This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.
The latest headlines surrounding gay marriage of late have centered upon the notion of religious liberty and freedom of speech. In sum, there are a minority of wedding professionals who say that they should not be compelled to accept same-sex couples as clients because of their personal (and/or religious) beliefs. And that opposition, as expressed by a handful of wedding professionals who are turning down same-sex couples and facing media and/or a legal backlash), is occupying most of our news feeds.
Interestingly, a recent survey by the AP-GfK reported by US News & World Report found that more Americans favor marriage equality than oppose it, but “roughly half” of their respondents felt that “wedding professionals should be allowed to deny service to same-sex couples for religious reasons.” It’s an attitude that, quite frankly, is not surprising in light of the spirit of the founding of our country around the notion of religious liberty. The question I wished that the poll had as follow up is: “Even though you think that a business should be allowed to deny service based on your religious beliefs, would you prefer that those professionals would “do the right thing” and not discriminate?”
I think it’s also worth pointing out another survey that has gotten less play, but offers an intriguing context and perspective. In the fall of 2014, the Pew Research Center released it’s finding that 42% of African-Americans surveyed reported that they support same-sex marriage; a lower number than Caucasians surveyed (53%). But, when asked if “wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples,” a majority of African Americans (61%) said that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples (only 45% of Caucasians surveyed said similarly).
Why this striking difference between personal values and support for legal protections between blacks and whites? Pew suggests that this is because the African American community can empathize “for the perceived discrimination that gays and lesbians face in American society.” Black Americans know all too well what discrimination looks like in this country; it was not that long ago that those in power couched their race-based discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Though the national media is spending a great deal of time reporting on what others think wedding professionals should do or not do is, I think, missing an important voice. And that is of the wedding professionals themselves. As it turns out, in a joint survey by WeddingWire and GayWeddings.com, we have found that an overwhelming majority of wedding professionals support same-sex marriage. In late 2013, 82% of pros surveyed said that they planned to serve gay and lesbian couples in 2014. For context, that number exceeds not only the support of the general population (54%), but also the support of the Millennials (ages 18-29) (81%). Additionally, in a survey conducted in December of 2014, two-thirds of wedding professionals reported that they support marriage equality because they support it. Period. Not because they see economic opportunity as a driving factor. Not because they have a friend or family member who identifies as LGBTQ. But because supporting marriage equality is a core value that they hold.
There is no doubt that the time has come. And, come June, experts are predicting that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to rule favorably on behalf of marriage equality. In a statement released Monday, the Human Rights Campaign interpreted the recent refusal of the Court to stay (put a hold on) a pro-marriage equality ruling as having a ‘dramatically different’ implication for understanding the legal landscape around marriage.
Said HRC Legal Director, Sarah Warbelow, “By refusing to halt marriage licenses in Alabama, the Supreme Court has telegraphed that there is virtually zero risk that they will issue an anti-equality ruling this summer. Instead, the odds of a ruling bringing marriage equality to all 50 states have increased significantly.”
This means great things for couples in Alabama who can begin to legally wed this week. But, it also means that engaged couples who’ve been waiting to marry in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan can begin to interview wedding professionals, and set up their wedding websites and registries.
Their Big Day will be here before they know it! Will you be ready to help them?
Are you a wedding professional wanting to learn more about working with same-sex couples and updating your marketing materials to be more inclusive of all couples? Join Kathryn Hamm and other expert educators at WeddingWire World in Washington DC on March 16-17, 2015. Register at a discount while tickets are still available!
Photo by Grant & Deb Photographers