March 27, 2013

Family Snaps vs. There Must be Blood: More Gay Marriage Protest Optics

Love versus hate. Intimacy versus righteousness. That’s how you can visually differentiate the two sides in the gay marriage protests outside the Supreme Court.


In an era of the manufactured sign and focus group tested slogans, what’s unique about the pro demonstration is how truly individual, intimate and home made it is. Notice the personalized message from the woman touting her kids on the Dean’s list, for example.

Gay marriage demonstration Supreme Court

More predominant are all the family snapshots that have morphed into clothing or onto poster board, or have scaled up to poster size.


It’s also noticeable how the pro-gay marriage demonstrators (evident mostly by signage, but in some case, by the photo caption) represent a broad swath of American life, representing a cross section of roles and ages. In the caption of the lead photo, we’re told that the woman far left is a Reverend. In this case, the couple integrates their gay identity with the fact they are a military family. (Note the counterpoint to the “Soldiers Die 4 Fags” sign below.)


And then, what cuts closer to the heart of traditional values, post-9/11, than America’s veneration for the firefighter or first responder? In this photo, positive and proud in as much a personal as political way, we have the postulation of gay marriage as an extension of civil defense and homeland security.


On the flip side (and not to say this is a complete survey of the anti-gay marriage displays), I was taken by some of the more virulent signage. Particularly noticeable were mixed metaphors and what seems like the merging or confusing of culture war issues.  Don’t those two posters on the right, for example, seem like repurposed anti-abortion attacks? It’s quite a threat cocktail, offense over gay sex and sodomy, and the undermining of the family through, what? general bloodletting? patriotic offense? threat to the unborn?


I thought this was interesting also. Although the three words are intended as discrete, it’s also interesting how family can be equated to property — the property of the morally righteous, I assume, and then the members to each other (children to parents; wife to husband; wife’s body to anyone who claims to know better).


Finally, I was a little surprised how widely this photo was distributed. Besides enlisting the child as a foot soldier alongside the Tea Party guy (more mixed campaigns/metaphors), there was something about the graphic, particularly, that drew me. Beyond the pitch to graphically define whats “traditional” (hello 1940’s!), does it seem that the white space, as foreground, looks like a uterus? The allusion might just be me, but I can’t help thinking, for the far right, it always comes down to the body — and bloodshed.

(photo 1: Win McNamee/Getty Images caption: Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, partner Maggie George, and their daughter Shannon Voelkel take part in a demonstration in front of the U.S. Supreme Court March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments March 26, in California’s proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative that defines marriage only between a man and a woman. photo 2: Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA caption: Gay rights supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it waits to hear the marriage equality case referred to as Prop 8 in Washington DC, on March 26. The Supreme Court is to hear arguments in the cases of Hollingsworth vs Perry and US vs Windsor. The cases involve a California law known as Proposition 8 that bans same-sex marriages there, and a federal law, the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which keeps the US government from offering benefits to same-sex couples.. photo 3: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters caption: Jo-ann Shain (R) and Mary Jo Kennedy (2nd from R) and Shain’s daughter, Aliya Shain, 24, and Aliya’s girlfriend, Brianna Clark (L), from Brooklyn, New York, hold signs as they stand outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2013. photo 4: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images caption: Supporters of same-sex marriage gather in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. photo 5: Win McNamee/Getty Images caption: Jodie Denney, a firefighter from Seattle, Washington, demonstrates in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.. photo 6: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images caption: Opponents of same-sex marriage participate in the March for Marriage in Washington,DC on March 26, 2013 as the US Supreme Court hears arguments on California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. photo 7: Joshua Roberts/Reuters caption: Supporters of traditional marriage demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington March 26, 2013.  photo 8: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images caption: A protester with shouts anti-gay slogans in front of the US Supreme Court March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. Same-sex marriage takes center stage at the US Supreme Court on Tuesday as the justices begin hearing oral arguments on the emotionally-charged issue that has split the nation.)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus