Arguing Equality Chapter 3: Sexism and Gay Marriage

This is a nine-part installment designed to help everyone understand marriage equality.  For some, it will be an education, for others, it will be helpful when discussing the subject.  I have included links to each chapter at the end, as well as information about the author.



In recent years, feminist scholars and gay theorists have developed a body of thought which explores homophobia as a manifestation of sexism. One basic tenet of this line of thought is that strict gender roles, hierarchically constructed, serve to subordinate women to men — economically, culturally, and politically.

In order to maintain the status quo, these gender roles must be strictly adhered to, an adhesion which is maintained by punishing gender non-conformity (effeminacy in men, tomboyish qualities in women) by labeling that non-conformity, stigmatizing it, as “queer.”

Sound confusing? Let’s break it down: Those who have ever watched adolescents on a playground will attest that the boy who wants to play hopscotch rather than baseball will be strictly, and often relentlessly, teased as a “faggot.” Homophobia thus promotes sexism — a fear of being labeled homosexual enforces strict adherence to gender roles, which in turn solidifies male dominance over women.

Deriving from this interplay between sexism and homophobia is a line of argumentation which attacks the ban on same-sex marriage not because it is homophobic, but rather because it is sexist. The Supreme Court of Hawaii illustrated this argument utilizing a simple analogy between a same-sex couple in Baehr v. Mike and a mixed-race couple in Loving v. Virginia.

In Loving, the court argued, a black woman could marry a black man, but not a white man. The difference was race — indisputable racism. In Baehr, a woman could marry a man, but not a woman. The difference was sex — indisputable sexism.

On this basis, just as bans on miscegenation were outlawed as racist, the court argued that bans on gay marriage should be outlawed as sexist. Especially in those states which have adopted the Equal Rights Amendment and subject gender bias to the highest levels of scrutiny, reasoning which exposes the ban on gay marriage as a form of sex discrimination may bear great weight in convincing legislators or judges that same-sex marriage should be declared unconstitutional.

via Sexism and Gay Marriage.


Seth Persily is a member of the Georgia Bar and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, Mr. Persily served as Publisher of the Harvard Law Record and co-President of the Lambda Law Association. Mr. Persily obtained his undergraduate degree from Duke University, where he served as President of the Duke Gay, Bisexual & Lesbian Association. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with a B.A. in Religion and a minor in Gay & Lesbian Studies.

Mr. Persily worked at the Atlanta law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan before opening his own practice, Persily & Associates, which concentrates on employment discrimination and real estate law. He serves on the Board of Directors for Georgia Equality as well as YouthPride.


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