Monday, December 15, 2008

Rufus Wainwright lines up on Elton's side

Et tu, Rufus? Wainwright has attempted an explanation of why he isn't interested in helping the pro-Gay marriage campaign:

"Oddly enough, I'm actually not a huge gay marriage supporter. I personally don't want to get married but I think that any law or amendment to the constitution that deals with sex and love should just be banned in general."

So you personally don't want to get married, Rufus, so there's no need to support the rights of those who do. You don't think that, perhaps, many of the freedoms we enjoy have been fought for by people who are not personally going to benefit from the victory, but do it because it's right?

It gets worse, though:
"I don't think any government should encroach on what goes on in the bedroom at all. Frankly, if you want to marry a dog, why don't you go ahead and marry a dog, I don't care. I'm a complete libertarian and so I really disagree with it".

This is a gay man, lazily comparing gay marriage - which is about the state valuing a relationship, and one of the few times the government has to encroach on affairs of the heart - with marrying a dog. Although, confusingly, Rufus seems to think that marrying a dog is fine, but marrying someone of the same sex is a right you shouldn't even need to have. And if he is a "complete libertatian", then shouldn't he be campaigning for those beliefs, rather than just doing nothing and trying to claim that his apathy is somehow noble?


danbutt said...

Hi Simon,

I see where you're coming from, but I think that Rufus's comments here are less straightforward than this makes out. They are, at least, more complicated than Elton John's. What he's doing in this statement is opposing Proposition 8. He's saying that he, personally, doesn't want to get married, but thinks - contra Prop 8 - that the state has no business getting involved in saying that people who want to get married can't get married. And that's a perfectly coherent libertarian, anti-statist position. There's nothing inherent about the idea of marriage that says either church or state needs to be involved - it can just be a public expression of commitment in front of friends and family. There's no sense in which the state *has* to "encroach on affairs of the heart".

simon h b said...

I see what you're saying, but if your interpretation is right, then Rufus has, at best, missed the point. Proposition 8 doesn't stop anyone standing up and saying "I marry you" - it's specifically forbidding the state from issuing a marriage contract. And while it's lovely to take a 'oh, wow, why does the Man have to be involved in affairs of the heart' line, it becomes bloody important if your partner is of the same sex and you want to be treated as their next of kin, for example.

danbutt said...

Yes, but the point about social rights is circular, since those social rights are granted by the state in the first place. Legal recognition of marriage is most important in a context where social rights are differentiated depending on marital status. Rufus could consistently hold that ideally the state would have no involvement in marriage, whilst also maintaining that given a context where one's rights are affected by one's marital status, things are made worse by legislation such as Prop 8 which allows different groups unequal access to these rights.

Even if social rights aren't differentiated on marital status, there's obviously a sense in which there's something disrespectful about the state condoning some forms of marriage but not others, even if all that is involved in initial recognition is the provision of a certificate to put on the wall. So, again, one can consistently oppose Prop 8 as regressive whilst also holding that the best solution would be to decouple the state and the institution of marriage altogether.

Anonymous said...


What you're saying is that in a perfect world, we shouldn't even need a legal marriage (though, I am not so sure that in a civilization that is, like it or not, based on codes and regulations that could even be possible), and so the idea of gay marriage should be obsolete by default. However, today, marriage is a legal contract, and not just a certificate to put on the wall, as you put it. Without that piece of paper, you can't visit the person you love in a hospital, be guaranteed a placement in the same nursing home, have rights to the same child that you both raise, get health insurance together and the list just goes on and on. What he is saying is a bit like, "I won't donate to the children in war-torn countries because I am against war in the first place. In my ideal world there'd be no war and thus no children hurt by it." It's kind of missing the point.
I am a straight woman with many libertarian ideals and I am not sure I ever want to get married either, btw. That's not the point. The principal of the matter is that I don't want it to be possible for my country to pass laws that disadvantage a certain group just because that group is slightly different from me or the majority. I'd fight for the rights of blondes, math majors, women with big feet, football players, people who listen to Britney Spears, ect, ect if they were denied the full rights of a citizen. They wouldn't have to resemble me or my desires for me to know that it's wrong to squash them or pretend that the mistreatment isn't happening. Being of Eastern European Jewish decent and having been very into punk ideology as a teenager, I seem to vaguely recollect something or other about the danger of not standing up for those in need. Cheers.

This message brought to you by The Placebo Stalking Agency. Great Show last night, at least the part on youtube.

danbutt said...

Anonymous - as we're on the same side I'm going to be polite about this, but I do think you've rather missed my point. The crucial issue is that the comment from Rufus Wainwright was made in the context of *opposing* Proposition 8. So he agrees with everything you say. Look - he's just posted a comment at his website:

"Recently, a quote from an interview was taken out of context and as these things go, it has appeared on many internet sites. So, to set the record straight (or shall we say gay?), I am not nor have I ever been opposed to anyone's right to marry - straight or gay. I myself just don't want to at the moment and feel a strong tie to the traditional bohemian concept of being a homosexual, ie: the last thing we want is to be like everybody else. But who knows, a girl likes options. Maybe someday I will want to marry! Plus, in terms of practical issues such as citizenship, taxes, inheritance, is appauling that LGBT couples don't have the same rights and options that other people have and compared with Europe and Canada, the US should be ashamed of how they treat love. I have voiced my strong opposition to Prop 8 on many occasions and will continue to do so until that referendum is reversed. OK? I've got to get back to work now.

Love, Rufus"

That's completely clear, and is also perfectly consistent with his earlier comments and everything I've been saying.

He can't spell "appalling", though. Dear me.

Anonymous said...

Why would you even consider being impolite unless you're hungry and/or sleep deprived at the moment? But more on the subject, okay, fair enough; he misspoke, then. Still, when an issue as important as human rights is at stake, it's strange to see a message of merely lukewarm support for equality. That's how he worded it, anyway.

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