Even if you had no idea about today’s historic events at the U.S. Supreme Court, you’d be blind not to notice a movement swelling online.
In the nation’s capital, oral arguments began yesterday on California’s Prop. 8, which amended the state Constitution to ban the right for same-sex couples to marry, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which has limited the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman since 1996. Rulings are expected by the end of June.
In the midst of the hearings, marriage equality activists have taken to the streets–and to the, er, tweets–to make their voice heard. People across Facebook and Twitter have switched their profile pictures to become a red square with a pink equal sign–a variation of the blue-and-yellow logo of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.
The color takeover, which launched in the early afternoon on Monday, was led by Anastasia Khoo, director of marketing for the HRC.
“By harnessing the passion that equality supporters feel for the freedom of loving and committed couples to marry,” she told Yahoo! News, “the internet is awash in a sea of red—the color of love.”
Facebook users shared the HRC’s red logo more than 100,000 times as of 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the nonprofit’s Tumblr blog. The pixels continue to spread.
The logo got a significant bump on Tuesday morning from a Facebook post by the ever-popular George Takei. The Star Trek actor wrote, “For those friends wondering, this special ‘red’ equality symbol signifies that marriage equality really is all about love. Thanks to the Human Rights Campaign for this effort. Please consider changing your profile today in support–esp if you are a straight ally.” As of Tuesday night, his status update had more than 77,000 likes and 39,000 shares.
Other high-profile personalities who participated in the profile pic swap included celebrities like Sophia Bush and Lance Bass. Superstar Beyoncé showed solidarity in her own way, posting a handwritten note on her Facebook page that said, “If you like it, you should be able to put a ring on it. #WeWillUniteForMarriageEquality!”
While the symbol originated in earnest, the Internet’s twisted sense of humor quickly fueled spin-off parodies, including red-tinted images of cultural fads, from bacon strips to Grumpy Cat, and Bilbo Baggins to Paula Deen.
This certainly isn’t the first campaign to go viral. Similar messages spread when Congress tried to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), which caused people to literally “blackout” the Internet. And you could write countless stories about the memes and hashtags that developed out of the Arab Spring and Occupy movements.
Skeptics argue that social media-driven campaigns like these do little to make a real impact. A writer for VICE magazine put it bluntly: “The Red Marriage Equality Sign on Your Facebook Profile Is Completely Useless.” He argues that it would be more effective to protest and get arrested, write a letter to your senator demanding marriage rights for everyone, or debate the issue with conservative family and friends to try to change their opinion on the subject.
No matter whether the logo ends up changing law, one thing is for sure: people are seeing red. And wondering how to do something about it.