Friday, February 22, 2013

Words and Rights Matter

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news but two Texas representatives took the first steps in recognizing same-sex couples. Yes, you heard that right, two representatives from Texas.

In February 11 Democratic Senator Chuy Hinojosa from McAllen proposed a bill that would grant same-sex couples civil unions. But on Valentines Day, Democratic State Rep. Lon Burnam from Fort Worth gave LGBTQ Texans a better Valentine’s Day message; full marriage equality to same-sex couples. Both have received harsh criticism from opponents of same-sex marriage but Senator Hinojosa has received that criticism from both sides of the aisles, with members of the LGBTQ communities claiming, “civil unions are not the best avenues for achieving equality.” read more

I also agree with these claims.

And although I am sure that Senator Chuy has good intentions I know that his intentions cannot make up for our unequal representation. Furthermore, this also got me thinking about partisan and policy rhetoric. The other day I became really interested in Rich Tafel, founder of the Log Cabin Republicans and Public Square. So I googled him and came across this video Tafel argues that Democrats need to learn how to talk Republican. He goes on to say that Democrats frame policies or issues in a way that threatens the status quo as opposed to the Republicans who use more result-orientated rhetoric. In my opinion what he meant was that Republican rhetoric appeals to people’s wallets. Tafel said that when we speak about “rights” or “getting rights” we make the status quo, conservative individuals, feel that we are taking something away from them. Tafel used the push to “universal healthcare” from Obama. He said that instead of President Obama saying it’s a right for everyone to have access to healthcare, he should have framed it saying, “folks we do have universal healthcare in America, it’s called the emergency room.” Tafel went on to say that it would be more cost-effective to invest in preventable health issues than to have our tax dollars pay for the emergency room. I agree.

But this rhetoric is problematic.

Rich Tafel is telling me that I, a queer Latina, low-income, woman need to watch my words to satisfy the “status quo”? And who is this “status quo” anyway? Privileged white wealthy men? Rich Tafel is telling me that demanding rights is not the best way to do it because it might make the status quo feel like we’re taking something away from them? Really? Why shouldn’t discourse aim to make people realize that the rights that oppressed groups demand are rights that the “status quo” already have? Why should oppressed groups comprise their principals to satisfy the money in someone else’s pocket? And while Gay Rights Activist groups like to frame it in similar ways such as, “Three words that will save the economy: Gay Bridal Registry,” I would like to offer my own thoughts:

Equality representation for my partner and I is not for sale. My life and health are not for sale. My welfare is not for sale.  Why must we try to put a dollar sign in front of every issue what is wrong with just doing the RIGHT thing? Civil unions might mean the ability to file joint tax returns but it does not mean the RIGHT to marry; it does not mean marriage equality.

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