Bisexuals Overlooked in the Debate on Equal Marriage Rights
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
September 21, 2004, Washington, DC - In the hundreds of stories written about ‘gay marriage’ in recent months, one group of people deeply affected by the issue has been left out: bisexuals. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, this omission has not only made the record factually incomplete, but has helped contribute to an oversimplification of an emotion-laden and complex issue.
For example, when the Washington Post wrote about the first same-sex couple to marry in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, its front-page headline read, “A Carefully Considered Rush to the Altar; Lesbian Pair Wed After 7 Years Together,” referring to Robyn Ochs and Peg Preble, but the headline was wrong. One of the two, Robyn Ochs, is not only bisexual but a co-founder of the Bisexual Resource Center and one of the nation’s most prominent bisexual leaders for more than 20 years. Even though Ms. Ochs emphasized her orientation as a bisexual in speaking with the reporter, this was never mentioned, other than the article noting that she teaches about bisexuality at Tufts University.
The same thing happened to Toby and Jean Adams of Auburn, CA, who were married in February 2004 when San Francisco started issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Their wedding story was covered by several media outlets, including The Auburn Journal and Salon.com (“Same Sex Family Values,” October 20, 2003). While the couple explicitly said that they were both bisexual women, only one of the articles labeled them as such.
These inaccuracies mean a lost opportunity to highlight not only the dilemmas faced by bisexuals, but the inconsistencies inherent in current marriage laws.
“Same-sex marriage is more than a lesbian or gay issue. The marriage issue is a big deal for bisexuals who haven’t found their life partner yet,” said Toby Adams, Chair of the Placer County Chapter of Marriage Equality California. “On a first date, with everything else going through your mind, who wants to be thinking, ‘So if this is The One, I get to look forward to either (a) A life of wedded bliss, or (b) A life of second-class citizenship, depending on what the sex that date happens to be.’”
“As bisexuals, we have a first-person view of how ridiculous marriage laws are,”added Chris O'Hare, who also stood in line with his bisexual partner and thousands of other couples to tie the knot at San Francisco City Hall. “On the one hand, I'm welcomed to get married and raise a family. On the other, I’m actively discouraged. It solely depends on the sex of my partner.”
In addition, the invisibility of bisexuals in the coverage of same sex marriage is a missed opportunity to underscore the complexity of the debate, according to the Task Force.
“The opponents of marriage equality consistently seek to reduce this emotional and complex issue to straight versus gay, good versus evil, religiously-blessed love versus mere sex,” said Matt Foreman, Task Force Executive Director. “In reality, marriage is about much more than gender and sexual orientation, it is much more than a package of civil rights and responsibilities, and it is about much more than sex. Highlighting bisexuals in the debate underscores all of this and shows that love and commitment are wonderfully complex and multi-dimensional.”
Author, activist and sexologist Dr. Loraine Hutchins agrees, “Bisexuals who married same sex partners in California, Massachusetts, New York, or Belgium, the Netherlands or Canada have a distinct perspective on marriage equality. It’s not who you love that’s important, but how you love and that you love, and are loved in return. All the ways we make families and intimate connection are important and all are equally valuable and worthy of societal support. Equal marriage is a good beginning.”
Bisexuality Resource Center
More resources available in the Task Force online links resource page.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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