LGBT Marriage Equality and Relationship Recognition in Europe

It's interesting to see where Europe stands on marriage equality. It's first important to differentiate between registered partnerships and full marriag equality. Some countries only recognize same-sex couples as registered partnerships, which means that many rights afforded to married couples are not enjoyed by same-sex couples in a registered partnership. Other countries in Europe such as Italy do not recognize same-sex couples at all. 

It's intriguing to get a full run down of LGBT relationship recognition in Europe. The Netherlands was the first country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage and many countries followed suit soon after. There is public support for same-sex marriage in many countries but most of the decisions about actually legalizing it are made by the government. It's unusual to see how in Ireland it is the people who are deciding via a ballot measure this Friday. This info-graphic from Maria Assia Photography gives you a quick overview of where Europe stands on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Marriage Equality is Sweeping the Nation

If you missed the news this week, marriage equality is sweeping across the U.S. In short, every remaining state in the U.S. has bans on same-sex marriages, bans that have been challenged in court. Those bans have largely been overturned but then appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to keep their hands out of it, leaving the lower court rulings to stand. 

Because the Supreme Court decided not to touch these cases, the rulings of lower federal circuit courts stand. This means that LGBT couples can now legally marry in the following 26 states (up from 19 last week!): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming could be next, for a total of 34 states. 

While this is absolutely incredible, remember that in 29 states some who is LGBT can be fired for being gay, and in those same states, they can be discriminated against without it breaking the law. Most of those new states with marriage equality are places where same-sex couples will feel vulnerable choosing wedding professionals because they simply don't know who they can trust. How do they know they can trust you?

Think about that question. We can obviously help but think about how you want your business to be known....

The States and Countries Where Gay Marriage is Now Legal

In the following map, you can see the states where gay marriage is legal, or soon will be (it goes into effect in Rhode Island and Minnesota on August 1).  Those are the purple states.  The pink states have something else, either civil unions or statewide domestic partner benefits.  The states that are white offer no protections or benefits to same-sex couples.


This next map shows you where in the world it's legal for a same-sex marriage (the blue countries). 

Finally, this last map shows you where in the U.S. same-sex couples can be legally discriminated against...these white states are places you can be fired for being LGBT or denied services (including wedding services) for being LGBT.


The Wedding Industry Impact

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a ruling overturning the federal portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a discriminatory federal law which prevents same-sex marriage from being recognized by both the federal government and individual states where it’s not legal. They also declined to rule on a case challenging Proposition 8, the discriminatory ballot initiative which banned same-sex marriage in California after 18,000 couples legally married. What does this mean?

Let’s start with Proposition 8. Because SCOTUS declined to issue a judgment, that means the previous ruling by the Court of Appeals goes into effect and same-sex marriage will return to California. Soon (date TBD, but in about a month) once again, same-sex couples can legally marry in California. Equality will be restored and the gay weddings can resume! Amazing. 

The other good news is that SCOTUS overturned the federal portion of DOMA. This does not mean that gay marriage is legal nationally. What it does mean is that same-sex marriage will be recognized by the federal government, giving same-sex couples who live in states where it's legal the 1100+ rights that married straight couples get, rights such as social security benefits, Family Medical Leave Act, tax benefits, and many more. 

Keep in mind that the state portion of DOMA was not challenged. This means that a same-sex couple from Texas who marry in New York will still not be seen as legally married by the state of Texas.  And each individual federal agency has their own standard of issuing benefits - some look at the Place of Residence (in  which case Texans, for example, would not get those benefits); and others look at Place of Celebration (in which case those Texans would).

There will surely be more gay weddings in California. And there will be more gay weddings in the states where it’s legal, states such as New York, Maryland and Washington. More same-sex couples from states where it’s not legal will travel to make it legal, just for those federal benefits (because some will apply). Some will bring a big group of family and friends and have their reception in the legal state, and some will simply elope and have their party at home. The wedding industry is going to benefit either way. 

 Because of the couples traveling to make it legal and spending their wedding dollars outside of their home state, there will be increased pressure on the states where it’s not legal to play catch up. After all, they are losing money. All of the studies of the economic impact of same-sex marriage, couple with these losses, will mean that states will start to legalize same-sex marriage at an exponential rate. 

Now, with all that said, get your business ready for gay weddings!  Our next webinar series starts next week and there are a few speaking engagements also coming up!  Drop a note if you're interested in bringing us in for a speech or workshop.

Election Results are Good News for Gay Weddings

What a historic night for marriage equality.  Not only did voters pass marriage equality laws in two states:  Maryland and Maine (and probably Washington, too) - but it was the first time marriage equality was ever approved by voters.  That law will go into effect for January 1, 2013 in Maryland and this December 6 in Maine!

That's two months to get your business ready!  Stay tuned for special crash course dates for Gay Wedding Institute certification.

Our Love is Just Like Everyone Elses

There was a contest in Chicago recently giving away a free wedding to a deserving couple.  A same-sex couple participated and won.  This quote in the video below from that couple really moved me - even though I hear this type of quote all the time:  "We are the only same-sex couple a lot of our friends and family know so if they were to see us in a wedding scenario, it would just prove to them that our love is just like everyone else's."

That's what same-sex couples are looking for...keep in mind that most of the guests at their wedding will be straight...I urge you to urge them (the couple) to make the ceremony as impactful as possible so that those guests have tears in their eyes, love in their hearts and support of marriage equality on their minds.

One of the ways that can happen is if your clients hire a Celebrant to officiate their marriage ceremony, or someone else who can write a very powerful and meaningful ceremony script...

Gay Wedding Tips if You're New to this Site

This site is intended to be a resource for wedding professionals and media who are interested in learning more about same-sex weddings.  That said, since I actually PLAN lots of gay weddings, I don't have as much time to keep this updated as I'd like!  Here are some resources to get you started:

  • The Gay Wedding Glossary - the only one in the world, with loads of terminology and information on laws and so forth
  • Data - We collect our own gay wedding data, but there's also some from the Williams Institute, Forbes and others
  • Our App - it's a free download for iPhones and iPads and is a great tool for wedding planning
  • Webinars - I teach quarterly webinars which cover everything you need to know about gay weddings (and more!)
Additionally, here are some of the most popular blog posts from the past 3 years of blogging about gay weddings for wedding vendors:

Question: Should I Start Marketing Now Even though Gay Marriage is Not Legal in my State?

Question:  How can vendors expect the wedding market to change and be prepared for it as more states legalize gay marriage? What is the wedding market like in areas where gay marriage isn't legal? Should vendors be marketing to gay couples even if they live in areas where gay marriage isn't legal or there isn't a high population of gay people? 

Answer:  First of all, vendors should be aware that it's going to change and that they need to be prepared and get ready now! They don't want to be behind when the tide turns in their state. It's much better to be pre-emptive than to have to play catchup!  Our certification course is a great primer to prepare your business for gay weddings. 

Same-sex couples who live in states where same-sex marriage is not legal frequently travel to states where it is (like Massachusetts and New York) and have a legal ceremony, then have a big party back home. Those big parties can sometimes have big budgets and be very much like a wedding, so there is absolutely no harm in marketing now.

Do you  have any burning questions for me?  Ask them here and I'll answer in an upcoming post!

Protecting Your Gay Wedding Client's Privacy

I've been planning same-sex weddings since 2004 but I don't have very many photos of those earlier weddings.  Why?   Many of my clients back then wouldn't allow me to use their photos because of privacy concerns.  They were not entirely out of the closet and were afraid of being fired or discriminated against.  Yes, even in a state where it was legal to have a same-sex marriage.

That doesn't happen as much anymore but my biggest client of the year struck the image release clause from my contract.  Such a bummer because they are gorgeous guys and it will be a stunning wedding!

I say all this because of a great post over at A Practical Wedding from a photographer who can't show you her client's engagement shoot.  You have to read that post!

How do you respond when a client expresses fear of being fired or outed if you include their wedding photos on your blog or in your portfolio? You have to go along with it.  It's their right to privacy.  Listen.  Sympathize.  And respect their right - so don't use those images...

Have you ever had a same-sex client say this to you?

Why Does Henry Have to Move Back to Venezuela?

Henry Velandia legally married his partner Josh Vandiver in Connecticut.  Josh is a U.S. citizen but Henry is from Venezuela.  And now Henry is facing deportation by the U.S. government.

If Henry was a woman who married Josh, then a green card would be in order.

But Henry's a guy and the U.S. government has DOMA, a law prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriage, so off he will go back to Venezuela.  

Could you imagine if Henry and Josh were your clients?  If they were, you should advise them not to marry.  It is actually dangerous for them to marry because of DOMA.

Off my 200+ gay weddings, I personally have never had a client in this situation - have you?  What did you do?