Gay marriage legalized in New York

Gay Rights Victory in New York: One Step Forward

On Friday, June 24, 2011, the NY State Senate voted to legalize gay marriage in New York State. This is a victory for democratic rights!  Marxists oppose all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexuality and gender. The fact that marriage laws discriminate against same-sex partners is just the latest in the struggle for equality and democratic rights for the LGBTQ community under capitalism.

As is well known, the U.S. ruling class has a horrific history of denying equal rights to people on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin and sexuality.  In terms of sexuality, for much of U.S. history, sex between consenting adults of the same gender was illegal.  Even in the colonial era, it is estimated that at least 7 men were actually executed specifically for sodomy, not to mention many others who received “lesser punishments.”  In 1950s New York City, a woman could actually be arrested if she dressed up in a fashion that made her look too much like a man!

The struggle for LGBTQ rights has grown in recent decades, especially since the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, and the overturning of anti-sodomy laws, along with the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in six states and the District of Columbia, is a victory.

However, the fact that the Federal government and 44 other states do not recognize same sex marriage means that the victory is only partial.  As an example, even if I married my partner today, my health benefits from work, which cover him as well, are taxed as income by the Federal government.  This does not happen to married heterosexual couples.  Therefore, the struggle for full equality continues.

The capitalist class must continue to divide the working class in order to maintain a system where 1% own more than the bottom 90%.  They use discrimination and hatred as a way to distract the population from the crisis of their system.  In 2004, Bush and the Republicans used gay marriage as an issue to divert people’s attention away from the wars abroad and the harshness of life facing the working class here.  Ironically, Democratic Governor Cuomo used the issue in a similar way, but in a different direction.  Cuomo is leading attacks on the state’s public sector workers, and cutting education and government services.  Therefore, he decided to champion legalized same sex marriage to show that he was a “progressive reform governor,” as a cover for his vicious austerity. So while it is true that he “kept his promise” to push for laws allowing same-sex marriage, he has also “kept his promise” to hammer unionized public sector workers!

Ultimately, although capitalism needs “divide and rule” to maintain itself, it can allow basic democratic reforms as long as they do not threaten the system of private ownership of the means of production.  The mass struggles against Jim Crow segregation and racism finally forced legal reforms as well, but racism still exists.

The middle class leadership of the LGBTQ political organizations put all their focus on the struggle for democratic rights.  LGBTQ workers and youth need to see that the real struggle for genuine and full equality can only truly be won as part of a united working class movement, with the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all!”  While we continue to struggle for full equality, regardless of one’s sexuality, we must also struggle for universal health care, free education, including college, and jobs for all.  Why should benefits like housing and health care be dependent on a person being married and having a partner who makes a decent income?  These benefits should be universal.  This can only be provided by transforming capitalist society to socialism.

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