Math has never looked so political.

During the Supreme Court hearings on the issue last week, many supporters of same-sex marriage posted “=” symbols in place of their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

The symbols, still in use on many Facebook and Twitter accounts, look like this:


Very quickly opponents responded with their own twists on the theme, and a few of these found their way onto the Facebook page of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has been outspoken in his opposition to same-sex marriage. So the archdiocese social media expert, Edison Tapalla, re-posted a couple of symbols playing on the “+” symbol. Those went over without huge criticism. But when he tried  “÷,” on March 26 he ignited a firestorm.

An image of the division symbol re-posted by Edison Tapalla (Courtesy of Donald Wagda)
An image of the division symbol re-posted by Edison Tapalla (Courtesy of Donald Wagda)

Same-sex advocates posted about 320 comments in a tone so harsh that Tapalla took down the post a couple of days later. (You can a screen shot of it on this Facebook page.)

“It infuriated me,” said Don Wagda, a Bay Area attorney. “I thought it was highly disrespectful when they posted the division symbol. It was the most divisive of all.”

Wagda did everything he could to get the word out about the “÷,” including an online petition.

But Tapalla said critics like Wagda are misreading the symbol. It included a citation of a biblical passage, Luke 12:51: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division…”

Also in Tapalla’s post was a link to an article by the archdiocese spokesperson, George Wesolek, arguing that Catholics who do not accept the teachings of the church hierarchy (including on same-sex marriage) don’t belong in the church.

So what was all this meant to communicate?

Tapalla said it was a comment on the sharp divisions around the issue of same-sex marriage. “It was more commenting on how people are separated,” he said. “I wish that people could talk. I think we live in a world where mere disagreement is taken as hate. When you have such strong feelings on both sides, it’s hard to come together and have a conversation.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

It’s especially hard to have meaningful dialogue on social media where comments are limited by length, he said. The reaction to his post just reinforced that view.

Wesolek, too, was taken aback by the reaction to the “÷” post. “We were slammed with some very ugly messages,” he said. “It was obviously an organized attack. It’s probably the same group that’s been attacking us. They are very anti-Catholic and very bigoted.”

But Michael Cole-Goldschwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said the group had not responded to the parodies of the “=” campaign that its marketing director, Anastasia Khoo, dreamed up.

He noted the division symbol on the archdiocese Facebook page. “Frankly, I thought it characterized the opposition,” he said.

“We’re happy that our message got out and it’s unfortunate that they’re using this for their own anti-gay message. But it is what it is.”

San Francisco Archdiocese Withdraws ‘Divisive’ Same-Sex Marriage Symbol 8 April,2013Laird Harrison

  • eat_the_rich_0

    if they are not Catholic why do they address the church? You are godless so stay out of Gods way

    • 2guysnamedjoe

      How about keeping your religion out of everyone else’s way?

    • TommyTune

      Why does the Catholic Church spends millions of dollars funneled through the Knights of Columbus then through the National Organization for Marriage in an effort to stop gay CIVIL marriages from happening all over the U.S.? Answer that first and then I might deign to answer your inane question. Oh, and if you speak for the godly, then I’m happy to count myself among the godless.

    • cleos_mom

      No religious organization is the equivalent of God, although clergy have a tendency to think of themselves that way.

    • Since this is over civil marriage, which the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize anyway, how is anyone in God’s way? Seems more like the RCC is just not minding its own business and is interfering in the lives of those who are NOT members.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Sorry, the Constitution and basic human decency compel me to do what I can to prevent anyone from setting up immoral laws based on their religion.

      Also, your God is supposedly all powerful. He created the world and everything in it, and did a whole bunch of other stuff. If he was *really* against marriage equality, a bunch of humans wouldn’t stop him. Think about it.

  • still_right

    The equal sign is just as divisive.

    • raisinhead

      How? It doesn’t reference the bible text. It means the word equal. Where is the division?

    • capecodder2010

      yeah, because equality is like,really,really, bad. I guess you don’t like the Declaration (“All men are created equally….)…or maybe you think it means, :”men”.

      obviously your moniker is incorrect. It should be “still_wrong”,

      • still_right

        You are entitled to your opinion but not to my agreement. A man is not the same as a woman. You confuse this and wish to remove the distinction. Refusing to do so does not make for inequality notwithstanding your mischaracterizations.

        • capecodder2010

          well, since Equality has been a prime concern of our nation since 1776, I would suggest that you will be more comfortable in a country other than the US. Maybe The Gambia, or Uganda? Even Saudi Arabia is lightening up a tad —perhaps you could be a special consultant to the Taliban. That’s the ticket!

        • ZnSD

          Cite exactly where in our marriage laws there is a distinction made between women and men. We’ll wait.

    • cleos_mom

      Yes, equality can be divisive. Ask anyone who remembers the civil rights campaign of the 20th century.

      • still_right

        You misuse “equality”

        • cleos_mom

          LOL, I remember that argument from the early 1960s. Didn’t fly then and won’t now.

    • Sure. Because equality under the law is a bad thing, as is the pursuit of happiness.

      • still_right

        Not an issue of equality. You seek to conflate equality with sameness. Male not the same as female.

    • ZnSD

      Only for people who oppose equality based on their chosen religious beliefs. Go cry to your priest.

      • still_right

        You erroneously conflate “equality” with similarity. Male not the same as female.

        • ZnSD

          You can keep typing that over and over again, but it doesn’t negate the facts of the matter. Your desperation is showing. You are losing. You will continue to lose this battle. Because people will ultimately demand their freedom. Also: I don’t think you even know what ‘conflate’ means. Your argument that marriage equality somehow makes women and men exactly the same is…stupid. The law makes no distinction between men and women in marriage; if you want to go back to a time when women were considered chattel, that’s on you, but I doubt that any of your cohorts would agree with you. You are definitively confused about what civil law says about marriage, what the SCOTUS has said about marriage being a civil right, and ultimately what YOU might think, believe or feel on this subject is completely irrelevant because you are not even educated enough to discuss the subject besides making pseudo-intellectual comments and not being able to actually explain any of your thoughts in a mindful way. Go back to school. You need some education.

      • capecodder2010

        or they can “diddle” each other ……

  • ZacharyMartinez

    Equality vs. Division – it’s quite a striking contrast. I know which one I support.

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  • F S

    All I know is that I’m tired of all this gay/lesbian talk. Let’s fix the economy. Let’s get some jobs going. Enough already.

    • TommyTune

      Well I’m tired of all the straight talk – enough about husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. As a gay person I’ve heard a lifetime of that. Enough already indeed.

      • cleos_mom

        I’m tired of hearing that living up to the standards of our Constitution must wait until we have every other problem solved.

        Which will, of course, never happen. A “more important problem” will always come along. This is close to being the equivalent of a payday loan.

      • still_right

        Too bad

    • JohnAGJ

      Agreed. We can end much of this in just a few hours by having Congress meet for a quick session to repeal DOMA and pass ENDA. After that we can move on to “fix the economy” and “get some jobs going”. Sound good to you? Great!

    • poor baby. Wanting to go back to when gays were invisible and most blacks were good. Especially when the GOP is blocking so much on the economy.

      Seems you have to deal with is uppity folks. .But the GOP will still be there blocking any economic relief.

    • ZnSD

      Then don’t read about it. There are PLENTY of articles in the world NOT about civil rights. Go find one, stupid. You are CHOOSING to read about something that is making you “tired”. Poor you, and your heterosexual privilege. Call the waaaahmbulance.

      • still_right

        This one is not about civil rights either.

        • ZnSD

          Still_wrong is still wrong. You can scream that all day long; it doesn’t make it fact. You can LOOK IT UP. Run along now.

  • BobSF_94117

    Hold on a minute here. How can you present that quote when the one cited, Luke 12:51, is:

    ‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

    They didn’t quite 52 and 53 which you print. They cited Christ as DIVIDER, in His own words. And then linked to an article about how “true Catholics” would have to stand up for themselves and, if necessary, stand apart from society. They’re stuck on some dream martyrdom they’ll supposedly suffer if society recognizes gay couples.

    SHAME ON YOU for toning down their message and letting them pretend folks were “mean” to them.

  • Steven

    Michael from the Human Rights Campaign’s name is not, “Cole-Goldschwartz.” I know this due to being married to him and being the “Schwartz” of “Cole-Schwartz.” But I like the quote anyway.

  • BearEyes

    Tapalla would do well to look up the meaning of the word – disagreement – and then compare that to his statements of division and Cordileone’s attempts to deny the LGBT community constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and equal protection.
    Disagreement does not mean what he thinks it means.

    • Baby_Raptor

      He knows what it means. He also knows that if he lies and frames it to where the evil Other is trying to take his freedom to speak his opinion, instead of what he’s actually doing, he’ll get more sympathy from the religious Right.

      • BearEyes

        yes, and that’s the target audience for my comment.

  • raisinhead

    It was Luke 12:51 – “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division”. Is that really the message of separation that the Archbishop wants? Snarky and a little bit creepy.

  • He’s pretending that he is the victim? Archbishop DUI needs a reality check.

  • 2guysnamedjoe

    I disagree with the doctrine of transubstantiation, but I’m not leading a multi-million dollar campaign to have it outlawed.

  • Now WHY would we be “Anti-Catholic?” It’s not like they denounce us as intrinsically disordered, or rape little boys and then lie about it, or devote themselves tirelessly to limiting our civil rights, spending millions in the process. THAT would be BAD.

    Oh, I guess that was it after all.

  • tomtallis

    Nothing there was anti-Catholic, it was anti-hypocrisy. The Catholic Bishops have morphed themselves into an anti-gay hate group, and as such have become political, and must expect to be treated like any other political entity (or hate group). When receiving justified criticism or even denunciations of their hate, suddenly trying to morph back into a religion and claiming that they cannot be criticized because they are “religious leaders,” is the height of hypocrisy. And we all know what Jesus had to say about hypocrites…

    • cleos_mom

      In another verse of the same song, they then claim tax exemptions that the rest of us have to pay for. It’s all about power and $$$$$$$.

  • freedom_72

    “George Wesolek, arguing that Catholics who do not accept the teachings
    of the church hierarchy (including on same-sex marriage) don’t belong in
    the church.” So anybody who dares to challenge the RCC’s dogma on marriage and gay people in general has to leave.
    Then the same guy says about people who dared to criticize the archdiocese’s facebook post: “They are very anti-Catholic and very bigoted”.

    The irony is priceless.

    • cleos_mom

      “So anybody who dares to challenge the RCC’s dogma on marriage and gay people in general has to leave.”

      Of course, they won’t; and the bishops are counting on that; most of them will make noises but that’s it. If they did actually leave, the Church of Rome would be changing their “unchanging” teaching PDQ.

  • cleos_mom

    Equality is anathema to the Church of Rome and its Protestant counterparts in the evangelical camp. Their whole theology depends on a rigid hierarchy of both power and personal worth.

  • “We were slammed with some very ugly messages,” he said. “It was
    obviously an organized attack. It’s probably the same group that’s been
    attacking us. They are very anti-Catholic and very bigoted.”

    Not bigoted and not anti-Catholic. But very much anti-stupidity. If the Archbishop and his cronies want to throw gasoline on a fire, they are likely to get burned pretty badly.

    And the Roman Catholic Church has more than enough problems that they should be dealing with now without adding to them. .

  • Baby_Raptor

    You do live in a world where people can talk. Nobody has taken away your First Amendment right.

    You never had the right to base laws on your religion .That seems to be what you’re *actually* pissed you can’t do, you lying asshat. At least be honest.

  • ZnSD

    What exactly is there to discuss? That you don’t feel (because of your religious beliefs) that my right to CIVIL MARRIAGE is correct? Too bad, so sad. There’s nothing to discuss with you anymore. Either you want to live in a secular society where everyone is equal, or you want to live in a religious society where everyone is judged by some bizarre stone-age code in which the rulers constantly get to redefine what rights people have. So women are either property (as in your bible) or they’re not. Anyone not pale-skinned is damned (also from your bible) or not. Gay people are abominable merely by their being? If this is your belief system, then you had best be careful; because someday they may come for YOU.

  • capecodder2010

    Was there any follow-up to who the “nice young man” was who was riding with the drink-drive Cardinal-to-be and his elderly mom? KInd of like the smashingly debonair personal attendant to Pope Benedict???

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