Episcopal Churches to Allow Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies

Previously, each Episcopal diocese made their own rules about whether same-sex couples could marry in that diocese's churches. For awhile there weren't very many that allowed it. It's gradually changed and Wednesday the entire Episcopal church approved the inclusion of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The change goes into effect in November.

The church also approved two new liturgies, one for same-sex and one for opposite-sex marriages. They also removed language indicating that marriage is between one man and one woman.

This is huge progress for the church which is considered by many to the closest to Catholicism. 

Keep in mind that the rules which may apply regarding all couples marrying would still apply here - for example, couples would likely need to be members of the church, participate in pre-marital counseling and more. 

This is incredible news in a week of amazing news...the world is changing in some great ways, folks!

Get Married by Noon and Fired by 5

Did you know that in 29 states you can be fired for being gay/LGBT? If your answer was no, then you probably didn’t know that in the same 29 states an LGBT couple could be refused services for all aspects of their wedding planning. Here enters chaos and confusion. Some cities, towns and counties in the aforementioned 29 states have their own laws which actually protect LGBT people against discrimination. For example, in the state of Florida it is technically against the law to fire someone for being gay, but not so in Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville. The map below shows which counties have this protection:


Map of Florida counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances   Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance   Sexual orientation with anti–employment discrimination ordinance   Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment   Sexual orientation in public employment   Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Are you following along? I know it's awfully confusing, but do try. Over the last five or six months, we have seen a rapid acceleration in  marriage equality. However, we have also seen some very conservative states try to block those little LGBT protection laws from going into effect. Just last week in the state of Arkansas a law was passed which prohibited cities towns and counties from protecting LGBT people against discrimination. A similar law is about to pass in South Carolina and also in West Virginia. This prevents the patchwork of LGBT protection laws within those 29 states as in the map above. 

Although we're seeing more progress with marriage equality, there are also some pretty significant steps backwards happening at the same time. Marriage equality has made huge progress. When someone can get married at noon and be fired for being gay at 5 PM there is still is a lot of work to do. Just don't forget that your same-sex clients might not always have an easy time when planning their wedding and it's our role in the wedding industry to be advocates for all of our clients so they never have to experience discrimination from those in the wedding industry who don't support marriage equality.

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 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.

How to Plan a Gay Wedding

The Financial Times did a little profile on me recently - check it out below with the accompanying story
"Here comes the groom and groom."

What Chik-Fil-A Can Learn From Marriott

I'm sure everyone has been aware, by now, of the major Chik-Fil-A controversy here in the U.S.  Basically, the company has very conservative values and donates large sums of marriage to organizations that are anti-LGBT (not just marriage, but anti-LGBT basic civil rights).

This Business Week article is brilliant, as it interviews the Mormon CEO of Marriott, also a very conservative man, who does not let his personal beliefs affect his company's actions.

Check it out!

Same-Sex Marriage in Washington State

Washington State became the seventh U.S. state (plus D.C.) to legalize gay marriage on Monday when Governor Gregoire signed the marriage equality bill into law.  This is very exciting and you should definitely get your business ready. Opponents of marriage equality still may try to stop it from going into effect on June 7 - so the matter is not yet settled - but this is a huge step forward.  Go forth and prosper!

14 Stories in the Huffington Post

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post invited me to be a new blogger on their site, which now has a weddings section.  I eagerly jumped at the opportunity and my first post appeared today!  I wrote about "what's the difference between a straight and a gay wedding?" because I'm literally asked that question all the time.  

Check out my thoughts on their site (and please leave a comment at the bottom of the post).

Civil Unions are Not Marriage

I read this yesterday on a blog: "my hometown Chicago, Illinois was approved for same sex marriages." 

The thing I want to clear up is that Illinois (and Hawaii and Delaware and New Jersey) actually wasn't approved for same-sex marriages.  Not at all. They approved civil unions.

Civil unions are great.  They are progress towards equal rights and protections for same-sex couples.  They have been around since 2000 when Vermont first created the institution of civil unions.  The thing about civil unions, though, is that they are a state law, meaning no access to the 1000+ federal benefits (ie. social security) that come with marriage.  They are essentially the same thing as statewide domestic partnership coverage, which is what states like California and Washington offer.  But they are a made-up term because politicians are afraid of using the term marriage, which many Americans are sensitive about and perceive as a religious institution.

In the UK and Ireland, there is a civil partnership law which offers all the rights of marriage.  Civil partnership is different from civil unions in one critical way:  it's a federal law with federal rights.  That means that it's not a county by county decision over there.  Civil partnership is still a made up term because politicians are afraid of using the term marriage - but the rights are federally issued.

Same-sex couples appreciate civil unions.  But they also know that they are a cop-out, made-up term and many hold out for the real deal:  marriage.  So will your business see a spike if you promote your services for couples seeking a civil union?  Absolutely.  Will the spike be as great as it would be if your state legalized marriage?  Absolutely not.

Those Who Work with Same-Sex Couples Must be Advocates

I blogged awhile back about how wedding planners who work with same-sex couples must be their advocates.  It's true and there's perfect proof in the case of wedding planner Kate Parker, based in New Hampshire, who is working with two grooms marrying this weekend.  Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire and the state also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

A few things have come up with these guys:

1) They wanted to be married in an Episcopal church.  Episcopal churches only marry same-sex couples in one place in the United States, Eastern Massachusetts.  So the grooms had to find another officiant.

2) One of the grooms "came out" to his family via his wedding invitation.  Some family members had previously not known he was gay.

3) They wanted to run a wedding announcement in the local paper and were denied because the paper doesn't run same-sex wedding announcements.

4) One of the grooms is from Venezuela and can't get a green card through this marriage because of DOMA.

One wedding, four big issues that Kate and her team had to deal with, none of which would ever come up with a straight wedding.  So yes, planning a gay wedding is different and if you are a planner (or a venue, or caterer) and want to reach this market, you must be prepared to understand these issues and be your client's advocate.

Have you had any similar experiences when working with same-sex couples?