The SCOTUS ruling has led many on social media to show their true colors — and triggered many to click on the ‘unfriend’ button
It’s rare that a piece of news can bring so many people together at once without a sports team or election involved. And on June 26, we had one of those days, as the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality nationwide for all LGBT citizens. The outpouring of support was heartening: As gay folks expressed their pleasure throughout the weekend, often turning their Facebook profile pictures to rainbows, their allies chimed in in support, doing the same and cheering for a long-awaited, well-deserved inclusion into mainstream society. It seemed heterosexuals were happy to embrace their gay friends.
Only not all of them.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger turned his profile photo rainbow, one of his fans opined, “What’s wrong with U Arnie? I have to unlike,” to which Ah-nuld replied, “Hasta la vista.”
Some pointed out that as governor of California, Schwarzenegger vetoed a same-sex marriage bill. That was in 2005; in the interim, he has become an ally, publicly supporting the SCOTUS ruling earlier this week. That’s the nature of progressive thinking — we allow people to change their minds and welcome them to the fold.
Not everyone was as encouraging at The Governator. The sad truth was, even those who have gay and/or progressive friends and family members couldn’t resist the chance to express their contempt for marriage equality. The good news was, many wouldn’t cotton to naysayers, and stood their ground but unfriending — or happily being unfriended by — homophobes.
Stacey Oristano, a native of Arlington who now lives in L.A. (and had a memorable role on Friday Night Lights) went rainbow on Facebook in support of her gay friends. Then she got the following message: “Enough with the gay rainbows on your pic…we get it already” “This was my unfriending moment,” Oristano told me.
“I unfriended some family members because they posted some really stupid comments on their wall,” says Raul Torres, a gay fashion designer from Dallas. “I did consider deleting [my personal Facebook] account completely and start with a brand new one.”
Ken Maxwell, a partner at a P.R. firm in Dallas, says he is “struggling with how to respond to a good friend of 20 years who unfriended me and my partner Jim because of a comment I made on her post about the ruling. She posted, ‘I love my gay friends, but I am very disappointed in SCOTUS’ ruling.’The key word here was but: ‘I love my gays but they are seriously not equal.’ She has been posting tons of right-wing news which is a symbol of her descent into some kind of conservative hell. The only other people that [have posted] that kind of propaganda are my handyman, my electrician and a couple of snaggletoothed friends from elementary school in Fort Worth, but they did not defriend me.” Ultimately, though, Maxwell may have the last laugh: He was supposed to meet up with the friend this weekend in Milan, “but she’s not going to have a date for Saturday night [after all],” he says.
“I unfriended someone from high school a couple of weeks ago because of his heavy religious posts,” says John Shore, formerly of Dallas. “It was like I could see what was coming with the SCOTUS vote.”
Alexis Claire found herself unfriended by a Facebook pal once she turned her photo rainbow. The same happened to Dave Greenlaw, director of services for a staffing/recruitment firm in D.C. It had taken his heavily religious mother many years to embrace his orientation, finally coming around to fully support marriage equality. “When the news broke, she immediately messaged me in joy and congratulated me. When I changed by picture to the rainbow background, she followed suit.”
Unfortunately, Greenlaw’s mother received an onslaught of negative comments from her FB friends. “They commented that they’d have to defriend her, that she was being ‘distracted by the devil himself’ and that her son was a faggot.”
Some people, though, have preferred to keep the lines of communication open.
“I came close [to unfriending] with one or two people,” says Steven Walters, an actor and playwright in Dallas. “But I’ve decided the best thing to do is try my best to listen and be open-minded. No one has said anything outright hateful [though] a few people have expressed their disapproval, citing religious beliefs and quoting scripture. Maybe with a little lovin’ I can open their minds and help them see my point of view.”
But Walters does have his limits. “The second I see hateful rhetoric, I’m gonna start clicking!”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 3, 2015.