How Marriage Equality Got Its Meme

When you’re a celebrity and you’ve made it, you get a star in the sidewalk. When you’re a journalist, you get a Pulitzer. On the Internet? You’re memorialized in a meme.

That’s exactly what happened yesterday when the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments for two historic marriage equality cases. An equal sign with fangs. Two beer cans as an equal sign. A pair of corgis splayed across a red background. All of these were reinterpretations of the Human Rights Campaign’s marriage equality logo – something you likely saw yesterday as your Facebook feed was flooded by a sea of red and pink equal signs. Marriage equality supporters changed their profile photos to a re-colored version of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) iconic logo – showing solidarity and filing their own Facebook amicus brief, so to speak.

Yesterday was a real, tangible tipping point on this issue. The Internet recognized the gravitas of the situation and met it head-on, in the way that only the Internet could. Across the web, people, organizations, and brands showed their support, many even co-opting the red and pink equal sign and incorporating their own flair.

What made this campaign so successful? Well, in a time of significant noise (digital badges, Twitter storms, and the constant “make your voice heard” cry from near and far), HRC was the right organization to hit the right notes, at the right time.

  1. Sometimes the Internet does best when it’s not all about the Internet. Even if you live under a social media rock, you would know that yesterday’s hearings were all anyone could hear, see, or read. It wasn’t about raising awareness on a seemingly arbitrary day of solidarity; the issue had long been garnering significant media coverage that culminated yesterday. HRC gave supporters a way to take an action around a top-of-mind issue that was actually at a very real decision point (it doesn’t get more real than the highest court in all the land).
  2. Who knew? Iconic images CAN get more iconic. HRC’s equal sign logo is already special. It quickly and compellingly conveys the mission of the organization. Commanding a Facebook following of more than one million fans, HRC asked its networks to take action on March 26 by changing their profile photos. As a trusted voice in the movement for LGBTQ rights, HRC was able to harness the energy of its already-engaged audience with a simple ask.
  3. Celebrities and brands helped grow the avatar movement – and individualize it. As a result of HRC’s leadership on this issue, celebrities used the organization’s digital badge to show support for marriage equality. George Takei asked his fans to change their profile photos and Beyoncé wittily shared, “if you like it, you should be able to put a ring on it.” Brands—as demonstrated by recent commercials from Expedia, Amazon, and JCPenney—have also taken a stand on marriage equality and used this opportunity to showcase their support. Images below show some examples of the brands that re-interpreted HRC’s logo, such as Martha Stewart Living, Bud Light, Fab, and True Blood.

Brands, friends, celebrities – these were all important voices in yesterday’s online uprising. But it is a message like the one below that shows how incredible it is when the internet comes full circle.

Without futher ado, we leave you with some of our favorite marriage equality memes.

True Blood

Bud Light


Lady Liberty

Happy Passover