After the Human Rights Campaign released a new marriage equality logo on March 25, 2013, Facebook had an increase of 120% in profile picture changes. Many people chose to upload the equality photo in order to show that they are in support of equal rights and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. What was the Human Rights Campaign’s motivation behind this campaign? Did the changing of one’s Twitter and Facebook’s profile actually do anything, or was it just slacktivism instead of activism?
The Human Rights Campaign was founded in 1980 and is the biggest organization advocating for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The HRC Organization “mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about LGBT issues.” There are currently 1.5 million plus members and supporters of the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign original logo created in 1995 featured a yellow equal sign with a blue background. However, HRC revamped their logo in suspense for the Supreme Court decisions about United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Supreme Court was debating whether or not to rule the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA legally defined marriage as being a union between one and one woman. The Humans Right Campaign asked its supporters to make their profile pictures on Facebook their new and improved equality symbol, which was red representing love. HRC was attempting to get as many people as possible to join them in the fight for equality. HRC released this plan on March 25, 2013, and on March 26, 2013, there was a 120% increase in profile picture changes.
This widely successful campaign would not have been as big of a hit if it weren’t for celebrities such as Beyoncé, Sophia Bush and Ellen DeGeneres sharing the logo and plan to their millions of followers around the world. Many businesses such as Bud Light and Smirnoff advertised the equality logo with their own recreation – to show support while simultaneously advertising. According to Huffington Post’s map analysis, “same-sex marriage gets more support in the more liberal Northeast and West, less in the South. Additionally, Facebook found that 30-year-olds were the most likely to change their profile picture, with around 3.5 percent doing so. The data also showed that, unsurprisingly, those living in college towns were the most likely to change their profile pictures.”
Did any of this actually make a difference? It is very possible. Although it is doubtful that it had an actual effect of the legislation, it could very possibly have an effect on one’s Facebook friends. When somebody sees that many of their friends support gay marriage, they are more likely to see it as a “social norm,” and feel confident to be vocal about their stance. There is nothing wrong with two people loving each other and being happy together, and if one sees their friends being open and supportive, the “snowball effect” could take place for them too. Many people are obsessed with being “cool” and “fitting in,” and HRC managed to make believing in equal rights “trendy.” Lastly, seeing a supportive network of “friends” could make all of the difference for someone who is struggling with their identity or sexuality. A supportive, stable environment is the safest way for someone to come out comfortably. With justice, on June 26, 2013 the Supreme Court ruled to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, with five out of nine members choosing to do so.