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HomoTech: Facebook Introduces Same-Sex Marriage Icons

by Shaun Knittel
Contributor
Thursday Jul 5, 2012
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Facebook users are a diverse lot. Members post everything from a picture and caption of what they ate for lunch ("OMG! So interesting!") to breaking news that they just bought a puppy. Posts, or status updates, range from the embarrassing to heartfelt and regardless of how any of us feels about it, Facebook and its army of loyal "friends" are here to stay ... and post and upload and share every moment of their lives.

One of the most interesting things that Facebook has visibly changed about society is the way people go about declaring and showing their love and affection. Remember when flowers and a card reading, "I Love You" expressed your emotions? Today, your relationship is not complete until you post that you are "in a relationship with XX." Likewise, your breakup is not complete until you tell the world you "went from being in a relationship to single." Both must be posted on Facebook, of course (in many cases, the second notice following the first in a matter of days; or hours).

People can bitch and moan about oversharing and everyone talking but nobody listening, but it’s here, it’s life in the 2010s and it’s not going away anytime soon.

With Americans growing increasingly more accepting of same-sex marriage, it was only a matter of time before Facebook’s gnomes gave the wedded (or hope-to-be) LGBT an icon of their own to indicate marital status on their Timelines.

On July 1, Facebook rolled out the new cake topper-style icon, with two grooms or two brides as choices, in place of the already existing bride-and-groom icon.

You know what? I think it’s just silly -- and just a little bit awesome! I love my partner, and if all goes well in November, Washington State voters will keep same-sex marriage the law in the Evergreen State.

Even now, before the marriage, I call him "husband." But I want that to be more than just a cute nickname in front of guests at a dinner party. By putting it on Facebook, I’m proclaiming it to the world (because the world is on Facebook).

Allison Palmer, spokesperson for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, sees the new icons as allowing gay newlyweds "to see themselves in the choices they make, and that means a lot."

The first known person to choose the new icon was writer, activist and author Jeremy Hooper. He updated his Timeline over the weekend with his June 2009 Connecticut marriage to healthcare CEO Andrew Shulman. It included not only a photo of the happy couple but also a two-groom icon. Hooper’s update was soon followed by that of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, whose marriage to Sean Eldridge on Saturday was one of the social "musts" of New York’s summer season.

To be fair, Facebook isn’t the first to introduce same-sex icons to users. Two weeks ago, Apple updated its iPhone operating system with gay and lesbian emojis (texting and email emoticons) featuring same-sex couples and families.

The addition of the same-sex marriage icons is the latest in Facebook’s support of the LGBT community. In February 2011, the company added civil unions and domestic partnerships to relationship status options.

In 2010 Facebook, GLAAD and other LGBT organizations created "Network of Support," the social network’s initiative to combat cyber bullying and support LGBT teens. In June, Facebook received a GLAAD media award for its support of the LGBT community.

GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro says that the visibility offered on Facebook can help pave the way for more gay rights in the future because it offers another platform where people can see same-sex couples as committed and loving as any couple.

"People can see photos of families and come to realize we deserve the same opportunities to love and take care of each other," he said. While the new Facebook cake-topper offerings "are just a small icon," he added, LGBT youth can see that "they too can hopefully have that opportunity to love and be happy in the future."

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.

This article is part of our "HomoTech" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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