Mixing Religion, The State And Queer Rights – Unpacking The Politics At Their Intersection

The idea that a family unit is built ‘exclusively’ upon the union of a man and woman was recently coded into the Russian Constitution. This was the last nail in the coffin of ‘same-sex’ marriages in the country. The amendment was part of a series of edits made to the Constitution with the backing of over 78% of active Russian voters, reflecting a high level of queerphobia in the country.

This move reminds us of the defence recently given by the Indian National government to the Delhi HC against legalizing queer marriages in India. When such an idea of marriage is made central to the family unit, we are ignoring values such as care, community, and camaraderie as building blocks of familial co-existence. Instead it perpetuates colonial ideals such as:

– private property accumulation (think house renting ads that prefer ‘families only’) and generational wealth that opposes redistributive justice,

– the commodification of feminine labour (including birth-giving), and

– a hierarchy in relationships (where marriage is implicitly ranked higher than any other relationship).

In this scenario, the family is the most basic unit of production in the economy even as its economic value is invisibilized under the garb of cultural values & religious sentiments.

Not surprisingly, this series of amendments to the Russian Constitution included the vague idea that a ‘certain belief in God’ was key to Russian values, thereby outlawing atheism and the potential to defend human rights in the face of state-sanctioned religious dogma.

In contrast to this is the legal campaign in the US, led by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), on behalf of 33 queer individuals at various Christian institutions. They are contesting the ability of 150 Christian schools across the country that have access to federal funding even as they practice discrimination against people of marginalized genders & sexualities on the grounds of religious practice.

They are currently granted religious liberty exemption to the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, 1972, which says that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

This brings us to consider the (im)possibility of leading queer lives in the face of the state itself becoming a religious institution based on the nature of its public expenditure.

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Tejaswi is journalist and researcher whose attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things. She can't wait to become a full-time potter soon, though!

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