One state at a time, we’re passing marriage equality bills. Many have written, tweeted and marched their support of our country falling on the right side of history. But some gay people are against gay marriage. Does this surprise you? I found out why. Hear me out on this one.
Photo credit: Mari/ iStock/360/ Getty Images

"Susan and I have no plans of getting married," Raquel (Rocki) Simões, a gay Minnesotan, said to me last week. The marriage amendment passed in Minnesota in 2013. Simões is openly gay and lives in Minneapolis in a communal household with her partner of 19 years, her ex-partner and best friend of 22 years and, as she says, a sweet and sassy pre-adolescent queer-spawn. But when the good fight for marriage equality was being fought in Minnesota, she wasn't on the front lines. I spoke with Simões about her thoughts on gay marriage and why it isn't at the top of her advocacy list.

Not a commitment issue

As a gay ally, I have to admit that I was taken aback learning that Simões was not only not putting a wedding date on her calendar when the marriage equality amendment passed, but she also wasn't moved, ecstatic or a part of the {cheering} team when gay Minnesotans and their allies were working toward the passage of it.

I'm someone who deeply appreciates and respects ritualized and communal celebrations — intentional moments that recognize love, family, friends, rites of passage, history, struggle and survival.

On the surface layer Simões explains that even if she and her partner were to get {newly} married, it wouldn't be her real wedding date. They've been together for 19 years; their important dates have already been set in stone for a long time and they don't need new ones. Simões explains, "We had a wonderful commitment ceremony in 2000 to celebrate us and our community... I'm someone who deeply appreciates and respects ritualized and communal celebrations — intentional moments that recognize love, family, friends, rites of passage, history, struggle and survival. I usually cry at these events. More accurately, I always cry. They touch me in ways that are deep and meaningful and hard to describe, as they do many people. They help me feel gloriously alive and connected to something larger than myself and my community. And they give me an excuse to wear fancy shoes. It's a win-win, really."

Legal doesn't make it better

At the same time, after years of not having access to legalized marriage, Simões doesn't want to only legitimize what is government approved. What would this mean for the decades she and her partner have spent living together, negotiating chores, raising their daughter, being in love? Simões says, "I resist the notion that these [ritualized and communal celebration] moments are somehow more legitimate when sanctioned by existing legal, religious and political systems. Some of the most beautiful celebrations I have witnessed have been the ones that are defined by community, that have broadened the notion of what love and family can look like, often in opposition and in resistance to mainstream norms."

A thoughtful fight

So in Simões' eyes, the marriage equality fight isn't the end of the line. It's not even a line she wanted to be a part of in the first place. She points to other — perhaps bigger — issues that need the kind of thoughtful muscle gay Minnesotans and their allies put toward marriage equality. Simões explains, "Here in Minnesota, we were thrust into a fight we didn't necessarily pick. It was a reactionary campaign to impede further narrowing of already narrow definitions of commitment. I understand why it happened. I really do."

But simply put, Simões sees bigger fish to fry. More eloquently put, Simões says, "Do I think [the marriage equality fight] was a great movement decision? No. Do I resent the fact that millions and millions of dollars were funneled into this response, that countless hours, immense passion and talent — not to mention hard work — were poured into it? Yes. Do I find it problematic that in some places domestic partnership benefits have been taken away because of newly gained access to marriage? Yes. Do I wish the same amount of resources could be used on issues like affordable housing, the school-to-prison pipeline and other racial and economic disparities that impact our queer communities? Of course."

Next steps

In her everyday personal life, marriage equality doesn't affect Simões. She says, "At this point, [Susan and I] would only consider marriage if it made a huge difference in our financial status or made it easier for Luca, our daughter, to pursue a Brazilian passport... or my immigration status was somehow jeopardized and marriage would make a difference. I guess reasons that have nothing to do with commitment, really. But, to date, those reasons haven't been there."

The ability to get married has little impact on the day-to-day realities of most queer youth of color in this country... Equality doesn't mean justice.

But as a community organizer, whose work focuses on queerness and youth homelessness, Simões sees that the passage of marriage equality does affect her, but not how you might assume. She explains, "The ability to get married has little impact on the day-to-day realities of most queer youth of color in this country... Equality doesn't mean justice... [But] there are LGBTQ people who feel that our work is done, that we have 'won.' What impact will this have in the future 'funding' of our work, I wonder?"

Bottom line: Keeping the conversation open

Although Simões didn't have a wedding in 2013, and will likely not have one in 2014 either, she did participate in wedding ceremonies of her friends, her chosen family. She says. "My love and happiness for them easily trumped any critique I had about movement-building strategies and social change."

Simões is clearly not anti-gay marriage, but she doesn't see it as the be-all end-all fight when it comes to inequality in the LGBTQ community. This tension is worth noticing and discussing.

Share with us!^What do you think about Simões' thoughts on the fight for marriage equality?

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