As the fight over marriage equality plays out in the U.S. Supreme Court, advocates for same sex marriage are letting their voices be heard online. With his popular Facebook page, Gay Marriage USA, Murray Lipp has a rare platform to communicate with an enormous audience on a daily basis.
Gay Marriage USA's page is listed as a cause on Facebook. The site has more than 331,000 likes. Its success comes as no surprise to Lipp, who had previously run a similar page supporting gay marriage in New York State.
“Being gay, and having been involved in LGBT activism for many years, I knew there was a lot of interest to support this type of project. And I knew I had the level of passion for the issue and the type of social media skills needed to ensure success,” he told SFGN.
The Facebook page allows users to post comments, photos and share information about issues surrounding gay marriage. There are countless pictures of people from outside the Supreme Court during the same sex marriage hearings; but the ones that really stand out are from couples and families.
“Lots of people send me private messages and emails about the page. Some people write to say 'thanks' that the page exists as the photos and content featured on GMUSA speak to their lives — it validates their sense of identity in certain respects, in ways that mainstream society does not,” Lipp said.
Mindy Dawn Rutherford likes the feeling of community on Gay Marriage USA. “They help me stay focused on what is really important for this country. They share stories, news lines, quotes etc. It keeps me in touch with people who also fight the good fight,” she said.
For others, the site is an online help column, like Dear Abby. “Some people write to me seeking advice or guidance on situations they find themselves in - being closeted, living in a community which doesn't make them feel welcome. Occasionally I receive anti-gay, homophobic comments but for the most part I don't even bother responding as they are usually so ridiculous they don't even warrant getting angry about,” Lipp said.
There have been other issues as well. Earlier this year, Lipp experienced problems with Facebook in regards to anti-equality groups misusing Facebook’s reporting system in an attempt to stop the site’s growth. The photograph of the marriage of a bishop at a relatively small Pentecostal church movement with his husband resulted in a number of complaints. Soon after, Facebook told Lipp that he would be prohibited from posting content on to the Gay Marriage USA Facebook page for a week for breaking Facebook's "policies and community standards".
Despite those bumps in the road, Lipp sees a bright future for the site and himself. He predicts the page could grow to a million followers.
“I can see in the future the possibility of progressing beyond Facebook to starting my own website or organization,” he said. “But I would never abandon the Facebook platform because it's such an effective way to reach a huge audience and remains the number one social networking site in the world”.
As for gay marriage, Lipp said he can envision the day when it is legal in all 50 states. He thinks that day is coming faster than most people think.
“One thing is clear, the issue is not going away and we have already seen Republicans starting to realize they have to support equality or basically face defeat at the ballot box,” he said. “Marriage equality is coming — it's just a matter of time!”