As marriage equality passed its first major hurdle in the UK, queer activists have heaped praise on the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured right). With a bit of leadership on the issue he has become an instant hero to many – a conservative who is willing to recognise the ‘full rights’ of gay and lesbian people.
It’s an image that makes me feel ill. Cameron supporting marriage equality does not make him a queer hero.
As same-sex marriage has become ‘the issue’ of the queer movement, it has also now started to become the perfect way for leaders to show their ‘queer bona fides’. Be pro-same-sex marriage, push for a bill, vote yes on it, and we’ll love you forever. Be a conservative and we’ll love you even more.
Yet, as we do this, we often give people like Cameron free passes on the awful policies they are implementing elsewhere. The Conservative’s budget cuts for example have been brutal – slashes to the public service, massive cuts in welfare programs, and increases to the cost of education for everyone. These are cuts that have hit both straight and queer people really hard. Queer people live in poverty, we work in the public service, we want to get an education. Cameron’s cuts are a queer issue. Yet, because of his support for marriage equality all we seem to be able to do is heap praise on him – he is officially a ‘queer hero’.
And this is where we have to be careful about marriage. Marriage equality is just one issue, and one that affects only one part of our community. When we fight for it therefore, we also need to ensure that we keep an eye on the fight for justice and liberation for all; the fights that affect all of us together.
We can celebrate the work of David Cameron, but as we paint him as the ‘saviour of queers’, we are only hurting ourselves; letting him get away with the support of the movement whilst his other policies are crushing members of our community. Unfortunately this goes for most world leaders. As Barack Obama supports marriage equality, he is still killing people in a drone war. If Julia Gillard took marriage onto her agenda, she would still be cutting welfare for single parents. Yet, I can guarantee both would (and do) get almost unqualified support from the queer movement.
Martin Luther King once said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It’s okay to say “well done” to people like Cameron when they support same-sex marriage. But that shouldn’t give them a free pass. A real queer movement is about justice and liberation for all.
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