Equal Signs Cause Confusion on Facebook

by: Alice Santell

Written Spring of 2013

Terre Haute, Ind – As a Facebook user, you might have been confused when many people changed their profile picture to a red equal sign. One Facebook user named Megan Lineberger said she had been confused by the equal signs because she had not known what they were for.

The red equal sings were a part of the Human Rights Campaign for equality. This started because the Supreme Court was going to be discussing and voting on section three of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Section three says that marriage refers to a legal union between a man and a woman. The Defense of Marriage Act, commonly referred to as DOMA, was signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton.

Those in support of same-sex marriage have been working for years to get the law changed. Since then, there have been nine states that have made same-sex marriage legal. It is also legal in the District of Columbia and a few Native American tribes.

Facebook saw a rise in profile picture changes on March 26. Even though they could not see what everyone changed their picture to, it is clear that many changed it to the equal sign or some form of opposition to the equality symbol.

“I didn’t change my profile picture because I generally like to discuss opinions with people in person instead of posting something to draw out others opinions on myself,” said Rose Newton an Indiana State University student and Facebook user.

“I changed my profile picture because I believe everyone should have the same equal rights to get married. Or privilege, if you want to call it that. It’s not just marriage we’re fighting for, it’s equal healthcare benefits from a spouse’s job, hospital visitation, equal opportunity for housing and so many other benefits marriage brings,” Amanda Isajewics said.

Amanda Isajewics is a student at St. Joseph’s College and is a big supporter of same-sex marriage because she has many friends that are gays and lesbians. She said that even though she is not lesbian, she has many friends who would benefit from same-sex marriage.

“This profile picture change-up is pure advocacy and support. The only thing we are trying to accomplish is letting people know that they are not alone in this battle and showing people that the LGBTQ community is bigger than others may realize,” said Isajewicz.

There are many people fighting for equality by not only showing support on Facebook, but by studying same-sex marriage, going to supportive events such as the Pride Fest, Pride Parade, and Northalsted Market Days which happen in Chicago every year, or being an internet advocate by blogging. One important blogger is J. Scott Coatsworth.


“I think the fight for marriage equality is slowly being won, in large part because so many people now know someone – a friend or family member – who is gay or lesbian. I’m not a lawyer, but my guess is that the court overturns Prop 8 for California only, and overturns Section 3 of DOMA, which would give married couples like Mark and I federal rights, but would leave open the question of what happens in all the states that don’t yet recognize marriage equality – in that case, we probably end up back at the Supreme Court in 5-10 years looking at the rest of DOMA, including the part that allows one state not to recognize a same sex marriage from another state,” said Coatsworth who has blogged and reported on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues for at least five years.

There are not a lot of schools or universities that have programs to study LGBT issues, however, there are many people who study the issues by connecting them to their main study program. People who study law can study the legal aspects of same-sex marriage and even transgender laws. There are many areas of study that can be connected to the LGBT issues.


Kimberly Richman is the Associate Professor of Sociology and Legal Issues at University of San Francisco. She started studying adoption and custody for LGBT couples and then branched into the LGBT marriage laws.


“I think it is a fundamental civil rights issue and I feel that it’s a violation of constitutional rights to ban certain couples from marriage based on their gender or sexual orientation, when we have decided as a country to attach over 1000 legal rights to marriage. But I also think that it’s important that the same rights be in place for couples who choose not to marry for whatever reason, they don’t believe in it or don’t feel comfortable with it as an institution. So the struggle does not end when same sex marriage is legalized,” Richman said.

Same-sex marriage has been and will continue to be important issues for many years, but now with the use of social media and the internet, more people express their opinions because more people are informed on the issues.


“I believe that people should be allowed to marry who they love. Who is to say that a man and a man cannot be married? That whole ‘the bible says thing’ should not affect the way that our government thinks simply because of the separation of church and state,” said Katheryn Snowden, another Facebook user and Indiana State University student.