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DOMA and the Intersex Existence

reject gimmicky use of pop-science to promote social agenda

Forum: WMST-L
Date: 10/10/2006

On Oct 10, 2006, at 10:59 AM, Mary Schweitzer wrote:

Take a look at this article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

"Scientists are contending there's no clear definition of the gender divide.
"Twenty states have already passed constitutional amendments to restrict marriage to a union between a man and a woman, and eight more will be voting on it this November, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Pranzarone predicts that once lawyers start representing intersex cases, these laws will fall apart."

Nothing here that would be news to this group, but I thought this was a very accessible, short article for that could be useful in starting a discussion of the issues among undergraduates.


I'm sure that this article would "start a discussion," but it's nonetheless a weak argument against DOMA (defense of marriage act/amendment) legislations.

The argument is weak because everyone in the U.S. has one legal sex regardless of her or his physical characteristics, which can be used to determine who one is allowed to marry. DOMAs typically do not contain any particular definition of legal sex, leaving it for the Courts to determine when there's any doubt. An intersex individual may have a case arguing that her or his legal sex was determined wrongly, but that won't make DOMAs fall apart.

Further, this sort of gimmicky, authoritarian use of pop science and pseudo-science to promote social agenda is exactly what enrages the anti-gay side and leads to the deterioration of civic debate. If we oppose DOMA, it must be because we believe as I do deep in our hearts that same-sex couples justly deserve equal treatment under law to opposite-sex couples, and not because it's scientifically difficult to define precisely whom to hate or to discriminate. The problem with DOMA is not that it's ambiguous, but that it's discriminatory.

Arguing that "there is no clear definition of the gender divide" will not win the minds and hearts of those who oppose marriage equality; it only encourages more clever wording in these laws. We need to appeal to people's sense of decency, fairness and humanity if we were ever to win this debate.

Emi Koyama
-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.