Equality is Not Justice

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Equality is Not Justice
by Andrea Quijada

[The following is a transcript of the speech that Ms. Quijada presented at the Albuquerque Family Pride PicNic on June 29, 2013]

Nuevo México!

Happy Pride! It’s truly a lovely day. Take a moment to be here with me. Let’s take a deep breath together. Turn your heads and look, and feel, who is next to you—look at all the people that are with us here today.

You are beautiful, fierce, resilient, powerful. 

Who here likes to eat?  Who here likes to play? (And I’m talking about all kinds of playing, people; this is Pride, after all.) 

When I was little, my sisters and brother would play a lot in the summer. It was always hot and we were always thirsty. I remember running into the kitchen to get water and then we would always fight over getting the blue cup. I’m not even sure why.  At some point, we just decided that the blue cup was the best, and we each wanted to have it. It worked just as well as any other cup, but we would scramble and argue over that pinche blue cup. 

Sometimes we want something without knowing why. Have you ever seen a commercial for some new product that looks amazing? And so you buy it, and take it home all excited to use it, and it didn’t work as well as the commercial said it would? As if there was small print that the commercial didn’t read to us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is bought and sold in my community. I’ve been watching ideas get marketed, and I’ve watched my friends and family buy them. And I’m not sure that everyone has read the small print. 

My question for us is: Why marriage?  

To be clear, I’m all for love. I’m all about that oh-my-god-girl-did-you-see-her-i-hope-she-saw-me feeling in the stomach. And those dates that turn into stay-the-night conversations—the kind of love that is comfortable and safe, or that’s nurturing and challenges us to grow. Love that tastes like a warm buttery tortilla, or even a hot tiny red chile. (Yeah, you know what I’m talking about). 

If marriage means love for you, or if you need marriage to signify your love, I say: Fabulous.  I also ask: Hey, did you read the small print?

Because, like you, I like to eat. Food is delicious. I’m all for people not being hungry. And for living wages. Access to healthcare. Immigrant rights. Disability justice. 

Lots of us are talking about the Supreme Court decisions that happened this week. In particular, that decision about gay marriage keeps coming up. I don’t have mixed feelings about the decision at all—I’m actually really clear. I think anyone should be able to get married, anytime, anywhere. 

Here is my small print: I think that benefits should not be attached to marriage. And here is why:

Our families look and feel so many different ways, and marriage is like this one size fits all t-shirt that we know doesn’t fit everyone. 

No one should have to be married to access any sort of social, economic, or institutional benefits. Those benefits should belong to every person, not every government sanctioned couple. Let's not confuse ourselves. Equality is not justice.

Our movement has always been a collective struggle. The decision on marriage is only a selective win. Marriage is about some of us, and we need a win that is about ALL OF US.

Let’s go back to 1994 when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was introduced. I remember when gay and lesbian leaders said it was a “strategic decision” to exclude gender identity and gender expression so that it would pass. It didn’t. 13 years later it still hadn’t passed, and in 2007 we finally got transgender communities included in ENDA. It’s 2013 and we’re still fighting to get it passed. But at least when we win, and we will win, it will be for ALL of us.  

As LGBTQ communities, we have a history of standing shoulder to shoulder in all kinds of struggles and LEADING those struggles. We have led multiple movements across generations. Why? Because we know that:

Economic justice is queer liberation. 

Racial justice and environmental justice are queer liberation. 

Reproductive justice, disability justice and media justice are—say it with me: queer liberation.

Justice is what makes Strong Families. Justice is what keeps our families strong. So if you fought for marriage I will be looking for you at immigration rallies. I will expect to see you fighting for a living wage. Whatever happiness we feel by the decision to marry should be matched by our discontent, or anger, over the fact that tribal sovereignty was put on trial last week and it LOST. Whatever joy or relief that is experienced by the marriage decision must be met with a commitment to fight for the voting rights of people of color because guess what, we are queer, too. 
Our movement has always been bigger than marriage because our lives our so much bigger and more complex than any solution of marriage can offer us. I have read the small print, and marriage doesn’t apply to all of us. I don’t want the blue cup anymore. I want justice. Join me, Nuevo México, in your beauty, your fierceness, your resilience and power, in fighting for all of us! 

Andrea Quijada is a long-time organizer and advocate for social justice. She resides in Burque, Nuevo Mexico where she directs Media Literacy Project, mothers her dog Maya, and documents hilarious life moments for her future sitcom. 

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