This week’s marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have been nothing short of historic. For the generations that have come of age since America’s last civil rights victories in the 1950s and 1960s, which is pretty much social media’s biggest demographic everybody, the tidal wave of support has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Facebook and Twitter feeds turned into a sea of red and pink, as gays, lesbians and supporters changed profile pictures to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) logo designed specifically for this week. And, in true social media fashion, silly riffs on the original were fast and furious, with everyone from Martha Stewart to Peeps Easter candy getting into the act. That’s social media for you.
So, who can blame some older school ways of getting the word out like digital and print, and namely Time magazine, from wanting a piece of the fast-breaking action? Professional and armchair SCOTUS watchers will tell you that it is nearly impossible to read any court decision based on the brief hearings conducted by the nine justices, regardless of their typical liberal or conservative leanings. But tweets and blog posts coming from Washington were cautiously optimistic that both California’s Proposition 8 (which took away the right of gay and lesbian Californians to marry) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bans federal recognition of same-gender marriages performed at the state level, were on their way to the discrimination dustbin.
While decisions on either case may not come from the SCOTUS until the end of June, what are remaining print sources supposed to do? Time took a gamble this morning when it issued the digital version of its print magazine (still four days away from newsstands) proclaiming “Gay Marriage Already Won.” For good measure, there will be two versions of this cover, one showing two women kissing, the other showing two men.
Granted the subtitle of the four-page digital story claims that while SCOTUS may not have decided the issue yet, the American public has. (Surveys report anywhere from a solid 51% of Americans now favor marriage equality to upwards of 60%.) The younger and more social media-savvy those surveyed, the higher the supporters go – which according to Time makes marriage equality a done deal. New people being born and old people dying is a tradition older than marriage.
All this is good news for equality, justice and a country that claims everyone is created equal yet has an ugly law in place that denies same-sex married couples 1,138 rights afforded to opposite-sex married couples (including Social Security benefits, inheritance laws, joint tax filings and immigration – just to name some of the most devastatingly denied). Of course, should SCOTUS buck the court of public opinion later this year, that will probably be a much more serious story than Time magazine’s print edition taking a leap of faith to try beating social media to the finish line with this story.
Which brings to mind another Time magazine cover from 16 years ago next month. Essentially Time scooped all its mainstream competitors back in April 1997 when it detailed sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres decision to out her TV character as a prelude to her own coming out in real life. (Yes kids, life was so much more complicated in those early Internet days). DeGeneres’ bold move at the time was worthy of a national magazine cover that (temporarily) ended her television career. I think we all know how that turned out.
Photo credits: Time magazine covers courtesy of Time.com. To see the alternate gay marriage cover featuring two men, click here.