Facebook has introduced two relationship status indicators that folks in the LGBT community might find more useful.
Effective immediately, U.S. residents can choose between “In a domestic partnership” and “In a civil union,” along with the usual roster of relationship options, which currently include Single, In a relationship, Engaged, Married, It’s complicated, In an open relationship, Widowed, Separated and Divorced.
These two new options should be rolled out to residents of other countries soon. In countries where same-sex marriages are already legal, these options will not appear.
A Facebook rep told us in an e-mail, “This has been a highly requested feature from users. We want to provide options for people to genuinely and authentically reflect their relationships on Facebook.”
Facebook and the site’s Network of Support have been instrumental in a few LGBT initiatives in recent months.
After last fall’s string of high-profile gay teen suicides, Facebook teamed up with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to put a stop to anti-gay bullying on the social network. A few days later, the site’s Network of Support (NOS) was officially formed. At the time, we were told that more good news for LGBT Facebook users would be coming soon.
The new statuses are a double-edged sword, however; the civil union/domestic partnership distinction is one that many LGBT groups are currently trying to erase. In fact, marriage equality is one of the key campaigning points for many groups in the NOS, including the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
And many couples in same-sex relationships who have already defined themselves on Facebook as “married” aren’t necessarily eager to adopt the new nomenclature. As one user wrote in a Facebook comment on the Trevor Project’s wall, “I’ll just leave myself listed as ‘married’ — after 14 years, that sums it up, even if it isn’t legal!”
Other commenters were more harsh in their statements, saying that Facebook was adopting the “separate and unequal” policies of the many states that do not allow gay marriage.
Still, it’s good that Facebook is finally recognizing the legal relationships that do currently exist between LGBT couples in the U.S. and in other countries. Whether those status distinctions will be needed in the future remains to be seen — and that is a battleground in which Facebook remains decidedly neutral, although highlighting the lack of marriage equality could be seen as a subtle nod to marriage equality groups during aparticularly critical time.