Google’s “Legalise Love”

UPDATE: Here’s Google official page for “Legalise Love”

Yesterday, a tweet came through my feed from Think Progress (which is described on its Twitter feed as “Hard-hitting political news and analysis”) that said: “BREAKING: Google announces worldwide campaign to legalize same-sex marriage http://thkpr.gs/MdndHj“.

Think Progress’ article links to a dot429 post, posted on July 6. According to dot429‘s “About Us” page, “429Magazine provides exclusive articles written by industry insiders, politicians, and key LGBTA leaders, covering everything from finance and business to leisure and entertainment. dot429 provides members with a fresh take on current issues: the queer professional perspective.” From what I can tell, most articles about “Legalise Love” refer back to this dot429 post. For example: CNN or PC Magazine.

From what I can tell (with the help of the brilliant online researcher @hubbit), the dot429 article is basically a shorter version of Gay Star News‘ account that posted that same day (though dot429 doesn’t like to GSN so it’s possible there’s another source they both are pulling from that I have failed to locate).

As of 1:55pm CST, Google has not issued a press release about “Legalise Love.”

I have some basic questions about “Legalise Love.” First, is it real? Second, what does it have to do with marriage, as Think Progress‘ tweet and post, and dot429‘s article claim?

Is it real?

I want to believe it is and it probably is (or that is one damn good made-up article on GSN – there a ton of quotes from the “Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London” that took place “today (6 July).” It was “hosted by US gay and trans employment experts Out and Equal ahead of World Pride in the UK capital tomorrow”.). But there’s no actual proof or word from Google itself. I will update this post once we receive word.

(UPDATE: Fact that Google spokesman made statement to clarify what “Legalise Love” is about shows it’s real)

What does it have to do with marriage?

I’m going to now list the quotes from Google that Gay Star News provides in its article:

Google’s Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe said: ‘We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office. It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work.’ […]

‘Singapore wants to be a global financial center and world leader and we can push them on the fact that being a global center and a world leader means you have to treat all people the same, irrespective of their sexual orientation.’ […]

Palmer-Edgecumbe said he believed this would be good for Google’s business.

‘Obviously it is the right thing to do but secondly there is a very powerful business case for us,’ he said.

‘We operate in very many countries and have a very globally mobile workforce. We have had a number of instances where we have been trying to hire people into countries where there are these issues and have been unable to put the best person into a job in that country.

‘Conversely we have had to move people out of countries where they have been experiencing homophobia to a different location. And we are also having to support staff in those countries in terms of relationships with the government and homophobia they are experiencing outside of the office.’

Gay Star News interprets the “Legalise Love” project as:

Google is launching a new campaign calling on countries to ‘Legalize Love’ – making it legal to be lesbian, gay or bisexual around the world. […]

It will tackle places where it is illegal to be gay, or where there are other anti-gay laws or where the culture is homophobic.

Nothing about marriage specifically. As it should be. There is NOTHING in this report to indicate that Google means *just* marriage.

Yet, when dot429 picked up the story, the author, Anne Pierano’s first sentence is:

Google is launching a new campaign called “Legalize Love” with the intention of inspiring countries to legalize marriage for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people around the world.

Huh?

There are two problems with this quote:

  1. dot429 has taken a very broad anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic campaign and dwindled it down to the an issue that is forefront in the US and only forefront in the US among certain groups of gay, lesbian, queer, or trans* Americans. Google is not starting their project in the US: it will begin in Poland and Singapore.
  2. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual” erases trans people, who Google SPECIFICALLY mentions. GSN did the same thing.

Think Progress then erases trans people even more in their reporting. The author, Judd Legum, who also runs TP’s twitter feed, started his post this way:

Today, Google has announced an ambitious effort to legalize same-sex marriage across the globe. The project, called “Legalize Love,” was annouced earlier today at an event in London focusing on LGBT issues in the workplace.

“Same-sex marriage”. This term, along with “gay marriage,” is much less inclusive than Pierano’s use of “marriage equality” and the broad scope of Google’s supposed mission. “Same-sex marriage” erases queer and trans people who are deserving of and looking for the rights that are all bundled up in marriage in this country but who fall outside of the gender binary that we all hold onto so dearly.

So, we go FROM Google announcing it want to fight alongside grassroots organizations around the world, starting in Poland and Singapore, for the rights that “gays or lesbians or transgender people” deserve TO Google wants to fight for “same-sex marriage.” That’s some fail in analysis right there. Also, a BIG fail in inclusivity. dot429 started it and Think Progress ran with it. Now almost ALL the reporting that I can find about “Legalise Love” does so through the lens of marriage.

_______________

As I went to post this, I found this from The Washington Post:

The Internet has been buzzing this weekend over a reported announcement by Google that it is launching a worldwide push to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the tech giant says its new “Legalize Love” campaign isn’t about gay marriage at all, but rather supporting workers in countries that criminalize homosexuality.

“‘Legalize Love’ is a campaign to promote safer conditions for gay and lesbian people inside and outside the office in countries with anti-gay laws on the books,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement.

The internationally focused campaign will launch Monday at an LGBT conference in London. Ernst & Young and Citigroup have signed on as partners, the spokesperson said.

CNN reports that Legalize Love “will focus on countries such as Singapore, where certain homosexual activities are illegal, and Poland, which has no legal recognition of same-sex couples.”

The confusion over the focus of the campaign appears to have started with a post at Dot429.com, which reported that Google hoped to inspire “countries to legalize marriage for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people around the world.”

As a friend pointed out to me on Twitter just now, the latest Google statement erases trans* people from the equation, despite the initial announcement specifically including transgender people. That is a HUGE disappointment.

I’m hopeful this is the fault of the spokesman responding to the dubious reports about marriage and not a broader sign about the project. I was EXTREMELY happy to see that Google was imagining “Legalise Love” in very inclusive ways, ways often not seen even within parts of the feminist community.

We’ll have to watch and see. Do right, Google. Please. Do right.

____________

I’d like to add one thing. I feel that if I don’t say that I think this project by Google could be problematic, it could be interpreted that I am whole-heartedly, without reservation applauding their effort.

I like the *idea* a lot. One of my very good friends is a gay POC living in Singapore working for Google. Do I want them to be able to work wherever for the company they love and know that they will be in a safe space? Yes. I do.

Like many projects that are championed primarily by westerners, though, there is real potential for this to become the big-moneyed, powerful agitators from the US telling people in other countries what to do without taking into account what the people there want, if they are already working towards those efforts, and if, in fact, what they need is a partner, not a leader.

Again, time will tell. And we will be watching, Google.

_______________

Think Progress updated their write-up. Yay? Legum did it because I tweeted him to let him know he was wrong. I did not get a hat tip on that one. And the piece is still titled the same (“Google Announces Worldwide Campaign to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage”). I think this is a case where the post should be taken down, an apology given, and a brand new, factual article written. And then tweeted out (because – surprise – TP has not tweeted the correction after tweeting multiple times in last 24 hours with false “same-sex marriage” claim.

But I guess helping lesbians in Singapore or trans men in Poland is not sexy enough for Think Progress to give a fuck.

Progressive media in the US, you are a constant fail.

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