Open Thread: How Do We Move Beyond the Red Avatar to Support Marriage Equality?


As the Supreme Court deliberates and millions of people show support for marriage equality, what more can we do beyond the red equal sign avatar?

I was genuinely shocked when I logged onto Facebook late Tuesday morning and saw a sea of red — dozens and dozens of friends had replaced their profile photos with equal signs to show their support of same-sex marriage.

I was also genuinely moved. I not only felt accepted, but advocated for. And I felt a sense of community I’d never experienced on Facebook before. And it wasn’t just my LGBT friends — but a number of my heterosexual friends. It was having so many of them mixed in that made it feel more real, like more of a change had taken place.

As the day progressed, the numbers of red avatars grew. People (yours truly included) started creating their own versions, which ranged from the politically clever to the absurdly silly. Several  friends who’d made it to the rallies started posting photos of the crowds. Various news sites and blogs started uploading recordings from the hearings. And by the second day of hearings, there were already stories about the profile photo phenomenon happening on Facebook. All told, nearly 3 million people changed their profile pics to some variation of the red and pink equal sign.

I want to acknowledge all those straight friends in particular: I felt and appreciated the love. It didn’t just make me feel equal, it made me feel like I was being carried around on your shoulders at the end of Rudy.

Now before I get too sappy (too late?), I need to answer the question posed in the title.

What are we really fighting for?

While the show of virtual support was wonderful, and indicates in a small way how things have shifted, that’s not enough in itself. And the court battles are not just so we can get married. Gays have been creating their own weddings (commitment ceremonies, civil unions, beach parties) for decades. The same goes for building our own families, whether it’s through biology, adoption, surrogacy or circumstance. We’ve also learned ways to circumvent the walls blocking us from healthcare benefits, visitation rights, inheritance issues and parenting restrictions, so that we can protect these self-made families the best we can. We’re an industrious bunch.

But being a family is hard, regardless of who has what parts. And legal marriage makes all the stuff I’ve described — both the personal stories and the general issues — a little bit easier to manage. So to answer my question: We’re fighting for all of it. For marriage, for equality, for our families, for our lives.

What are some of your ideas for supporting marriage equality? Please comment below.

—photo by Bill Ward’s Brickpile/Flickr

About Brent Almond

Brent Almond is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator, owner/creative director of Design Nut. He's also a non-award-winning father of a toddler, which he writes about (along with stuff about same-sex parent families, adoption, cool kids' products, and lots of cute pics of his son) on his blog Designer Daddy. Brent tweets about daddy stuff @Designer Daddy and about design stuff @The DesignNut. You can also find him on Facebook


  1. It took me a long time to change my profile to the red equals. Of course I support marriage equality, and I gladly did my part in Maryland (letter-writing, etc). But I resisted changing my profile pic — I don’t like to jump on a bandwagon that doesn’t serve its purpose, and I really don’t think the “sea of red” will have any impact on the judges’ decisions. I did it eventually because I was hearing friends say that it made them feel supported (I think your phrase “advocated for” is exactly it). I hope the judges come to the same conclusions that my heart already knows are the right answers. But no matter what, I will keep on advocating for love and equality.

    • Angela:
      Thanks for your support, your letter writing, and yes even for changing your photo! 🙂 But most of all, thank you for being a fair-minded human being who speaks their mind!

  2. Jonathan Bosch says:

    I know it’s obvious to everyone with common sense that denying gay people to marry is a form of denying people civil rights. The sea of red on Facebook was a prime example of it, but that’s because we were seeing our friends & those who are like minded. If you looked out at the real world, like President Obama’s election, it brought out the opposition. While it wasn’t anywhere near as extreme, comments like Justice Salia once again make me wonder how much bigotry we face.

    Having said that, I think that this has created a wave of sanity at least in this aspect of life. I am so proud to be in one of the first states to allow gay marriage & now moving towards sanity in gun regulation. I hope that we finally decriminalize pot so we’ve got more tax revenue & letting the police focus on real crime. As I said, I’m hoping to be a part of the wave of sanity & rise in consciousness. I find the more conscious you are, the happier & productive you are. Be happy!

    • Jonathan:
      Thanks for your input — I know for us gay folks one of the best ways to progress our cause is to be out and be known. Evidence of that working has been seen recently even in a formerly anti-gay Republican. Sounds like you may have had some people make themselves known to you along the way, and they (and your state) are better for it. Keep up the good (gay-marrying, gun-free, legalized pot-smoking) fight!

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