“So, what does that red square on Facebook mean?” asked a perplexed friend, having noticed that his Facebook friends were starting to look a lot alike: One by one last week, profile photos became red squares with a pink “equals” symbols in the middle.
“It’s a show of solidarity to the gay community, while the Supreme Court hears the case on the legality of gay marriage,” I explained.
“Oh, OK, cool,” he replied.
But I noticed that he didn’t change his profile photo. Maybe he doesn’t support the idea that every American should have the same rights as every other? Or maybe he doesn’t want anyone to know that he does? Or maybe he just thinks that changing your profile photo on Facebook is stupid and doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Maybe it’s just more “slacktivism” — posting things on Facebook rather than actually doing anything to make real change. It’s way easier to cut/paste/post than get off your butt and demonstrate or volunteer.
Or maybe he just didn’t get back onto Facebook yet to change it because he’s too busy painting or kissing his wife or taking a long, lazy walk, in which case, he might be the most intelligent person I know.
Me, I made the red box my profile photo last week. Will it affect the Supreme Court ruling in any way? No. Will it change anyone’s mind? No. Will it produce one single tangible change? No. But it will say, right out loud and in your face, that I support all my gay friends, and gay couples everywhere, in enjoying the exact same privileges that my husband and I, and all straight couples, take for granted.
No, the red square won’t change anything. But it may give others a little flash of hope or comfort, and that’s worth something, isn’t it? It may also encourage others who are too timid to take a public stand to clear their throats and speak out — to be another voice in the choir, that the song may become louder and louder until it can no longer be ignored. Also worth something.
“If I can stop one heart from breaking, ease one life the aching, cool one pain, or help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not have lived in vain.”
Or posted a red box in vain.
With apologies to Emily Dickinson.
Because, in all reality, what can I actually do to combat discrimination against a whole segment of our population? I’ve written column after column on the topic, dating back to 2004. I didn’t change anything for gay couples. Or end the war in Iraq or prevent the mind-numbing reelection of George W. Bush or break Monsanto’s stranglehold on the global food market, for that matter.
After all’s said (or written) and done, the grand sum total impact I’ve had on any of these or countless other weighty issues is, precisely, zero. And yet, I’m compelled to let my fingers flicker across the keyboard and capture my thoughts, because I’m intrinsically incapable of sitting in the stands and saying nothing. I must jump up and yell, “Hey, hey, hey, look at this!” and shake my pompoms as frantically as I can.
Not that it does any good. I know this. But I do it anyway. Because I can’t not.
I’m just a voice of one, calling in the worldwide web wilderness.
With apologies to John the Baptist.
All that said… and yet, I type. And what am I typing about gay marriage? It is this: We shouldn’t allow gay couples to marry. Just take it off the table. Make it illegal, once and for all. But here’s the deal: it’s illegal for everyone, straight and gay alike. Either everyone gets to play, or no one does. Why? Simple. Marriage is unconstitutional.
Marriage is a construct of the church, and one of our country’s most basic ideals is the separation of church and state. The First — First! — Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
Marriage is an establishment of religion. And, therefore, unconstitutional. It is a violation of the Constitution for the federal government to recognize or create any laws that allow favoritism to one set of people over another based on religious beliefs. As for state laws, what happens in the states, stays in the states. Call it marriage, call it a duo, call it a turnip. Whatever. But as for arbitrarily applying different rules, rights and benefits to different people based on religion? Not legal. Not anywhere.
That said, there all sorts legal and financial benefits to marriage. Equality aside, I don’t want to give up the goodies. So, in place of marriage, everyone can identify one person as his or her “legal partner,” who has access to you in the hospital, gets your Social Security benefits if you die and cannot be forced to testify against you in court. And whether that person is of the same sex or different is irrelevant. You decide who your legal partner is, not the government, and for sure, not the church. Particularly someone else’s. Period. End of discussion.
Equal playing field for all, or no playing for anyone.
So, what if I go from “wife” to “legal partner.” I can live with that. It will have the same impact on my marriage as allowing gay couples to marry will: zero. That particular argument riles me the most. It’s like this, homophobes: Gay marriage doesn’t cheapen heterosexual marriage. But standing by while others are denied the same rights you enjoy will cheapen your soul.
So yes. This is my column. And that is my red equality square. And in the end, both will have the same result: nothing. But, by Goddess, everyone who sees them knows exactly where I stand, and may they feel support. Hope. Love. Encouragement. And I shall not have written in vain.