Liking, sharing and tweeting our way to marriage equality; Social media provide gay rights movement with a platform for amassing support

by Sara Lombardi and Maria Pansulla
One of the most recognized issues in the United States today is the legalization of gay marriage. While this battle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality has been going on for years, the Internet and social media websites have significantly propelled the movement forward. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a place for people to learn about  the movement and  show  their support for it.
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Most recently, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a civil rights organization for equality, urged Facebook members to change their profile pictures to its red and pink equal sign to show support for marriage equality. HRC posted the picture on Monday, March 25, and according to Facebook, roughly 2.7 million additional Facebook users changed their profile pictures the next day.
“I think it’s great that the public is taking a strong stand for gay rights. I feel in the past the issue was somewhat taboo,” said freshman Frankie Dobies.
The pink equal sign has proven a successful tool for rallying supporters and spreading awareness.
“These small movements are a great way for people to voice their opinion and try to assist others in finding their own,” said junior Tommy Osterman. “With the influx of new technology and the widespread connection of the Internet, opposition to laws and restrictions that are deemed unpopular is much easier to      create.”
The pink equal sign campaign has also succeeded in increasing awareness of the Supreme Court cases concerning Proposition 8, the legislation in California that banned gay marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that restricts federal marriage benefits and mandatory interstate recognition of marriage to straight couples only. HRC streamed live updates of the arguments through its Twitter feed.
Social media such as online chat rooms and support groups form    alternative communities for LGBT citizens when their own communities do not support them. Those who fear physical or emotional danger by coming out or discussing their sexuality are able to seek friendship and encouragement in the privacy of their homes.
While access to social media has allowed students and supporters to advocate for marriage equality,  this same accessibility has led to negative protests against HRC’s campaign. Hashtags like #GodIsLove and #traditionalmarriage popped up the same day  HRC released the pink equal sign, with postings of red crosses  in opposition of same-sex marriage.
While the gay rights movement has as many critics as it does advocates, the ability of campaigns such as HRC’s pink equal sign to spread virally in a day’s time helps to drown out any negativity from the opposition, especially for the audience of young people.
“Changing your profile picture will not legalize gay marriage,” said Osterman. “Similar to raising an American flag or putting a blue star flag in the window during a time of war, it’s merely a way of showing support.”
HRC’s use of social networks has allowed the organization to broadcast its message to a wider audience through a cheap and accessible media platform. The pink equal sign has become a familiar symbol that represents social progress and an increased level of  comfort with regard to marriage equality.
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