Friday, April 25, 2014

Life after DOMA?

I was invited up to Yale for an interesting symposium of historians and queer theorists. It seems to have been planned in a moment somewhat like the one in which we concocted Queer Christianities (the reason I was invited): same-sex marriage having, with almost unthinkable speed, become a legal reality (in New York, or nationally), one wanted to make sure other concerns and commitments, including ones which did not foreground marriage, weren't left behind. Somehow ours managed to be much more upbeat, though. I'm trying to figure out way. Where ours featured talks by and about people who were queer and Christian and whose lived experience offered resources for imagining better futures (look! look!), this one offered talks by folks many of whom were queer and married and uneasy if not conflicted about it (keep moving, folks, nothing to see here!).

This connected in more poignant ways with questions of the future than ours did. It's not just that our folks wanted to be members of the church (often more than the church wanted them as members) while today's folks didn't really want to be recognized by the state. Participation in the church is compatible with a continued sense of oppositional, even prophetic identity (call it "queer" if you wish!) in ways in which involvement with the state can't be - certainly not the neoliberal state which, one presenter argued, promotes marriage as a way of reducing its commitment to care for its citizens in other ways. Only one panelist (a theological ethicist) even mentioned that queer folks might affect the institution of marriage in positive ways. Does that go without saying, or are we afraid to say it - afraid it might not be true?

The question haunting the whole discussion: can gay and lesbian couples, now able to enjoy the comforts of state-supported domesticity, be counted on to continue being on the vanguard of vigilance and care for the still marginalized? That's the question, for queer Christians, too.

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