On the Civil Partnership Act

As feminist, as anarchist, as queer subjects, we continually question and resist the systems of power, systems that oppress us, systems that try to place us in normative binary boxes for the interests of neoliberalism and capitalism. One of those systems, that state through law is intervening in private lives, is the institution of marriage and civil partnership. Such institutions are trying to define relationships based on the heteronormative framework and adjust them to a homonormative one, reinforcing in this way a society based on patriarchy. The previous ideal of couples, namely between a man and a woman in a monogamous relationship under marriage, attached with benefits and privileges is now perceived to be ‘progressing’ framed with neoliberalism’s definition of equality and human rights. The institution of marriage widens up to include same sex couples with those left behind (f.ex. single parents, single people, same sex couples, polyamorous couples etc) still not being able to access those privileges attached to it.

On the 26th of November, the Cypriot Parliament voted in favour of the civil partnership bill, which granted same-sex couples’ legal recognition, while almost a month later, on the 22nd of December, the Greek Parliament did the same. What’s really interesting is the enormous visibility and importance granted to this bill by LGBT groups and other NGOs but also from politicians of various ideologies and the media, while, at the same time, other important bills that were under discussion gained minimum visibility. Such bills include the bill on student grants approved on December 10 and with which more stringent measures for the grants were introduced and the new institutional framework for the lifting of the secrecy of communications. According to the latest, communications privacy can be lifted under special conditions (national security, corruption issues, and so on) and only by judicial decree. What is evident is that this bill violates our privacy creating a new form of self-regulatory practices which people internalize.

The emotional outburst concerning the civil union bill and its subsequent extended visibility is not innocent as such, since it perpetuates the well known western neoliberal discourse on equality that reinforces persistent colonizing mentalities. The Cypriot daily press was covering the passing of the civil partnership bill under the headlines of ‘respect for diversity’, ‘human rights’, or ‘destruction of homophobia’. As feminist, as anarchist, as queer subjects, we want to raise a number of critical issues and express our concerns over the legalization of civil partnerships. Though on one hand we appreciate the importance for access to those privileges heterosexual couples can have if they chose to get married by homosexual couples, we highlight that on the other, access to privileges through marriage/civil partnership fosters such institutions as a form of ideological control, whilst it denies, diminishes, destroys contrasting values and suppresses more libertarian, fluid, open-ended views. It is also important to highlight that his bill still creates discrimination and inequalities as it does not grant parental rights of any kind to same sex couples.

What meaning do we give to equality and norms towards relationships? Whom do we include and whom do we leave behind in our idea of equality and what are the consequences for those that are left behind? What are the class and other intersections? Do we really consider as inclusion and equality through the right to sign a social contract, that clearly by definition limits the ways in which we can frame our erotic (and not only) relationships? Campaigns for civil partnership act have been mainly about love and the fact that love is the same, love doesn’t discriminate, as if civil partnership as contract is about showcasing love between couples regardless of the gender of the partners. Looking into the history of the marriage as an institution, reveals that it was actually never developed around and about love. On the contrary, it has mostly been about women as property, which could be bought and sold in a market based on the patriarchal system. It has also been linked with gender based violence, marital rape, even honour related killings if the woman shamed the honour of the family. Do people desire to get married for the privileges attached to it or more as a symbol and recognition of a relationship? If it’s for the benefits and privileges –right to adoption, parental rights, tax benefits, inheritance benefits, health care, right to visit and take decisions in hospitals and prisons, and even for the right to be able to cohabit with your partner who is a migrant, then such benefits should have been extended to all people, without the need of social contract. If on the other is for the latest, marriage as a symbol or cultural ritual, maybe we should rethink such a desire, as it leaves behind real practical problems that queer people face in their everyday lives due to their class, race, age, health situation, family situation, being homeless, unemployed etc. We shall rethink how this system leads same sex couples and subjects into constructing ‘straight’ lives from a heteronormative to a homonormative framework in the name of neoliberal notion of love, freedom, diversity.

On the one hand, without underestimating possible usefulness of the benefits granted legally, these laws can lead society to accept same sex couples only if they are in the form of a civil partnership under the norms of monogamy, leaving again behind gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer individuals that form their lives and relationships differently (e.g. with the choice of not signing a civil partnership or by entering a polyamorous relationship or by being single). Therefore, it doesn’t change the social notion of homosexuality as the Other, different sexuality (unless it’s in a homonormative form), it doesn’t reduce homophobia. Though, the lgbtqi community is facing a series of challenges and problems, like violence, bullying, transphobia, homophobia, work related problems, family problems, multiple discrimination challenges (fe for a person who is lgbtqi and migrant and/ or refugee/ person with disabilities, young, senior etc), one would think that legalization of same sex couples one would think it wouldn’t be a central priority in the advocacy agenda of the lgbtqi* movement. Another problematic in this campaign, is that its mostly about the visibility of cisgender gay male identity (representing usually the normative ideals of masculine beauty) and leaving behind other identities and people from the movement such as women, queer, trans, intersex, fat, disable, working class people, as if civil partnership concerns only cis gay men of certain class etc. The mainstream lgbt movement fails to recognize and show solidarity to the most oppressed members of the community and those experiencing multiple discrimination by politically but also practically focusing in the most marginalized members of the community and on the other hand pretends that speaks through its leaders on behalf of the whole community leading to silence and further oppress the rest.

The neoliberal ideal of the heteronormative nuclear family (which aims to privatise every aspect of our lives) as the only image and norm of family and of emotional and economical safety has been used by the mainstream lgbt movement as image and framework in their campaign. Thus rather than being critical towards the failure of the current system of family and marriage, it has been consistently trying to mimic the hetero families and assimilate its self in the normative system. By doing so, the movement failed to envision and develop a radical frame of developing relationships and families that would enable the current straightness of the system, and liberate everyone from the normative systems that oppress all of us. This neoliberal approach as its constantly towards privatisation is removing the states responsibilities over the individual (fe for health care) and places the responsibility and burden over the individuals, which it becomes more challenging for people not married or in civil partnership. In the end this fight in the name of equality and human rights has failed to create new imaginaries and visions of a different system of families and relationships to fight for beyond the current dominant capitalist, neoliberal, heteronormative, ‘straight’ system. In the fight for assimilation it has produced a homonormative notion and model of relationships, with the hope of social acceptance by the erasure of the difference, of the queer people, of the trans people, of the polyamorous, of the non-binary ones and overall of the most marginalised ones by allowing the state to define and limit the ways we imagine and want to form our relationships and families and communities, beyond norms and boxes.