LGBTQ+ history. I found the Lawrence vs Texas rule as a great stepping stone, but I guess it surprised me how recent it is. I mean I was alive when it was finally accepted although I was only one, it is still mind-boggling how recent it was. I also find it disturbing how much debate there was over marriage for the queer community. The fact that they considered “alternative” solutions to marriage terms like domestic partnership or civil union is surprising in comparison to today (which still needs a lot of progress). I find it insane that in the April DeBoer and Jane Rowse case they aren’t legally allowed to adopt them as a joint couple and could potentially lose their kids back to the system if one of them passed away. I just do not understand if they can recognize their marriage legally why can’t they allow it for adoption as well? In all very interesting and served as a reminder how recent all this is.

  17. Although I was surprised several times throughout the video, I was especially startled at the, in my opinion, insane attitudes modern elected officials have had towards LGBTQ individuals’ involvement in the military. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised, as the political state of this country is far from ideal, but it amazed me that Obama didn’t change the policy around LGBTQ military members to a greater extent. Furthermore, the arguments against having LGBTQ individuals serve in the armed forces were appalling, especially given the recency of these comments. Assuming that queer soldiers wouldn’t be able to “handle themselves” if surrounded by other men is yet another example of a destructive stereotype that has haunted queer individuals for decades.

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