Episode 52

LGBTQ History Part 2: Obergefell v. Hodges

Published on: 28th September, 2021

Amy: Welcome to Breaking Down Patriarchy! I’m Amy McPhie Allebest. For me, one of the most memorable quotes from Tara Westover’s book, Educated is where she says, “Never again would I allow myself to be made a foot soldier in a conflict I did not understand.” In our previous episode, I described exactly this phenomenon in my own life: When I voted against marriage equality in California in 2008 I allowed myself to be made a foot soldier in a cause I did not understand. Since that time I have changed my thinking and I’ve tried to atone for what I see as a grievous moral error, but I until now I had not taken the time to become educated on the topic of LGBTQ history. So this has been an incredibly meaningful journey for me.

When I thought of Obergefell v. Hodges as a critical text for Breaking Down Patriarchy, I knew exactly who I hoped would be my reading partner - he is a dear friend with whom I’ve talked about this issue in the past, and he is also probably the smartest person I know. It’s Matthew Nelson, and I’m so happy to welcome you back today!


Matthew: Thank you for having me back to your podcast!


Amy: Please, explain “Breaking Down Patriarchy”, or what “patriarchy” has meant in your life


Matthew: I’ll be brief on this point because I want to carefully deconstruct what patriarchy is to LGBTQ people. From my father to Catholic and Evangelical religious leadership, I have encountered “toxic masculinity.” I also want to be clear that I have encountered beautiful masculinity that need not be patriarchal and hegemonic. For instance, the now deceased Brother Edward at the Catholic school at which I taught, modeled sensitive, queer-affirming leadership even as a member of the Benedictine monastic community. If you recall from the last episode, throughout my life I have stood up to and stared down the most egregious performances of patriarchy. I have come to conclude that I just don’t think cishet [cisgender, heterosexual] men are encouraged to critically evaluate how dominant culture has conferred upon them a power that can -- witting or unwittingly -- cause great harm in the world. Thus, cishet men are generally blithely unaware of the real abuse and oppression they dole out to women and queers. We can speak more about this later. 


Amy: Before we discuss the text, could you set the stage by talking about some of the underlying social systems that make up the world around us? Sometimes we are so accustomed to the matrix of beliefs and customs and power dynamics that surround us that we don’t even see them, and we don’t recognize that it doesn’t have to be this way - human society could have evolved in a totally different way. So could you give us some background information to set up our discussion on Obergefell v. Hodges?


Matthew: I would be happy to do that. As I am sure your devoted, learned listeners of this podcast will have surmised by now, the Venn diagram of patriarchal oppression that falls on women and on the LGBTQ community has much overlap. Of course patriarchy doesn’t exclusively refer to ancient civilizations’ political distribution of power -- the 20th-century feminists taught us that. Patriarchy is also a modern social system that subordinates, discriminates, or is oppressive to women. To state it differently, it is the priority of men to dominate with distributed power to other men in a conscious or unconscious attempt to marginalize women. This socio-political organization is socially constructed -- not dictated to us by nature, not genetic, nor of the gods as men often maintain -- and rooted in the systems and structures of society. These constructs have been with us for so long there is a givenness to them -- a self-evident quality of factivity that makes it difficult to critically examine, deconstruct, and create a new kind of world. So, what has this go to do with the LGBTQ community?   


Patriarchy creates the necessary conditions not only for sexism to flourish but for homo/trans/queer-phobia to flourish. Why? Because patriarchy can only exist if there is universal acceptance of the myth of heteronormativity (What Judith Butler calls the “heterosexual matrix,” which I believe you discussed in a previous episode) and gender binarism. Heteronormativity is a world in which heterosexuality is the only normative sexuality, and any deviation from this is marked as perverse and broken. And gender binarism suggests that there are only two genders -- male and female, even though we have many examples in nature of hybridity, dysphoria, and multiplicity, like with the prevalence of intersex persons in society. The ideology of binarism is the prerogative of patriarchy -- the strong to rule over the weak. The power and privilege derived from heteronormativity fuels patriarchy. Thus, patriarchy must advance certain logics to protect its preeminence, hence sexism and homo/trans/queer-phobia. 


Accordingly, sexism is the priority of men, especially in the social, economic, and sexual dominance of women in patriarchal culture and society (heterosexism). Queer gender and sexuality, as the ultimate subversion of heteronormativity, calls into question patriarchy’s power and privilege. By our very existence, we problematize and discredit the ideologies of heteronormativity and binarism that justifies patriarchy. The emperor has no clothes! We exist! We are not pyrite, we are 24k humanity, and we are going to live our truth even if it destabilizes the orthodoxy of men for the maintenance of patriarchy. Predictably, cishet men will not like this. Thus, the patriarchy deploys homo/trans/queer-phobia to safeguard its power and privlege. Really, from the earliest stages of life, boys learn how to police the rigid boundaries of heteronormativity and gender binarism so they too will embody the patriarchy as they grow older. For example, boys enfoece cisgender exclusivity and heteronormativity with comments like “that’s so gay” on the quad or lockerrooms. As enlightened as the academic community is in which I teach, my students report that they hear such things “on the daily” as the kids say these days. Though I am not privy to this, but even after the #MeToo movement men calling women “whores” or “lesbians” for exercising sexual agency and being feminists is still an all too common occurrence if my straight friends are to be believed.


Let’s get a little more historically sophisticated with our analysis on this score. Heteronormativity’s technologies of control are encapsulated in the notion that queer desire, identity, and performance are “sick and sinful” (Foucault addresses this at length in his trilogy of The History of Seuality). Originally, the biomedical discourse maintained “homosexuality” to be abnormal and unhealthy (until the APA depathologized homosexuality in the DSM in 1973). Today, this technology of oppression is only wielded by fringe conservative groups, and religious organizations who engage in abusive “reparative therapy.” Therefore, only in the religious domain do we see pervasive and persistent use of the technologies of control. The religious discourse, especially in Christian, Biblicist traditions initially tried to brand queer life as sinful and immoral. Even though such theological condemnations of LGBTQ people predominate in Evangelical Christianity, like in the embattled Southern Baptist Convention, and with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States, millennial and Gen Z Christains are increasingly rejecting their legitimacy. The scholarly literature has compellingly neutralized these ethically specious claims from the traditions and texts. 


Can you give us some examples of this neutralizing literature? I know so many LGBTQ people in my own religious tradition - and their families who love them - who are in absolute anguish because they were raised to believe that those scriptural passages are God’s word, full stop, and they only know of one way of interpreting them. They don’t have a way to make it work.


Umm… sure, let me suggest a few: Evangelical ethicist, David Gushee, wrote a profound work of personal transformation concerning LGBTQ people in the church: Changing Our Mind. Also, for a more scholarly treatment, I like Dale Martin’s Sex and the Single Savior and Jennifer Wright Knust’s Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire.


Thank you for those recommendations. So in that Venn diagram you mentioned earlier, can you explain what precisely is the overlap between sexism and homophobia?    


Yes, sexism (particularly misogyny) and homo/trans/queer-phobia are two sides to the same coin. Misogyny -- hatred or fear of women and their power; Homo/trans/queer-phobia: hatred or fear of anyone perceived to be like a woman (or those transcending binaries) and their power. In the eyes of cishet men: Why would any man willfully trade their power away in a patriarchal world in being like a woman? Trading their power and privilege as men for the subordinated status of women. Whether in the performance of gender or particular sex acts, men fear and denigratethe feminine, the subversion of patriarchy. And, slightly less mystifying for cishet men: How dare a woman be masculine and act like a man to try to usurp his privileged place in the socio-economic hierarchy of American culture? Thus, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons are living symbols of the absurdity of patriarchy.


I remember you saying this to me once during our Women’s Health and Human Rights Class and it stopped the world for me for a minute - it all makes sense!!


At the risk of being redundant, YES, queerness strikes at the heart of patriarchy. LGBTQ people are outlaws of the patriarchal world (once, quite literally in the U.S. before the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, which we will explain shortly). With LGBTQ people, the sexual and gender binary and hierarchy are dashed against the rocks. If categories of gender and sexuality are fluid and socially constructed, then patriarchy will properly be seen as an unstable condition. Heterosexism, sexism, and queerphobia exist to animate opposition against us, as we question society’s scripts concerning what constitutes the good life -- how families should be structured, societies should be ordered, and resources allocated. Queerness prompts us to reevaluate political economy; ethics; law; and educational, healthcare, housing, carceral and other policies that have long-emerged out of patriarchy. Like sexism, if you dismantle homo/trans/queer-phobia, then the power and privleges of patriarchy seem dubious and unjust. Patriarchy is a fraud and even cishet men themselves will work for a more egalitarian society. 


So, at this juncture what is the takeaway for the cishet women and LGBTQ people listening today? 


Here it is, Amy: If feminists care about eradicating patriarchy, they must think intersectionally and approach the dismantling of heteronormativity as ardently as they would the dismantling of gender inequality. To the queers listening, for our part, queers must all be feminists!


I’ve never heard it articulated so clearly. On our podcast we’ve talked a lot about the tragic history of white feminism - white, privileged women who want to free themselves from patriarchal restrictions, but who remain ignorant - sometimes willfully ignorant! - of the unique challenges of our sisters of color within a culture that privileges men and privileges white skin. And we have talked about our queer sisters in other episodes, but I’m really struck by the way you said that if we care about dismantling patriarchy, we need to dismantle heteronormativity as well - the structure that imprisons straight women on the basis of their sex is the same structure that imprisons our queer siblings because of their sexuality. It reminds me of that quote by Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” 


HENCE, the so-called culture wars are fought along the axis of reproductive rights & LGBTQ rights. BOTH! Coincidence? Of course not!


Amy: Ok, Matthew, let’s turn directly to the Obergefell decision we are discussing today. Culturally and legally, how did we arrive at the Supreme Court decision we are discussing today? Put differently: How did queer politics come to embrace marriage equality as a priority, and what can account for society’s rapid shift to accept it? 


Matthew:


May I invite the listening audience to my classroom, A246 of Menlo School? Come on in. Choose your own desk. And let’s go back to the beginning of the formation of the national gay and lesbian community. Stated simply: What would one day become the LGBTQ community was fiercely divided on how we should be in a heteronormative world, and how we would advocate for dignity, recognition, and rights. Perhaps it is helpful to think of two factions angling for influence among non-normative gender and sexul pariahs of American culture: the assimilationists and the liberationists. In the post-war era, the Homophiles, the assimilationists, had the upper hand. These were largely white, middle class, educated, and privileged men who believed we should prove ourselves worthy of acceptance from the cishet dominant culture. They loved to glorify the norms and values of antiquity, particularly of the Greco-Roman world where homoeroticism flourished. They hoped to prove themselves “normal” enough to blend into American society. The liberationists -- urbanites, bohemians: both well-educated, progressive Whites and poorer people-of-color how had little to lose with a more radical posture. Truly, the birth of queer liberation whether in LA (Cooper’s Do-nuts) or SF (Compton’s) were riots pitched by transvestites as they called them then that occurred in the midst of a failing assimilationist strategy. Then, the history-defining Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969, a violent uprising, occurred in Greenwich Village of Manhattan. Undercover police raided the gay bar, as they were wont to do, and often they would harass and blackmail the patrons they apprehended. On this occasion, the Stonewallers fought back, and they did so for three days, lead by many Latinx and African American queers and assisted by straight allies. LGBTQ people remember Stonewall as women remember Seneca Falls and African Americans remember Selma. Let’s quicken our pace here. The 1970s ushered in queer fever dreams of political organizing, free love, and liberation; but the HIV/AIDS crisis of the Long 1980s -- 1981-1996, would bring that to an abrupt end. While the liberationists, ACT UP in particular, fought the patriarchy of the Reagan Administration and the Roman Catholic Church during the 1980s, the assimilationists would see an opportunity to assert their agenda in the midst of chaos, death, and despair. Rather than transforming the world into a “queer planet” to quote Michael Warner, author of one of the texts of our final episode in this series, gays and lesbians moved toward the goal of inclusion into two of society’s most conservative institutions: the military and marriage.

  

Let’s quickly look at the legal story, especially because Justice Anthony Kennedy recounts this story in his Obergefell decision:

  • 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick - upheld GA’s anti-sodomy law -- while the right to provacy failed to be extended to consensual sexual intimacy between same-sex persons, it thrust discrimination against sexual minorities into the spotlight.
  • 1996: Romer v. Evans – United States Supreme Court - The first of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s series of opinions advancing gay rights was a decision striking down a Colorado amendment that banned cities from passing antidiscrimination laws that protected gay and bisexual people. He wrote that the law was “unprecedented” in the way that it eliminated a whole group of people’s “right to seek specific protection from the law.” It established the precedent that LGBTQ people cannot be singled out as a class of people to be discriminated against.
  • 1996 -- Defense of Marriage Act (Clinton) -- Federal government and the states recognize marriage as a union between a man and woman only. This upheld a state’s right to marriage discrimination.
  • 1998 -- The Military’s DADT policy upheld
  • 2003 -- Lawrence v. Texas -- reverses Bowers and extends Romer -- Justice Kennedy, again, wrote the majority opinion stating that homosexual persons had the right to privacy in their own homes. All sodomy laws throughout the nation were rendered unconstitutional. Decriminalizing sodomy meant LGBTQ need not fear celebrating same-sex love in their own homes. 
  • 2003: Goodridge v. Department of Health – Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- marriages begin in MA -- I was there at the Cambridge courthouse early in the morning on May 17 2004 when the ceremonies began!
  • 2008 -- CA SCOTUS rules for same-sex couples, but then CA reverses that with Prop 8 (declared unconstitutional in 2010).
  • 2013: United States v. Windsor -- With the case of Edith Windsor, the Supreme Court, in another decision authored by Justice Kennedy, agreed with the lower courts that the ban on federal recognition of same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The Federal government must recognize same-sex marriages from states with marriage equality (knocking out section 3 of DOMA). 
  • This is how we arrived at the Supreme Court in 2015 with Obergefell v. Hodges!


Amy: Alright, let’s study today’s text!


Matthew:

  • Obergefell v. Hodges -- 2015: Shortly after the Windsor decision, and a love that spanned two decades, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur married in Maryland in 2013. Mr. Arthur was receiving hospice care, having received a diagnosis of A.L.S., or Lou Gehrig’s disease, two years earlier. A few months after the newlyweds returned to Ohio, Mr. Arthur died. Obergefell sued Ohio alleging discrimination against his same-sex relationship by refusing to identify his name on the death certificate of his husband. The case continued all the way to the Supreme Court — a fight that ultimately resulted in all marriage bans nationwide being struck down on June 26, 2015. Thus, knocking out section 2 of DOMA. THAT is what my husband, a lawyer, calls a fact pattern. Let’s turn our attention to Justice Kennedy’s decision.


  • Passages:
  • Since the plaintiff’s argument rests heavily on the Due Process & Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment shall we read that first?


“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”


Agreeing with the application of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th, Justice Kennedy stated:


“The fundamental liberties protected by this Clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights... In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”


  • To my delight, Anthony Kennedy is a careful student of history. He took his decision right to the beginning with an encomium to marriage:


“The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together. Confucius taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government. This wisdom was echoed centuries later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, ‘The first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then the family.’ There are untold references to the beauty of marriage in religious and philosophical texts spanning time, cultures, and faiths, as well as in art and literature in all their forms. It is fair and necessary to say these references were based on the understanding that marriage is a union between two persons of the opposite sex. [...] The petitioners acknowledge this history but contend that these cases cannot end there. Were their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners' claims would be of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners' contentions. This, they say, is their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect and need for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.”


  • Next, Kennedy detailed the struggle of the LGBTQ community to fight discrimination (which we’ve addressed earlier), and the case law (a la the doctrine of stare decisis) that justifies the legitimacy of LGBTQ people to advocate for marriage rights.
  • Then, Kennedy maintained that the courts must intervene when there is equivocation between the promises of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses and claims of discrimination.


“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution's central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”


  • Kennedy proceeded to lay out the premises of his decision in favor of the plaintiffs:
  • Premise #1: Citing Loving v. Virginia of 1967, the court case that decreed all state anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, Kennedy asserted that “the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.” In other words, Kennedy said that marriage is the gateway to other important life choices (expressions of identity, intimacy, and spirituality), and shapes one’s destiny. Such important life decisions should not be infringed on by the State -- don’t tread on me!
  • Premise #2: Marriage is a fundamental right.
  • Premise #3: Following from this, marriage “safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.” The logic here is that because many same-sex couples have children, and these families deserve the rights, protections, and privileges that marriage affords.
  • Finally, premise #4: Marriage is the fundamental organizing principle of society, and the state has a vested interest in encouraging it through the “symbolic recognition and material benefits to protect and nourish” marital unions. He enumerated what this state involvement entails: “taxation; inheritance and property rights; rules of intestate succession; spousal privilege in the law of evidence; hospital access; medical decisionmaking authority; adoption rights; the rights and benefits of survivors; birth and death certificates; professional ethics rules; campaign finance restrictions; workers' compensation benefits; health insurance; and child custody, support, and visitation rules.”
  • Therefore, concluded Kennedy:


“...By virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation's society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.


The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”

He continued later in the decision:

“The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.

These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them…

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States.”

Matthew’s Insights:

  • Anthony Kennedy treated Obergefell as a marriage opinion, not a civil rights opinion. This makes it difficult to translate this victory to other queer struggles for sexual minorities like transgender rights.
  • The culture wars have moved on from same-sex marriage to transgnder persons rights. To what extent will LGBTQ rights organizations, like the Human Rights Campaign, will be effective at advocating for rights advancements gender queer individuals?   


Amy: But, wait a minute Matthew. Before we think about what is beyond Obergefell, I think we have to pause to point out that within the span of a decade, marriage equality went from being the major front in the culture wars, to wholesale societal support. A new Gallup poll revealed that support for marriage equality is now at 70% and, for the first time ever, even a majority of Republicans now are in favor. This is especially apparent in my own community, where I described in the previous episode how many of my friends were extremely anti-same-sex marriage, but their own children who are now teenagers would be appalled if they heard some of the things their parents said and did just a few years ago. How in the world did this happen!? 


Matthew: According to my study, I would attribute lightening-quick acceptance of marriage equality to a few reasons: 

  • Contact Theory -- a political science theory that pervasive familiarity and exposure to people who are LGBTQ -- Harvey Milk in the 70s was right -- exercise that agency -- “Come out!” -- humanizing queers -- not an “issue” but people you know and love. Queers are equally distributed throughout a population -- this accelerates contact within families and communities to make it more difficult to objectify or dehumanize us. It naturally crosses partisan lines -- queer people are equally born into liberal and conservative communities. Racial, ethnic, and religious identity tends to be more separated into homogenous enclaves within American society.
  • Generational shift -- Millennials and Gen. Z view marriage equality as a non-issue.
  • Marriage equality is not a highly difficult concept to grasp, even children understand fairness. It just doesn’t have the complexities that the issues of abortion, gun rights, and marginal tax rates have. Consequently, people’s minds are easier to change, and politicians (like Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden) “evolve” with society on this issue, not lead on it.  
  • The weaknesses of the objections of opponents of marriage equality in media and courts. Status quo bias was in their favor, but as the parade of horribles -- “the end of western civilization!” -- never came to pass, any arguments to prevent same-sex couples from marrying lost any purchase with the American people.
  • Marriage equality was relatively easy to sustain -- self-justifying and easily executed (as opposed to say the desegregation of schools over fifty years after Brown v. Board). 


Amy: So, where does this on-going battle in the culture war proceed from Obergefell


Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) & New Fronts in the Battle Against Patriarchy

  • RFRA -- State laws patterned after the federal law of 1993. “Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 - Prohibits any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that the government may burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) furthers a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 
  • Bostock v. Clayton County -- On June 15, 2020, the Court ruled in a 6–3 decision covering three cases that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination “because of sex” as prohibited by Title VII. According to Justice Neil Gorsuch's majority opinion, that is so because employers discriminating against gay or transgender employees accept a certain conduct (e.g., attraction to women) in employees of one sex but not in employees of the other sex. Gorsuch was careful to circumscribe the decision to the employment context, and not extend it to other areas like housing, bathrooms and locker rooms, etc.
  • That is why the Equality Act must pass Congress! Unfortunately the judicial and legislative gains made in the last couple of decades are just not enough to protect LGBTQ people and their families. State non-discrimination laws are patchwork in nature and lack a permanence that Federal legislation would ensure. You see, our nation’s civil rights laws cover individual citizens on the basis of race, color, national origin, and in most cases, sex, disability, and religion. However, these do not protect them on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.  The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights law—including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government—to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.”


Amy: Ok, that brings us to the end of our episode. As we wrap up, what are your big takeaways from today?


Matthew: I have two.

  • Conservatives, ironically, have been pivotal in directing the Queer Liberation Movement after the HIV/AIDS Crisis, perhaps limiting critical examination of heteronormative patriarchy in America’s institutions, including marriage. 

I personally believe that LGBTQ people will breathe new life into marriage, and will transform it in ways that correct for the institution’s patriarchal limitations. Our first queer theorist of the next episode isn’t as expectant.

  • The right to marry crystalizes 25 years of civil rights struggle for LGBTQ people, advanced primarily through the judiciary (thank you Anthony Kennedy!), but it is unclear (even after the Bostock decision) whether this victory will lead to more a progressive advancement of LGBTQ rights, particularly for transgender persons.  



Amy: My takeaway was the part when you said If feminists care about eradicating patriarchy, they must think intersectionally and approach the dismantling of heteronormativity as ardently as they would the dismantling of gender inequality. To the queers listening, for our part, queers must all be feminists!


And again, feminism (according to the dictionary definition) is “the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” So once we wake up and see the matrix - this system that privileges very few and restricts the flourishing of so many, we can’t focus narrowly on just wiggling ourselves free. We need to look around us and make sure everyone has unobstrocted access to the same rights and freedoms that we enjoy.



Thank you, you’re the best, etc…


The final two episodes of Breaking Down Patriarchy will be a continuation of  today’s discussion - Matthew, can you tell us about the texts we’ll be discussing and how they fit into our understanding of this topic?


Matthew: Sure, we are going to rush head-long into some fascinating queer theory for the third and fourth episodes. Michael Warner, Lee Edelman, and Jose Esteban-Munoz are queer liberationists fighting what they generally see as the conservative take-over of LGBTQ politics, aesthetics, ethics, and societies.  


Amy: Join us next time for our discussion of Michael Warner’s The Trouble With Normal, and then Lee Edelman’s No Future and Estaban Munoz’ Cruising Utopia for the final episode in this series for Breaking Down Patriarchy.



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Breaking Down Patriarchy
An Essential Texts Book Club
Breaking Down Patriarchy is a podcast for everyone! Learn about the creation of patriarchy and those who have challenged it as you listen to bookclub-style discussions of essential historical texts. Gain life-changing epiphanies and practical takeaways through these smart, relatable conversations.

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Amy Allebest

I grew up in Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, reading, writing, drawing, singing, and practicing the piano and violin. I attended Brigham Young University, where I met Erik Allebest during my first week of freshman year, studied abroad in Israel, lived in Chile for a year and a half as a missionary, and married Erik all before graduating with a degree in English. Erik and I moved around - to Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Spain, and Northern California - while Erik started and ran chess businesses for a living (primarily chess.com) and I stayed home to raise our four children. Those four kids have become brilliant, hilarious people and are our very best friends. I am a long-time trail runner, a recent CrossFitter, a lifelong reader and writer, and an almost-graduate of Stanford University's Master's of Liberal Arts program.