Social media goes red for marriage equality

Jessica Smith

Last week, a sea of red washed over social media, taking the place of users’ profile pictures and backgrounds in conjuction with two U.S. Supreme Court hearings regarding same-sex marriage.

The first, California’s referendum barring same-sex marriage and the nd the other called the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as a “union between one man and one woman” and prevents the government from recognizing the official union of same-sex couples.

The red equal signs all over social media? Those were originaly designed by the Human Rights Campaign as a symbol of support for marriage equality, and was quickly adopted by advocates of same-sex marriage nationwide on all social networking platforms.

The rulings have ignited another surge in public investment on gay marriage rights – but how does the public invest? What’s the difference between genuine advocacy and a passing fad? How much does it even matter to the powers that be?

At Grand Valley State University, some students think the HRC’s red equal sign promotion was an encouraging symbol of solidarity, while others don’t see it as much at all.

“The wonderful thing about the symbol is how quickly it was embraced and picked up on Facebook,” said GVSU student Holden Alee. “As someone who supports marriage equality, I was thrilled to see people taking the opportunity to show their support. It builds such a sense of community and support, something the LGBT community desperately needs.”

As a member of the LGBT community, Alee said he was extremely moved to see so many profile pictures change and that the support meant a lot to him.

“Honestly, I think it’s great because it gives a visibility of how many people support it, but at the same time I’m not sure it will actually affect the Supreme Court ruling,” said Deva Hull, GVSU student.

Although the support makes the LGBT community hopeful, Hull said it’s only a stepping-stone to gaining equal rights.

“Marriage equality won’t help all gay people,” Hull said. “At the end of the day being married is not going to help people who cannot get jobs and sustain themselves. I hope they don’t forget about other things too, just basic rights. I think that’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten during the fight for marriage equality.”

While HRC’s red equal symbol continues to gain popularity online, some students don’t see it lasting for much longer.

“It’s like a couple years ago when everyone was talking about Kony, and how everyone posted all these videos about it and stuff, but who supports that now? Who still posts things on Facebook? They don’t,” said student Courtney Fleeker-Holmes. “It’s gone. It was a fad and that’s just what this is. If it helps people know that they have support then good for them.”

Student Whitney Rhoades said she’ll support the cause, but she’s not likely to promote it.

“I don’t want to say I won’t talk about it, but I don’t like to because usually I found that it creates an argument between two different sides,” Rhoades said. “We all have our own opinions, just don’t discriminate someone else’s opinions.”

Whether the symbol is a fad or a stepping-stone to a bigger conversation, Alee thinks the red equal sign is a positive thing for the LGBT community. He said he disagrees with the perception that changing a profile picture does nothing to make a tangible impact.

“The people who posted the symbol are making a statement. They are saying that not only do they believe in marriage equality, but also that they support the LGBT community,” Alee said. “I reminded my friend that a 14-year-old struggling with her sexuality may see that a friend posted the symbol and turn to that friend for support. All of us know how important it is to feel loved and understood, and it doesn’t matter what form that takes.”
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