Facebook adds same-sex weddings iconAround the Nation, Top Highlights Thursday, July 12th, 2012
MENLO PARK, Calif. (CNN) – Last weekend, Facebook, the 900-million-person social network, updated its marriage icons to include one for men who marry men and one for women who marry women. The changes took place automatically for many people. James Lazar, a 38-year-old Chicago man who is married to a man, updated his status because of the news.
“I honestly didn’t realize it was going to show up in my feed,” he said with a laugh. “I have 80,000 people ‘liking’ it and congratulating me and I’m like, ‘Well, it was seven years ago!’”
Lazar wouldn’t have considered changing his Facebook status to “married” until the change – not because he wants privacy, but because Facebook hadn’t created icons for same-sex couples. His marriage would have tagged with a cake-topper-looking picture of a male-and-female couple, and there was no way to change it.
“I don’t like being forced into typical gender roles — because we aren’t,” he said. “I think it’s offensive.”
Facebook’s icon shift may seem like a relatively minor update, but for some members of the LGBT community it’s a sign that the social network – and other tech products that, increasingly, serve as some sort of stand-in for real-world identity – is becoming more inclusive of LGBT people.
“People can say ‘Who cares, that’s just an icon,’ but we definitely don’t see it as that because of the scale of this platform and because of its role in our culture today,” said Allison Palmer, a spokeswoman for GLAAD. She added: “There’s more marriage equality on Facebook than there is generally in the United States. In most states your marriage can be recognized by Facebook but not your state.”
This is just Facebook’s latest step in reaching out to the gay community. The social network in 2011 added “in a domestic partnership” and “in a civil union” to its list of relationship statuses, which long has included everything from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated.” This summer it painted a courtyard at its California headquarters in the colors of the rainbow flag, in support of gay pride month. The company likes to brag that the courtyard, which displays the word “HACK,” is visible from space.
Facebook, however, has become a specific target for LGBT activist groups in part because the network does so much these days to shape a person’s digital identity. The social network has formed a taskforce in collaboration with LGBT groups to address issues sensitive to them.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes published an update to his page over the weekend indicating that he had married his boyfriend Sean Eldridge. The item got media attention because of the recently released same-sex icons, and Hughes’ history with Facebook. More than 2,700 people “liked” the update, but one person commented that the marriage was “NOT normal!” Another used a derogatory term for gay people.
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