Gay Marriage: a Contrarian’s View


Radicalism comes in many varieties.  A certain orthodoxy, however, breeds intolerance when one appears to stray beyond approved boundaries, or, when one, as in introducing my St. Bernard puppy to a Marxist study group in Cambridge years ago as “Karl Marx,” to be greeted by sullenness and hostility, appears to crash against ideological iconicity.  I’m sure CP readers and contributors will find my views on gay marriage objectionable, if not traitorous.  Good.  A little shaking-up of the Temple never hurt anyone.

I claim to speak as a radical, by persuasion and experience, as, of course, is anyone’s privilege, there being no board of certification to pass on credentials.  First then, gay marriage is obviously a progression toward greater societal democratization, and intrinsically is meritorious both for individuals at interest and society as a whole.  Whether it satisfies the Constitution’s equal-protection clause or others, is not my concern (given the way the Constitution historically has been the plaything for legitimating things alike fair and foul).  Let’s say, it stands on solid juridical ground and, without objection on my part, is ruled applicable in all 50 states.  But, that does not alter my fundamental belief: the issue deserves less attention than that affecting the wrongful conduct of USG in both domestic and foreign policy.

Unless and until the American people resist and defy the degradation of human beings where it really hurts, in the heart, in the mind, the stomach, the spirit, through the mixture of militaristic striving for hegemonic global influence and power, the destructive hatred of social-welfare-oriented domestic public policy and government, the capitulation to wealth and the arrogance of power, further abuses and treacheries as long as my arm, why should one take seriously this demand, as though the issue could be surgically removed from the broad configuration of fascistic beliefs, programs, the conduct of government itself which must be opposed?

March for gay marriage?  Sure, when the enormity of evil is appreciated and opposed, but, for me, not before, because in the present world it is a luxury, hardly to be equated with the daily privations of the underclass of slum dwellers spread broadcast, much of it, from Gaza to Latin America, through our doing, and to the silent masses even civil unions and the transmission of property (WHAT property?) is beyond their reach.  You get the point.  Succinctly, class trumps sexual politics; class trumps gender identity.  Why?  Because without the democratization of the social order, personal happiness will prove one way or another exploitative, in the realm of marriage itself and structured through all social relations and institutional arangements.  Gay marriage in the 50 states, ongoing interventions and assassinations—no thanks; let’s get our heads screwed on right (or rather, Left).

My New York Times Comment (Mar. 26), on the editorial calling for a Supreme Court decision which sanctions gay marriage in all 50 states, follows:

In theory I agree with The Times editorial: equality is a Constitutional desideratum when- and wherever it can be applied. But let’s put the issue of gay marriage into context, i.e., prioritizing national goals. At this time, the issue is a diversion and trivialization, in the face of large-scale poverty, the vast gulf in wealth-and-power differentials, militarism run amuck, the nation in steep decline with respect to its social safety net, etc. Frankly, compared with the civil rights struggle, which NYT raises as analogous, and in which in the 1950s-60s I was active, I find proponents and affected parties of gay marriage self-indulgent and flaunting their preferences as though that form of discrimination raises to the plane of deprivation experienced by others in America’s long history of oppression and repression.

Before this fight (if it be that), let’s see collective opinion and action against POVERTY, WAR, drone-created assassination, intervention, regressive taxation, pollution, inadequate health care, the bipartisan servicing of major wealth, etc. Only then would I have respect for gay-marriage decisions and advocates. Otherwise, sexual identity per se, as an issue, seems, in light of gut-wrenching suffering throughout the world, less important than addressing systemic brutalization of the human being. I obviously speak as a radical, and expect concurrence from no one.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.


Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability