National Commentary

A Hot Red Hue On Facebook

Facebook is awash with bright red this week. A movement launched by the Human Rights Campaign kicked off and has gone truly viral. With two key cases speaking to the issue of gay marriage coming before the U.S. Supreme Court, the HRC proposed that supporters temporarily substitute their profile pictures with a shockingly red version of its big equal sign logo.

The movement took off Tuesday most among gay activists, when the first of the two issues, pertaining to California’s Proposition 8, was argued before the high court. By Wednesday, there was a massive spillover of the Internet activism to friends and supporters of extending equal rights to gays and lesbians, and the whole Facebook nation – except maybe among ex-Sen. Todd Akin admirers – began “seeing red.”

For any but the most jaded among cynics, there is something primordial in the human soul that generates goose bumps, or something akin to them, upon seeing such an outpouring of solidarity for such a good thing. Who cares if it’s achieved only via your computer? We live in such times.

There is little doubt that, the amazingly treacherous Antonin Scalia notwithstanding, the U.S. Supreme Court will bend the long arc of history, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, toward justice, the only question being how far right now.

But no matter, there can be little doubt that the full enfranchisement of gays and lesbians will become the law of the land sooner rather than later.

Thus, the mere attention being paid to this matter by the Supreme Court this week is just cause for great celebration.

It is really not about marriage, but about the full enfranchisement of persons, the extension of the full blessings of the promises of this nation’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution to that last class of citizens who, by law, remain excluded from them.

Of course, no act of a Supreme Court, or enactment of any law, can ensure equality. From the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to the present day, hatred and prejudice have persisted against African-Americans, resulting in acts of wanton cruelty. But still, such acts are subject to legal remedies and, in one of the great symbolic and actual achievements of how far we’ve come, we now have re-elected the first African-American president of the United States.

There are arguments that we’ve had at least one gay president already, but going forward we can envision the first open and affirming one, a woman or man chosen, as with Obama, for their virtue, valor, and ability to lead.

Impatience always attends passionate struggles for equal rights, so for some of our most dedicated activists, no sign of progress will ever be sufficient.

But the speed with which the national ethos shifted on this issue in the last year alone has been remarkable. Within the context of the relentless efforts of the gay movement, itself, it was escalated by two things: 1. The downright mean-spirited tone of last year’s electoral efforts by the Tea Party right wing against women and gays, profoundly offending the sense of fair-mindedness of the vast majority of Americans, and, 2. President Obama’s decisive declaration last spring in support of gay marriage and the full enfranchisement of lesbians and gays.

In one motion last November, the American people kicked out the haters and embraced their victims. Enough was enough. It was truly historic.

The more enlightened among Republicans could not ignore this outcome. They’d known since the Supreme Court ruling, Lawrence vs. Texas, in 2003 that full enfranchisement of lesbians and gays was coming. They exploited as much prejudice as they could in the 2004 Bush re-election campaign, raising huge sums to support anti-marriage and anti-equality initiatives.

But they knew they’d eventually have to shift to get ahead of the gay rights curve, this time by wooing gays and lesbians to their side. That’s happening now. But it remains cynical and insincere, even if marginally useful for dividing the GOP.

This week marks a deserved and overdue victory lap for gays and lesbians, and for American democracy, not for Johnny-come-lately political cynics.

The hot red hue on Facebook reflects the nation’s awakened red blooded passion for justice.