This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm, President of GayWeddings.com. You can follow her on Twitter @gayweddingscom. GayWeddings.com is the leading online boutique and resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999, and a partner in the WeddingWire Network. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography, now available in nationwide release.
This article was updated on Thursday, July 24 at 11:30am.
Since the fall of DOMA (the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’) in June 2013, the pace of marriage equality updates have quickened, with constitutional bans falling in state after state in ways that have outpaced my wildest dreams.
These days, I find myself updating my same-sex marriage ‘legal landscape’ presentations daily and, on some days, hourly! In the past few months, I’ve started presentations with one count for marriage equality states only to find that the number of states recognizing same-sex marriage (or bans overturned) has increased by the time I’m done speaking.
And, case in point, not long after this piece was first published, Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned by a Federal judge, meaning that gay marriage recognition in Colorado is now on stay through August 25, until the legal process can move the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (which, as noted below, has already upheld state decisions to overturn marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma).
Even with these many advancements, the current total of states recognizing marriage equality remains relatively stable at 19 states plus the District of Columbia. (Learn more about specific states below.)
The bigger story for 2014 is actually embedded in the number of states (14) that have overturned constitutional bans on marriage, leaving the legal recognition of same-sex marriage on stay, pending appeal. Or, in layperson’s and grossly oversimplified terms: various judges have overturned bans on marriage equality, but, in most cases, local jurisdictions have been unable to issue marriage licenses until the cases make their way through the appeals process – from state court to federal court to the Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court – leaving most of the states in marriage limbo. For now.
As of this writing, seventeen (18!) consecutive federal courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality; thus, the legal groundswell, which is not without a minority voice of protest, clearly favors marriage equality.
If we, today, added to our count of marriage equality states (19 + DC), the states where bans have been overturned but are pending appeal, we would be celebrating marriage equality in thirty-three (33) states and the District of Columbia (source: Human Rights Campaign)!
The states currently in marriage limbo are: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Couples in Ohio and Tennessee have also benefited from favorable rulings where the out-of-state marriages of several couples were recognized by the courts.
Regionally speaking (as far as the U.S. is concerned), here are a few tips to consider:
If you work with couples in one of the 19 marriage equality states (or the District of Columbia), it remains ever-so-true that you need to take your services beyond gay-friendly if you want to be competitive. This is especially true in markets where marriage equality has been around for a fair share of years. It is essential that you update the language on your website, marketing materials, vendor listings, and contracts to be inclusive of all brides and grooms. In your markets, same-sex couples have choice so you need to showcase your industry skill set and gay wedding competence. Also be sure to request Reviews from past same-sex couples to get their valuable feedback on your services and show other couples searching for their wedding day team that you have experience in serving all kinds of couples and happy past clients!