This morning the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) finally ruled in cases which were challenging state bans on marriage equality. They said that states were not allowed to deny marriage recognition to same-sex couples who have federal marriage recognition. What does this mean?
GREAT news! It means that full marriage equality will soon be coming to every single state in the U.S.A. Not immediately (though it will immediately come to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan) - but likely before the end of the year.
Some backstory on the cases: To recap, same-sex couples in several states (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan) sued their state governments for marriage recognition. These are couples who traveled somewhere else to get married - somewhere that it was legal like New York, Massachusetts or Illinois. Then they returned to their home state hoping for marriage recognition only to discover that their home state would not recognize their legal marriage.
This lack of recognition is due to the 1996 federal law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which says that states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriage ceremonies, performed in other states. These couples sued their states so that they would be recognized as legally married couples where they reside.
In many similar cases in other states, the judges ruled in favor of the couple and that is how marriage equality came to places like North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and so on. But in the cases in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan the judges did not rule in favor of the couple and those couples then filed an appeal and those appeals made their way all the way up to the Supreme Court which ruled today.
What does this mean for us in the wedding industry? Well, there will surely be more gay weddings in every single state, certainly Ohio, Michigan and Indiana – but also in other states whose bans will still end, states like Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. Can you imagine the amazing, over the top gay weddings to be held in Texas and New Orleans? An estimated 70,000 same-sex couples in those states will marry in the next three years, generating $546 million in revenue for the states and creating 6200 jobs.
In those states (as in all the others), most of the people marrying in the first “wave” (the first few months) will be older couples who have been together a long time and probably won’t be planning a huge celebration. They may be having intimate dinner parties or going out to restaurants instead of planning large traditional weddings. But those larger weddings will come, especially as Millennials become engaged and envision a more traditional wedding experience.
Since same-sex couples will be able to marry in their home state, elopements will slow way down, so those of us who have relied heavily on same-sex couples traveling to our location for the right to legally marry (people like officiants, especially) will see a big drop-off in business as couples stay home instead.
As marriage equality becomes more “normalized”, we’ll start to see more couples choosing to have destination weddings than ever before. LGBT people travel twice as much as straight Americans and spend 50% more per trip (source Community Marketing) so we can expect them to be huge destination wedding travelers. Mexico, Puerto Rico, some other Caribbean locations and even Europe (very popular among gay men) will see huge spikes in gay destination weddings.
Don’t forget there is still work for us to do. Marriage equality is just the beginning and only 56% of Americans are in favor of it. A same-sex couple could legally get married in their state but also be legally refused services by a wedding venue or wedding photographer just based on their sexual orientation. Or even worse, they can lose their job for being gay in 29 states.
Those of us in the wedding industry must do all we can to be fierce advocates for our clients and make sure that no matter where they live they had the most safe, supportive, positive experience while planning their wedding. That is my life’s work.
Please join me on a FREE webinar FRIDAY, June 26 at 4pm EST to explain the consequences and repercussions of this ruling.