You have probably seen somwhere online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, a red square with a pink equal sign (as seen below); but do you know what this means? – This image first appeared on the Human Rights Campaign (HCR) Facebook page at 1 PM on Monday, March 25 in response to the Supreme Court meeting to discuss the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This simple, yet powerful, image has taken over social media.
Background: DOMA was first enacted in the 1990s and states that the federal government will not provide the same, if any, marriage benefits to those legally wed to another member of the same sex. Although same-sex marriage is now lawful in six states, DOMA prevents these married couples from receiving the same federal benefits as married heterosexual couples. Many Americans feel that DOMA is unconstitutional and needs to be overturned. These individuals feel that the federal government is overstepping its boundaries and controlling something that should be left up to each state individually. In contrast, others believe that DOMA presents no threat to the legality or power of a state’s decision making and feel that the outline of marriage, as defined by federal law, is all the proof needed to show that no injustice is being served. Those for DOMA believe that individuals are entitled to marry whomever they wish, but that their choice in partner can determine the extent of legal rights binding them to their spouse.
Whether you are for or against the overturn of DOMA, the HCR has done an excellent job uniting people with a similar cause and bringing a controversial issue to the forefront of popular social media sites. Many public figures, such as the TV shows The Vampire Diaries, Star Trek, and Sesame Street, have incorporated the HRC logo with their own to show their support of same-sex marriage rights. Others saw this movement as an opportunity to add humor to their page by creating memes that tie into the HRC image. Different interpretations of this image have begun to trend, inspiring many social network users to put their own flair to the message. Although witnessing Paula Deen ride two parallel sticks of butter may be highly entertaining, some citizens feel that this pokes fun at a message that has serious intentions. Defenders of DOMA have also caught onto the movement, striking back by turning the two lines into a plus sign or cross. By creating alternative images to those sparked by the HRC, and by creating customized hashtags to better instill their message, DOMA supporters have made this sign of equality their own to show their beliefs in heterosexual marriage. Still, others have repurposed this image further, and have taken it as an opportunity to show their different beliefs by creating their own versions of the now well-recognized picture. The libertarian party has created a noticeable campaign by transforming the equal sign into an X that represents government to be the enemy and that the real solution lies in the people. No matter your stance, this movement has something for you.
It is amazing to see, first hand, the transformations taking place in the technological age and to know that the history books will soon talk of the shift between protests by cardboard picket signs to internet activism by blogs, status posts, and profile pictures. The decision to overturn DOMA is now up to the justices, but it can be said that this historical time mark was greatly influenced by the efforts of the social media community to generate attention and spark debate to this important and lively topic.
By: Dana Andersen, Creatine Marketing