Supreme Court DOMA: Facebook and How It's Brought Us Closer to the DOMA Frontier


Facebook enables us to publicize the color of our hair, our sexual orientation, our opinion on the current state of the government, and now our support of the Supreme Court overthrowing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Beginning in March, when the symbol of the pink-on-red equality sign was embraced by a congruence of Facebook enthusiasts and political activists, a movement was afoot. People changed their profile pictures to the equality sign because it showed support for gay marriage, because this social-media-friendly explosion of opinion might impact the Supreme Court decision on DOMA, and because George Takei said so. 

The beginnings of the marriage equality symbol were humble. Human Rights Campaign Marketing Director Anastasia Khoo took the current HRC symbol of a yellow equal sign on a blue background and “decided to tinge it red because it’s the color of love.” Then, HRC started a campaign on its Facebook page, urging the online community to express their support of gay marriage round the time the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in the gay-marriage cases.

A recent Washington Post/ABC survey showed that 63% of Americans support the legalization of gay marriage. Facebook intended to collect its own data by analyzing the number of members who changed their profile picture to the "equals" sign on a weekly basis. Accordingly, nearly 2.7 million people changed their profile picture to the marriage equality symbol during the week of the DOMA oral arguments, and the majority of supporters were around 30.

The chances that the strong social media response will rise to the court's attention are very slim, since it is unlikely that Judge Kennedy, the potential swing vote, either has a Facebook, or considers Facebook a valid platform for current issues discourse. However, despite those small chances, online activism has shown, most notably through its role in the defeat of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act last year, that maybe it can change people.

Finally, let's not forget celebrated actor, activist, and personality George Takei, whose unwavering support of gay rights contributed significantly to the expansion of the issue on Facebook and Twitter. By adding his own twist to the marriage equality symbol, Takei received accolades for his humor as well as for his activism. With the aid of his astronomical Facebook and Twitter fanbase, the actor brought the issue of gay rights to the forefront.

Facebook is not just for browsing old roommates' wedding pictures. Facebook reveals our values as a society, and on Wednesday it ought to reflect the nation's support of marriage equality.