Since President Obama made his intentions clear on May 9 in support of gay marriage, the number of YouTube searches related to his announcement spiked overnight. According to the Associated Press, searches for “gay marriage” and “Obama” jumped 458 percent between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET and drew more than 3 million views and hundreds of thousands of comments.
It’s clear even before Obama’s ABC interview and the aftermath that the debate over same-sex marriage has become a generation-defining topic, especially in social media. Campaigns for and against same-sex marriage have already used the power of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to make their voices heard for better or for worse—some videos have garnered more than 1 million views. How has YouTube impacted the debate on gay marriage? Here’s a few examples:
One instance where someone speaking in defense of same-sex marriage got the viral treatment happened in Iowa, when University of Iowa student Zach Wahls, who has two mothers, made a passionate plea to a state legislature committee to oppose a bill that would outlaw same-sex partnerships. He shoots down the often cited argument against gay marriage that they cannot be fit parents by saying to them, “In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.”
The video has garnered more than 16 million views and has springboarded Wahls from ordinary student into a national advocate in favor of marriage equality for all. Since support for same-sex marriage is higher in the coastal states like California and New York, the Iowan’s passionate plea to keep equality in Iowa has brought more people into the forefront for this cause.
Also known as the “pro-marriage” crowd because of their support for “traditional” marriage between opposite sexes, they too have had their share of publicity. However, it seems their views on gay marriage have been mostly in the form of videos gone viral on YouTube. In the weeks leading up to and following a referendum banning same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships in North Carolina in early May, two pastors reactions to same-sex marriage and gay rights have been the subject of media frenzy.
For instance, Pastor Sean Harris suggested to fathers in a video sermon that if their sons were “dropping the limp wrist” they should “walk over there and crack that wrist.” Although he took much criticism from many sides for seeming to advocate abuse, he claimed it was a joke but still felt “that effeminate behavior is ungodly.”
Harris’ “joke” did not hold a candle to another North Carolina pastor who suggested in a recent viral video that gays and lesbians should be put in an electrified pen. He states in his rambling sermon, “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”
Whether polarizing or inspiring, YouTube has helped make the debate on same-sex marriage and equal rights for all Americans more visual than ever before.