It is a battle of red vs. blue all over again, this time waged on Facebook with profile images. I was surprised to read in the Marietta Daily Journal that students at one high school in Cobb County, Ga., are posting blue Christian cross signs as their Facebook profile images to combat the red equal signs that show support for marriage equality. But it makes perfect sense.
The blue crosses are a logical response to the Human Rights Campaign's stunning maneuver that changed the dynamics on Facebook. With the careful timing of a military coup, HRC urged Facebook users on March 25 to change their profile photos to red-and-pink equal signs to show support for marriage equality. On March 26, when the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments about whether same-sex couples could marry, roughly 2.7 million people changed their profile photos, according to Facebook data. The nation was taken by surprise, and at least some conservative Christians are fighting back.
In an article titled "Cobb sounds off as Facebook goes red in support of gay marriage," Marietta Daily Journal reporter Jon Gillooly quotes a 17-year-old junior at Walton High School who describes a fierce Facebook confrontation between students who have Facebook profile photos showing either a red equal sign or a blue cross. The student, who is a member of the school's gay-straight alliance, says that the student body is divided on the issue of marriage equality, according to what she sees on Facebook. Here's the relevant excerpt from the Marietta Daily Journal:
"I think it's really split in half because we have a lot of devout Christians at my school, and the Christians' posts are like five paragraphs long," she said. "They post essays on why they believe what they believe, why they oppose gay marriage, what leads them to think that."
There is also a movement of Christians posting blue crosses to signify opposition to gay marriage. Those people come in for no small amount of abuse, she said.
"They get a lot of angry comments and a lot of insults and a lot of bad messages," she said. "It's really awful. I'm for gay marriage, but I think it's awful that people are so accepting because they're for gay marriage, but then they go on people's profiles and they just hate the people with the blue crosses."
Just north of Atlanta, Cobb County has long been a bastion of conservatism. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich represented Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which includes Cobb County. The county is also infamous for mandating that schools label science textbooks with stickers stating that evolution "is a theory, not a fact."
It is wonderful that high school students are politically engaged. It is remarkable that Americans are effacing themselves on Facebook by using a symbol for something they believe in.
However, the HRC's red equal sign has led to a politicization of Facebook that is not in our best interests. Whether it is only happening in one school in the Bible belt or nationwide, the war of blue crosses and red equal signs is further polarizing our country. As a member of the LGBT community and a Facebook member with a red equal sign, I am faced with the quandary of whether to contribute to that polarization or replace my sign with an image of my own face.