Friday morning, just minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its landmark 5-4 decision to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional – the Internet went all out to show its support for the LGBTQ community.
President Obama, who in 2012 became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage, immediately tweeted from his @POTUS handle, while The White House changed the avatars on all its social media accounts.
Snapchats and Periscope live-streams of the crowd in front of the Court showed people hugging, laughing and crying tears of joy all in real-time. People from NYC to LA took #Pride selfies that they uploaded on Instagram. Even tech giants Google, Apple and Facebook and their CEOs participated in the colorful display of happiness and pride on social media to celebrate the momentous day. Twitter created two custom pride emojis that appeared when people used the hashtags #LoveWins and #Pride.
The impact on Facebook in just one hour after the decision by the Court was monumental. The likes, posts and shares by 3.8 million people in the U.S. resulted in 10.1 million interactions in that time alone based on data provided by Facebook Insights. Simultaneously, Instagram and Twitter erupted into a storm of photo, quote, meme and video sharing. In the four hours after the decision was announced, there were more than 6.2 million Tweets about the Supreme Court's ruling. As the news broke, the number of Tweets spiked, eventually peaking at roughly 20,000 Tweets per Minute as reported by Twitter.
Among the top hashtags used were: #Pride, #LoveIsLove, #MarriageEquality and #EqualityForAll. But #LoveWins quickly rose to become the top trending of the day after President Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and numerous celebrities, including J.K. Rowling began to use the hashtag. By nightfall, the hashtag had over five million Twitter mention.
The news also caused a sharp spike in searches on Google as people rushed onto the web to find out what the decision meant. According to Google Trends, the most searched question was, "Is gay marriage legal?." Popular queries included “marriage equality”, "love wins" and "supreme court" with over 2 million searches for the term “gay marriage” alone. Many also sought clarification on the ruling, searching the term “fourteenth amendment”, but as people started to understand that states now had to both license a marriage between two people of the same sex and recognize the marriage of same-sex couples performed in another state, the queries turned to questions about how the Justices voted and about President Obama's remarks.
The memes of joy and colorful GIFs that splashed onto screens across the nation celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage , but they also highlighted a significant moment in the evolution of civil rights and of Americans' acceptance of members of the LGBTQ community.
A Pew Research poll conducted in 2001 showed that 57 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage. Today, it's the exact opposite. The majority of Americans support same-sex marriage while only 39 percent oppose it.
That change can be seen even on Facebook, where there are a growing number of people willing to come out by self-identifying on the social network as LGBTQ. Data provided by Facebook says that six million people in the U.S. identify as such now, and roughly one million people have joined LGBTQ groups, as illustrated by this post from the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Surprisingly, the four dissenting Justices didn't get as much attention, or trolling, as one might expect on a day like this. People instead spent the day online making tribute GIFs and memes to the Justices who joined in the majority opinion: Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
It was Justice Anthony Kennedy though who became the hero of the day on the Internet. An image that captured a paragraph of the majority opinion authored by Justice Kennedy brought users to virtual tears as they commented on what they believed to be a beautiful, compassionate and romantic definition of marriage. An hour later, the quote had gone viral.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," Kennedy wrote. "As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right." —Justice Anthony Kennedy
Though it's acknowledged that there is still a lot of work ahead in the fight for equal rights, members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters, friends and loved ones took a brief pause for celebration to recognize what a historic day it was for the marriage equality movement.
Now, for the first time ever, same-sex couples are protected under the Constitution from any bans that would deny them the same rights as heterosexual couples. That's how love won the Internet yesterday.