Political Rants and Raves

Health Care for All, or Gay Couples Rights?

By Lisa DugganAfter the Drag Queens' Ball December 2008

The battle royal has now been engaged over the question of whether health care reform will include a public option, with insurance industry flacks and free market ideologues drumming up hysteria and hauling out the loonies to denounce any public option as “socialist” (I wish) and “Nazi” (say what?), while mild mannered liberals defend it for bringing “choice and competition” to the health insurance markets.  It’s a hard war to watch, given that the so-called public option is a pale shadow of single payer–the approach that might provide universal quality care without siphoning buckets of money into executive salaries and profits for the health care robber barons.

But here’s my question for today: Where are the homosexuals?  While all the mainstream gay groups and lgbt media and bloggers are rehashing Prop 8 and planning a march for equality in October, honey, Rome is burning right here right now.  Much of the furor over marriage rights in the United States is fueled by the desire for access to health care–employment and marriage being the primary routes for insurance coverage.  In countries with universal health care, the battle over same sex marriage rights has been much less intense and consequential.  Gaining universal access to health care in the U.S. now would meet the widespread need that is now largely expressed in campaigns for partnership recognition.  In addition, it could address the crying need for adequate health care for masses of queers who have no wish to marry.  In the large balancing scale of benefits–free universal health care, or single payer, would do more for The Gays than marriage equality.  So where are the gay groups and activists?  Where have they been for the past decade when organizing for single payer might have helped push it onto the national political agenda, before it was so unceremoniously replaced by the “public option”? And where are they now that the public option may be replaced by the even paler, more impotent health co-op plan?

Are gay groups and activists serious about gaining concrete benefits for queer constituencies–homeless kids, transgender sex workers, lgbt populations that are unemployed, elderly, migrant or immigrant, disabled and sick?  If so, then it would make a lot more sense to spend $50 million in donor funds pushing for free universal health care, than even thinking about spending that sum to redo the Prop 8 referendum next year.  Should we rename the current organizations to peg them as the Gay Couples Rights Movement?

Access to health care is a national emergency, for queers folks more than most.  Thousands line up for health care

It’s past time for us all to mobilize on the front lines of this political battle–it matters more to more queers than marriage ever will.

19 replies on “Health Care for All, or Gay Couples Rights?”

Great piece, Lisa. I wish this POV would penetrate through the frenzied gay marriage mainstream masses steamrolling over us all — but alas, it is a mighty machine, marriage.

This is such a timely, and much needed article. I echo Judy’s comment above to the letter!

Guess I can do my part by spreading word of this article to the masses via Twitter and Facebook.

Great job!

You have made an excellent case and really hope this piece will moblilise the gay community into action. Best wishes.

As a gay man, I agree on many levels. But what I think you’re not acknowledging is the big picture. The question for me is, as a community do we want to stop at healthcare or do we want ALL the rights afforded heterosexual couples? For me, it’s the later. Yes, healthcare is a HUGE issue. Not only for the gay community but also for the straight community. I think the reason you’re not seeing organized gay healthcare rallies is that we are all fighting as individuals just like the rest of the country. I’d rather not give the conservative movement one more thing to alienate us from. As soon as they see that we are wanting to talk about this, they will figure out a way to put in some legislation that PREVENTS us from getting the quality care we need.

Also, as far as our community banding together… I really don’t see that happening on any front until something truly tragic happens. There are far too many people in our community that simply don’t care what happens outside their little bubble. They don’t look beyond their Prada sunglasses to see that there is a struggle for power going on. And it is a struggle for power. Those who want the power to control people whom they feel are different verses the people who just want to enjoy the same freedoms and responsibilities everyone else enjoys. It’s sad, really. Most of it stems from the “new crop of gays” being raised in the “me, me, me” mindset. We need for every generation to wake up and smell the coffee. Not just the old gays with money, but the broke young gays too. There is actually more of a need to organize on a national level into one BIG “Gay United Nations” than anything. We’re not centrally organized! How can we hope to conquer healthcare OR marriage without all of the micro-organizations banding together into one huge lobbying force? Why isn’t THIS the topic of conversation?

The example I use all the time is, of course, the civil rights movement. The black community banded together to form one MASSIVE coalition. They were totally organized. We’re not.

We need a good solid voice in our community. A voice that wields respect amongst the entire population. A poster child, if you will. Someone that can rally the troops for ALL of the causes, not just for healthcare.

So I wonder.. How much is the Gay Marriage campaign about assimilation (and “the right to be normal”) verses rights such as health care? While healthcare is only a section of the rights that come along with marriage it is a huge one. Even if The Gay movement won’t shift its power and money to healthcare, where is the “Gay Movements” voice in the current climate of healthcare? Additionally, I think we already knew that the Movement for Gay Marriage’s priorities were not with “queer constituencies–homeless kids, transgender sex workers, lgbt populations that are unemployed, elderly, migrant or immigrant, disabled and sick”. If they were, marriage would not be the main goal.

Michael >> I believe that an LGBTQ community doesn’t exist because of racism, classism, transphobia, able-ism, and other oppressions. Truly tragic events are happening all the time to LGBTQ people.

Great Piece. Thank you for not only writing, but sharing.

Thank you so much for stating the obvious elephant in the room conveniently being covered up and overlooked! The LGBT movement in the past 5-6 years has shown its true colors, and they’re pretty ugly. It’s all about money, power, pizzazz and nothing to do with social justice — and they’ll be as opportunistic and selfish as possible in order to achieve it.

“The question for me is, as a community do we want to stop at healthcare or do we want ALL the rights afforded heterosexual couples?”

No actually, I’d like to have all my basic human rights regardless of whether I’m in a monogamous couple or not, thanks. And there is no one “community.” Please be specific about who you are talking about.

“As soon as they see that we are wanting to talk about this, they will figure out a way to put in some legislation that PREVENTS us from getting the quality care we need.”

As though we have the quality health care we need already. Sure, let’s do NOTHING…because if we do SOMETHING, someone might NOTICE!

Thanks for making the necessity of this article even more outstandingly clear, Michael.

OK, but Michael’s comment pointed out something else important — we *know* where the glbt community is (at home moving the wedding from the Noe Valley to Des Moines), and Lisa was deliberately asking a rhetorical question. But it is a rhetorical question worth underlining because even when married, large numbers of people — particularly, but not only — working class people cannot afford and/or have access to health care. So even *if* one is a true believer that marriage=access to all forms of social equality, it doesn’t = all forms of economic equality.

The other tricky thing about organizations like the HRC is that they are expansive to the point of ideological incoherence. For their funding they rely heavily on all sorts of not-terribly-progressive folks who are not on the side of universal access at all. Once you start opening up economic questions, or any thing that highlights the serious rifts between progressive and conservative lgbt folks, the big national organizations shy away from it (as Janet Halley pointed out years ago, gays in the military had a similar quality.)

Oh beautiful for spacious skies,
now chocked with carbon dioxide and obscured by the refuse of people.
For amber waves of grain,
plowed under to make way for McMasions the bank should not have sold.
For purple mountain majesty,
now leveled for coal mining.
Above the fruited plan,
the soil chemistry of which will not support anything humans eat within a few decades.
America, Corporate America, God shed his grace on thee,
because appearantly he likes greed, corruption, and moral bankruptcy.
And crowned thy good, with brotherhood,
as long as you’re wealthy, white, male, hetrosexual and lack a conscience.
From sea to shining sea.
You may not want to get in the ocean many days of the year, as the fecal matter swimming with you may kill you or make you very sick.

Health care, education and equal rights seem to fall under the same action item list in our arguebly supierior system; “I want ’em, I deserve ’em, but God told me you don’t” So, come on Gays, let’s get that Queer Agenda working on healthcare. Other than your hair and Prada outfit, what do you have to do?

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