Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care for All or Gay Couples' Rights?

This is a repost of an article by Professor Lisa Duggan. I adore Prof. Duggan. I met her in Minneapolis after attending a reading from some of her academic works. Like a total Nerd Superstar, I brought a copy of her book on identity politics for her to sign. This article brings to mind the piece that I wrote back in May called Obama and Gay Marriage or Shut The Hell Up and Let the Man Run the Country. . I absolutely agree with Lisa's viewpoints, and thank you to Joseph DeFillipis for bringing this to my attention.

Health Care for All, or Gay Couples Rights?

August 19, 2009
Posted by bullybloggers in Political Rants and Raves.

By Lisa Duggan

The battle royal has now been engaged over the question of whether health care reform will include a public option, with insurance industry flacks and free market ideologues drumming up hysteria and hauling out the loonies to denounce any public option as “socialist” (I wish) and “Nazi” (say what?), while mild mannered liberals defend it for bringing “choice and competition” to the health insurance markets.

It’s a hard war to watch, given that the so-called public option is a pale shadow of single payer–the approach that might provide universal quality care without siphoning buckets of money into executive salaries and profits for the health care robber barons.

But here’s my question for today: Where are the homosexuals? While all the mainstream gay groups and lgbt media and bloggers are rehashing Prop 8 and planning a march for equality in October, honey, Rome is burning right here right now. Much of the furor over marriage rights in the United States is fueled by the desire for access to health care–employment and marriage being the primary routes for insurance coverage. In countries with universal health care, the battle over same sex marriage rights has been much less intense and consequential. Gaining universal access to health care in the U.S. now would meet the widespread need that is now largely expressed in campaigns for partnership recognition. In addition, it could address the crying need for adequate health care for masses of queers who have no wish to marry. In the large balancing scale of benefits–free universal health care, or single payer, would do more for The Gays than marriage equality. So where are the gay groups and activists? Where have they been for the past decade when organizing for single payer might have helped push it onto the national political agenda, before it was so unceremoniously replaced by the “public option”? And where are they now that the public option may be replaced by the even paler, more impotent health co-op plan?

Are gay groups and activists serious about gaining concrete benefits for queer constituencies–homeless kids, transgender sex workers, lgbt populations that are unemployed, elderly, migrant or immigrant, disabled and sick? If so, then it would make a lot more sense to spend $50 million in donor funds pushing for free universal health care, than even thinking about spending that sum to redo the Prop 8 referendum next year. Should we rename the current organizations to peg them as the Gay Couples Rights Movement?

Access to health care is a national emergency, for queers folks more than most. It’s past time for us all to mobilize on the front lines of this political battle–it matters more to more queers than marriage ever will.


  1. "In addition, it could address the crying need for adequate health care for masses of queers who have no wish to marry."

    Um, HELLO.

    She's brilliant. Great post, Brandon. I have been saying this since day one. Gay Marriage is the wrong approach to unilateral "equality" for LGBT folks. We should've accepted all the benefits that married (hetero) couples get and kept moving. Marriage intersects with religion and although I am not religious, I don't believe that queers should force folks to amend their doctrines for our needs. Ridiculous. As a child who grew up around plentiful divorce and--at times--less than adequate health care, I'm sick to death of bourgeois clean-butt politics leading the LGBT parade.

    When LGBT folks start caring for our own, we will appear more humanitarian and mature to the rest of the world. Help combat drug addiction, homophobic violence toward us, queer domestic violence, alcohol and sex addiction in our "communities". Health care is far more important than marriage will ever be. When you love someone, why do you need outside validation to tie that knot? Being queer was about being different as it is.


    Charlie (Latino radical) Vázquez

  2. Here in Santa Cruz, we at the GLBT Alliance have made it a major point to work in coalition with labor and other progressive groups. It's all one struggle. ... and we make it a big point to say that the struggle for equality goes way beyond "equal marriage".

    I think other folks "get" it too - consider that the lead author of our "single payer" healthcare bill in Sacramento was a member of the LGBT Caucus (Sheila Kuehl). The "legislative updates" we send out cover a broad range of legislation. As did the Lambda Letters I signed and sent for years.

    The "gay marriage" movement (I use those words deliberately) has piggybacked on decades worth of effort by folks like Harvey Milk, etc. to build coalitions and educate people. It's important that those of us who've been active all along make sure that the larger issues don't get lost sight of in the process of fighting for equality on this one issue.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!