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Message from Jason (June 2015)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. As you notice we are running things a little behind, but appreciate your patience with us. As I write this letter people all over social media and in the news are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. I want to first recognize and honor the joy that many people are experiencing. There are those who have dedicated countless hours to this fight and who feel like this ruling allows them to feel more whole. I also want to recognize those who have written to Black and Pink looking for advice on how to marry their lovers in prison. I hope that this ruling does provide some relief to you.

To be honest, the Supreme Court ruling is not providing much relief for me. We have shared many things over the years in the newspaper about how same-sex marriage will not secure LGBTQ liberation. I found myself particularly annoyed at Justice Kennedy’s closing paragraph in the ruling today. He wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death… Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

What is it, do you think, that makes marriage the most profound union? What about this state sanctioned relationship do you think holds the highest ideals of love, sacrifice, and family? And why do you think people who are unmarried are somehow condemned to loneliness? Do you agree with Justice Kennedy’s assessment of marriage? As I think back to much of the writing we have seen in the Black and Pink newspaper it does not seem as though marriage would end the loneliness and suffering of solitary confinement. It does not seem to me that the union of marriage would somehow improve access to wages and money for LGBTQ prisoners. It does, however, seem to me that we have incredible love, sacrifice, and family amongst our Black and Pink community without the state recognizing the relationships we have created. Through sharing stories, telling our truths, and expressing support for one another we are creating alternatives to the limitations of marriage. Justice Kennedy highlights marriage as one of civilization’s oldest institutions as though it’s history makes it inherently good, but we know that incarceration and other forms of punishment are also long standing institutions. An institution’s long presence in society certainly does not mean we should be jumping on board.

There are those who are saying that now the same-sex marriage fight is (hopefully) over, that now there should be more funding available for other struggles. Do you think think that wealthy white gay men and lesbians are going to start redirecting money into organizing efforts like ours? I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic about that, but I am not so sure. Do you think that the people who are taking to the streets to celebrate the ruling will later go home and write letters to LGBTQ prisoner pen pals? I bet that some are, but in reality it is a very small number. How do you think we can redirect energy to concern for LGBTQ prisoners, who are primarily poor people and people of color? What should Black & Pink be doing to harness some new power? I can tell you that we did just do a fundraiser for people who are watching Orange is the New Black to donate money to an organization for every episode of the show they watch. This “viewer solidarity fund,” as we titled it, has generated about $5,000 spread across a few organizations working with trans/cis women and/or LGBTQ prisoners. Efforts like this help us get some attention and focus directed towards actual people in prison.

As some people celebrate same-sex marriage, we know that the struggle continues. We know that there are concrete and steel walls that still need to come down. This Pride month we remember our foremothers who threw bottles and high heels at the cops outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in NYC in 1969. We keep fighting knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

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