In case you haven’t noticed, social media have been taken over this week by a mathematical symbol, the “equal” sign:
The symbol stands for marriage equality in the United States, as their Supreme Court is currently hearing two landmark cases that could set important precedents for same-sex marriage rights.
The red equal sign is a viral campaign by an organization called Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT equality-rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States. It’s an update of their yellow and blue logo, adopted in 1995.
Which is where we come in.
As an agency specializing in government advertising, we were asked by the Department of Justice to create a campaign to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Marriage equality had been passed based on the spirit of equality set out in the Charter, so it was a perfect reminder of why the issue was important to everyone.
We developed several concepts. The one selected by the client was inspired by the equal signs I had seen displayed prominently in a New York City Pride Parade a few years earlier. Little did I know, at the time, that the symbolism there had been seeded by the Human Rights Campaign.
And so that’s how a symbol that today is being shared all over social media to encourage legal recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States, in 2005 ended up on a print ad for the Government of Canada declaring the same belief.