Many people last week opened their Facebooks to find a pink equality sign on a red background populating their Facebook newsfeed. Apparently, the wide-spread adoption of this equality sign as one’s profile photo was a ‘true Internet phenomenon,’ with various news stories covering this Facebook phenomenon more than the real-world phenomenon of gay marriage itself. As to the relation between the two, for most people, the goal in adopting the pink-on-red equality sign as their Facebook profile photo appeared to be to demonstrate support for gay marriage and a certain notion of equality which (as nearly everyone reading this blog is already aware) were the subjects of litigation heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
Others, however, took different tacks, adopting other pink-on-red symbols as their Facebook profile photos. Here I want to concentrate on one such symbol that found its way into Facebook-space, and one which is associated with the group ‘Against Equality’:
Like the equality sign that the Human Rights Campaign popularized, the Against Equality greater-than symbol is usually yellow (rather than pink), situated against a blue (rather than red) background. (So far as I know, Human Rights Campaign has never attempted to trademark the equality sign and/or to challenge Against Equality’s use of a similarly configured—but very different meaning—greater-than symbol.)
I became aware of the Against Equality collective as I was writing a piece on “Dignity, Legal Pluralism, and Same-Sex Marriage,” in which I argued that mainstream gay and lesbian organizations (such as Human Rights Campaign, but many others as well) were missing out on real opportunities afforded by—as these organizations and supportive courts pejoratively characterized them—‘separate but equal’ relationship-recognition schemes in states like California (still) and Connecticut (no longer).
As I see it, the creation of formal relationships situated outside of ‘normal’ majoritarian democratic processes creates the possibility, at least in some contexts, for experimentation with and improvement upon existing relationship and kinship norms. Most fundamentally, then, I see domestic partnership and civil union schemes (at least in some states) as offering the possibility of not 'separate but equal' but, rather, ‘separate and better’ family law for LGBTQ folk. And, hence, my attraction to the greater-than symbol which Against Equality uses in their artful (and rational) critiques of Human Rights Campaign and similarly hegemonic GL (gay/lesbian) organizations.
There are many ways in which a different relationship-recognition structure could afford queer people better norms in the area of family. Some that immediately come to mind include freedom from antiquated, hetero-oriented adultery laws, less expensive and less time-consuming relationship-termination processes (an under-appreciated aspect of California's existing domestic partnership scheme), more flexible norms around relationship-instigated name changes, parenting norms that better represent plural-parenting patterns in queer families, and many others. I’ll explore some of these in subsequent posts, but I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section about ways to expand this project on ‘separate and better’ family law further.