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Facebook lights up with reaction to high court gay marriage rulings

June 26, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • Above, a heat map of Facebook users expressing happiness over the Supreme Court's decisions on gay marriage Wednesday. California ranked highest in "happiness" mentions, Facebook said.
Above, a heat map of Facebook users expressing happiness over the Supreme… (Facebook )

SAN FRANCISCO -- A lot of people heard the news on Facebook that the U.S. Supreme Court had issued rulings striking down the federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman and paving the way for again permitting same-sex marriages in California. And, no matter which side of the issue they fell, they couldn't wait to share it with friends.

Soon the giant social network was flooded with status updates, likes and comments. The company estimated more than 4 million mentions by 1 p.m. Pacific time. California ranked highest in "happiness" mentions, Facebook said.

Among those updating his status was Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. "I'm proud that our country is moving in the right direction, and I’m happy for so many of my friends and their families," he wrote.

Facebook examined 10 keywords related to the court's decisions on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act including "DOMA," "gay" "unconstitutional," "Prop 8," "marriage" and "equal." Of those, "DOMA" was the most talked-about term. "Unconstitutional" had the largest percentage spike in mentions, Facebook said.

Lots of Facebook users also changed their Facebook profile pictures to the Human Rights Campaign's symbol for equality. The HRC created an app called Picture Equality that puts the red equal signs over profile pictures.

About 70% of people on Facebook in the U.S. has at least one friend who has identified himself or herself on Facebook as gay, lesbian or bisexual, Facebook said.

That would tend to suggest deep political changes have taken place in recent years as Americans have become more comfortable with having gay and lesbian friends and with gay marriage. But bear in mind, not everyone in the U.S. is on Facebook. The giant social network says it has 195 million users in the U.S. and Canada.

Facebook’s findings echo others. A Pew survey released this month found that some 87% of Americans now personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, up from 61% in 1993. And a recent Washington Post/ABC survey showed that 63% of Americans support the legalization of gay marriage.

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