The D.C. Irony

Is it wrong to not get excited that Washington D.C. has legalized Gay Marriage?  After all, it’s only one, 68-mile square of swampland, home for 591,833 people: small potatoes from a war room standpoint.  Heck, many of the people who stood in line today to receive their newly-minted D.C. marriage licenses don’t even live in D.C., which should give some indication as to what a truly underwhelming impact the vote will have on the people who call it home.   In essence, this law mostly gives the go-ahead to a tiny group of gay government employees to take advantage of a pathetic handful of benefits not already outlawed by the Defense of Marriage Act.

The truth is, I’m significantly less than excited about D.C.  In fact, something about it bothers me.  But it’s not the size of the victory that gets me.  If the same came to pass in a town of equal geographic size, say, Newport News, Virginia, I’d be thrilled.  And it’s  not who benefits from the right to marry or what they stand to gain that matters, either: I don’t begrudge those gay D.C. commutors their right to take a sick day to care for their ailing partners.  (That’s about all they’re getting in exchange for their $45 marriage license fee, anyway.)

What’s sticking in my craw is that this is Washington D.C. we’re talking about.  Gay Marriage: now legal in the Capitol city of a nation that foisted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation onto its gay soldiers and the Defense of Marriage Act onto its gay citizens.  That a gay person can actually get married at the birthplace of so much  legalized oppression smacks of love amid the ruins, only much less romantic.  The idea that a gay couple can legally wed at such a place seems as preposterous as the idea that a lifelong commitment can begin at a drive through wedding chapel in Las Vegas.  The cultural dissonnance is almost deafening.

The DC Irony casts into indisputable relief the fact that this contradictory legal-here-but-not-there/legal-for-a-limited-time-only, crazy-quilt state of affairs is absolutely intolerable.  A gay couple wed in D.C. (or Iowa, or Massachusetts, or Vermont, or Connecticut, or New Hampshire) has quite a bit in common with a Confederate Money Millionaire.  We can’t allow ourselves to be placated by the pretend rights put forward by state or local governments.  While it’s wonderful that small enclaves of equal rights do exist, it can’t be ignored that those rights are limited in scope and are held hostage by the questionable “tolerance” of the voting majority.

After casting the lone dissenting vote D.C. Council member Marion Barry warned “All hell is going to break loose” amongst his constituents.  If recent history is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.   Defeats like the ones we’ve suffered in the past and will suffer in days to come are not true losses at all; rights that are subject to the permission of majority vote are the exact opposite of equal rights.  In this sense, we have lost nothing but the idea that democracy fosters fairness.  What we stand to win is enormous, and it won’t be won anywhere but on the stairs of the Supreme Court.

3 Responses to “The D.C. Irony”

  1. Abba Kafka Says:

    Excellent and efficient way to highlight the transient nature of gay rights in America. At this point, while we fight a two front war with allies that have openly gay armed forces, I find it stunning on this nation’s inability to budge on gay rights. The U.S. continues to align itself on this point with countries we claim to have opposing ideologies with.
    And having rights in only 1 or 2 states, while still a very small step in the right direction, mean f*ckall when it’s not federal. I’m occasionally reminded of when slavery existed and a poor soul would make the terrible journey north to be free, only to be legally kidnapped and dragged back south as property. What kind of Win is that?

  2. Nancy Daly Says:

    Interesting, since DC is not a state and is in effect governed by the Feds. Seems like a federal license to wed trumps any sorry state’s effort to veto such… Let the games begin! Unlike Vegas, however, what happens in DC doesn’t seem to stay there – at least for long…

  3. Marc Says:

    It’s like rain on your wedding day.

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