Civil unions, domestic partnerships now recognized by Facebook

02/17/2011 20:04

From SFGate

Facebook Inc. is recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships as relationship statuses for the social network's members, a move hailed by gay and lesbian advocacy groups as a strong statement of support for same-sex couples.

The social media juggernaut added "in a civil union" and "in a domestic partnership" to the list of available status options for members in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

Previously, Facebook, which has an estimated 600 million active members around the world, offered choices ranging from "single'' and "in a relationship" to "it's complicated."

Or members can chose to hide their relationship status and their sex from their public profiles.

With the new designations, "Facebook sent a clear message in support of gay and lesbian couples to users across the globe," said Jarrett Barrios, president the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

"When millions of Facebook users see these relationship status options, they gain a greater understanding of the legal inequalities faced by loving and committed same-sex couples in so many states today," Barrios said in statement e-mailed to The Chronicle.

"Being able to see same-sex couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships who celebrate their relationships no differently than married couples will serve as another reminder that these couples still lack the same legal recognition and protections associated with marriage. Facebook's noteworthy move also highlights the vast majority of same-sex couples living in states where there are no legal protections whatsoever."

GLAAD is one of the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations that are part of the Palo Alto firm's "Network of Support," formed in October for an educational effort to fight against LGBT cyberbullying.

The groups have been advocating for the relationship status additions since then.

"This has been a highly requested feature from users," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes. "We want to provide options for people to genuinely and authentically reflect their relationships on Facebook."

Facebook also consulted with its internal teams and external stakeholders about the change. The company plans to monitor reaction and roll the feature out in other countries where members make the request.

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