More often than not, same-sex marriage is referred to as “Gay Marriage.” Many QV authors have weighed in on this and the impacts, both positive and negative, it will it have on the LGBTQIA+ community. The first fallacy is the popular term “Gay Marriage.” It is same-sex marriage has been legalized: not all gay relationships are same-sex, and not all same-sex relationships are gay. Among other fallacies is the term “Marriage Equality,” something, although progress is being made as demonstrated in the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, society is still far from achieving. Equality in marriage would mean equality in opportunity, legal and ethical treatment, social applications, recognition of intersections; and that’s just not happening.
Disability justice is LGBTQIA+ justice, and is one example of the lack of actual marriage equality. Disability and poor health impacts Queer folks disproportionately we face a double bind: though disability and chronic illness rates are so high within our communities, we are still forced to jump through hoops to obtain comprehensive and consistent healthcare. That includes accessibility–which isn’t always as accessible as it may sound.
Sometimes, when a person is disabled–meaning both illnesses, usually chronic, psychiatric disorders, and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities–they receive ‘benefits;’ supplemental, monetary income when a disability or chronic illness prevents the ability to work traditional jobs within Capitalism. The catch is, a person who receives disability benefits (SSDI) has limited opportunities to actually be self-sufficient, because they’re only allowed to work less than 20 hours a week. SSDI is based on income and expenses, so if someone gets a job more than 20 hours a week, or a high-paying job for less than 20 hours a week–SSDI generally says “nope!” and stops assisting the disabled person. You may be asking “what does this have to do with marriage equality, JayJay?” Here’s how: if a disabled person gets married, they are no longer ‘eligible’ for supplemental income based on the fact that their spouse has an income. (I know, confusing, right?) This can be critiqued as stemming from severed heteronormativity and politicizing of traditional gender roles whereby (cis) men expected to be providers. Or, concepts of gendered spheres like ‘home’ and ‘office’ which places one partner as provider. Or, assuming a non-disabled spouse will be the primary ‘caretaker’ of a disabled spouse. That’s hardly how it works with straight couples, so one can only imagine how that would affect Queer partnerships who face job discrimination.
Understandably (but certainly not as a rule) Queer couples who previously had no interest in marriage may want to after federal legalization. It’s exciting. But what if one or both of those individuals lives with a chronic illness or disability that requires supplemental SSDI income? LGBTQIA+ folks experience poverty at higher rates already; add in monetary issues that arise at the intersection of disability and marriage equality that result from no longer receiving SSDI, and it really limits choices. Queer and want to get married? Sure. Queer and disabled and want to get married? Well, it’s probably not worth the risk.
Marriage Equality is a misleading term. Many marginalized demographics that exist at the intersection of Queerness are still being barred from legal, same-sex marriage. And this is only one way in which this happens. It is disparagingly common, how often inequality and even further marginalization through ‘marriage equality’ manifests. ‘Marriage Equality’ — as a term applied to legal acceptance of same-sex marriage — homogenizes Queer folk. It presents assimilation as the only correct path to social and legal equity, and it prioritizes assimilation of, not only LGBTQIA+ folks, but other marginalized groups. It allows erasure of intersections.
While we’re celebrating federally recognized same-sex marriage, we also need to reflect on what true marriage equality means, and what Queer folk and allies must do to reach it–because we haven’t yet.