Facebook’s new relationships

By Michael Jeffrey

While relationship recognition laws constantly change, Facebook has introduced new options allowing users to more accurately identify their relationships.

On Feb. 17, Facebook launched two new options globally available for users’ relationship statuses: “in a civil union” and “in a domestic partnership.”

OUTsource, UK’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) organization, and other students agree that this new support is increasing awareness and is a big step in the right direction.

“I feel that Facebook is trying to be more aware of people who are not in the hetero-norm, that can only be married,” OUTsource Director Erik Bentley said.

Before the changes, the options for a user’s relationship status read: “divorced,” “separated,” “widowed,” “in an open relationship,” “it’s complicated,” “married,” “engaged,” “in a relationship” and “single.”

“I think that it’s a good way for people to express what they actually have, rather than what is available,” OUTsource member Katie White said.

Facebook’s network of support contains LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. These organizations were the driving force behind the changes that have been made.

“Facebook’s changes are also used to continue to make people feel more comfortable and encourage them to be who they really are,” Bentley said. “When I changed my relationship status to ‘in a civil union,’ I got an overwhelmingly positive response.”

Overall, this is another big step for the same-sex relationship movement, but students agree that there has been no visible influence on society.

“It is great Facebook allows us do that,” freshman Perry Gibson said. “However, it still does not change the perspective of society in real life.”

Online networks are not perfectly shielded from reality. Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, stressed that social networks can’t always protect people from becoming victims of online harassment.

Since 1970, LGBT organizations like OUTsource have been fighting to gain marriage rights and acceptance from the majority of society.

Today, 12 states recognize some level of spousal rights to same-sex couples.