Queer Politics as Radical Democratic Citizenship?
This week the California Supreme Court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage (see article below). This ruling has reignited political, ideological, and religious disputes over the meaning of marriage. Much less discussed in the media is the tension between movements based on achieving same-sex marriage (typically lesbian and gay politics) and movements of queer politics. While there are certainly overlaps between these identity-driven positions, queer politics tends to emphasize the need to challenge heteronormative norms and institutions as well as to de-essentialize sexuality claims. Within this frame, queer politics would seek to disrupt or (re)define what a committed relationship could look like.
In accordance with Chantal Mouffe’s concept of a radical democratic citizenship, the emphasis is not on a particular identity but rather on working against an essentialization of an identity. This combination of the rights of the individual with the pluralistic public asserts that the individual and the collective need not be articulated as dichotomous and that the crucial aspect of political community is the nature of the relationship, the form of the identification between and among individuals. To this end, the primary relations must be centered on the very democratic principles of citizenship upon which the community is built and from which it draws its own legitimacy. There is in some sense a relation or a common purpose among individuals that acknowledges a set of norms or conditions that led to the collective action. Using the notion of a radical democratic citizenship directed towards the California ruling may help to garner support across gay and lesbian and queer movements.