Formal inequality – the kind that’s written explicitly into law – must obviously be undone. Yet I can’t help but feel that we’ve gotten the right answer to the wrong question. I have no problem with marriage as a religious tradition, or as a non-religious communal expression of love and commitment. Give me a fancy dress, lots of flowers and an excuse to day drink anytime. But it’s poorly designed to be a modern civil institution. Allowing gay people access to it makes it a little more fair, but it doesn’t make it any more just.
Walk along Waverly Place in New York City’s West Village and you’ll hit the narrow end of Christopher Park, a sharp shard of public land inhabited by four lovely but melancholy figures. Covered in white plaster, they are clustered in pairs: two men, standing, and two women, seated. They’re called “Gay Liberation”—but there’s nothing liberatory about them. With their mournful expressions and restrained physical contact, they seem more like a vision of gay tolerance, liberation’s anemic shadow.
Before we start talking, Kia LaBeija slips off her shoes and runs her feet through the grass-green Astroturf at the end of a pier at the Hudson River Park Trust, one of the most brutally, beautifully gentrified parts of Manhattan. It's the first spring day that feels like summer, not just hot, but heavy, thick. Everyone here wants to be naked. Thirty years ago, everyone would have been.