SANTA MONICA -- While some gay activists are protesting the recent passage of an anti-gay marriage initiative in California, a feminist group has launched a movement questioning the institution of marriage, gay or otherwise.
The group, which calls itself Take Back the Knight, touts marriage as an "archaic and exploitative custom" and wants to see the privileges associated with marriage eradicated altogether rather than extended to gays and lesbians.
"You shouldn't have to get married to get access to health care," says Lexi Kober, Take Back the Knight's lead organizer and a lesbian in her late 40s. "If gays feel that marriage laws deny them access to health care, they should agitate for universal health care, not gay marriage."
Such an aggressive anti-marriage agenda has helped the group make enemies right and left. Prominent gay rights groups like the Human Rights Commission and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund accuse Kober and her compatriots of being dupes for the religious right. But perhaps even more controversial than their politics are the activists' unorthodox tactics, which include encouraging gay couples to "divorce" and disrupting gay weddings.
In a well-publicized incident, the nuptials of two gay men in Santa Monica degenerated into a heated shouting match when Take Back the Knight members hijacked the ceremony. When the rabbi asked the gathered guests, "If anyone among you knows of any reason why this man and this man should not be joined in holy matrimony," the best man, who was a woman, stepped forward and shouted, "Marriage is murder -- stop giving a corrupt institution minority cred."
As for heterosexual unions, the feminists leave that battle to their gay activist counterparts. "Gays are already protesting straight weddings in response to the Knight Initiative," explains a wry Kober. "We're just trying to finish the job by going after gay weddings." Indeed, Take Back the Knight exhibits a thoroughness that is reminiscent of 1970s-style activism -- but with a 21st-century sensibility. Even the group's name is an exercise in irony, referring to the anti-rape rallies focused on empowering women and the anti-gay marriage crusade of California state Sen. Pete Knight.
Irony alone may not be enough to shield the group from the political repercussions of disrupting gay weddings. Dave Guffin, a staff lawyer with the Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU, witnessed the Santa Monica wedding disruption and believes that Take Back the Knight supporters are doing more harm than good. "You know people are starving somewhere in the world," Guffin chides, "but I don't suppose those women would suggest no one should eat in a restaurant ever again." Guffin and like-minded gays are trying to pressure Kober to disavow public disruptions.
Others have taken the news of the more-left-than-left protests as a welcome opportunity to discuss the role of traditional marriage in alternative lifestyles. With conservative causes such as military service and marriage headlining the gay legislative agenda, progressive gays have had few opportunities in recent years to flex their political muscle.
"Registering at Williams-Sonoma is not an inalienable, constitutional right," asserts Menom Said of Women Not Wombs, a San Francisco-based organization for feminist lesbians. "Sometimes I think a lot of gays, especially gay men, are fighting for the right to economic privilege, rather than political equality."
South to the Future's stories contain fictional and factual elements. Except when public figures are being satirized, any use of real names is accidental and coincidental. Comments? Holler@sttf.org.