» Another Marriage Equality Milestone

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.

Let’s review the many amazing marriage equality milestones that have occurred thus far in 2013, shall we?

Earlier in the year, the latest states to recognize marriage equality—Maryland, Maine, and Washington (which passed marriage equality legislation in 2012)—officially welcomed same-sex couples as marriage license applicants. And, more recently Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota, expanded their definitions of the wedding market to be inclusive of same-sex couples as well. Colorado made news this year in its own way by passing civil unions legislation. And, last, but certainly not least, California enjoyed a return to the spotlight when the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8, allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Bottom line: In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we went from counting marriage equality states on six fingers to needing to put all of our fingers and most of our toes to work to keep count.

But, truly, the biggest news of the year thus far has been the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down as unconstitutional section three of DOMA (the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”), which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples who were legally married. There were several possible scenarios on how the Supreme Court justices might have ruled on Prop 8 and DOMA; the outcome, however, was a best case scenario. In overturning DOMA, same-sex couples who were (and are!) legally married and residing in a marriage equality state are finally eligible for federal marriage recognition and its many benefits.

At the time, however, a giant question mark remained for same-sex couples who are legally married, but are living in states that do not recognize marriage equality. That question mark has now been converted into an exclamation point.

Yesterday, the US Treasury provided some clarity with a broad-sweeping announcement, indicating that any legally married couple, residing in *any* state, is required to file as a married couple and will now have equal recognition and access to all tax programs. This includes income tax, gift and estate taxes, deductions, exemptions, retirement accounts, and child tax credit.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement yesterday that the ruling provides “certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance” nationwide. “It provides,” he said, “access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve. This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

What does all of this mean for wedding professionals?

First and foremost, for this wedding expert, it means that my partner of twenty years and I will complete the paperwork on our 1999 wedding by getting legally married in the coming months.

For those of you in states where same-sex marriage is not yet recognized, you should consider the ways in which you can support and provide services for same-sex couples who will legally elope across state lines in order to access the new federal benefits.

For those of you in states (and the District of Columbia!) where same-sex marriage is already recognized, you should consider the ways in which you can support and provide services for the same-sex couples (many of whom have been together for a long time and have, perhaps, already had weddings) who will travel to your area in order to get legally married.

Regardless of where you work, consider ways to update your marketing language to be more inclusive of all couples. If you are a member of the WeddingWire network, that means taking steps such as:

  • Opting in for your listing to appear on GayWeddings.com
  • Updating your vendor directory profile image to include a custom image to appear only on your GayWeddings.com listing
  • Downloading the social media tools available via our co-branded site, WedWeCan
  • Making sure that the language of your website and directory listing (network wide!) includes references to “brides & grooms” rather than a “bride & groom” or “engaged couples” instead of only “brides.”
  • Developing custom contract templates and website inquiry forms to be inclusive of all couples

If you have additional questions or ideas, I hope you’ll interact with me (and each other) in the WeddingWire forums, Facebook or Twitter. Also, share your support with the hashtag #WedWeCan and check out Capturing Love’s #BookOfLove!