A Change Is Gonna Come

11/09/2011 02:42 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

Fall is the time when I start feeling a definite change in the air -- the crisp breezes, the morning chiaroscuro light, and of course the glorious trees of Central Park starting to burn vibrantly with a rainbow of colors. It also reminds me that "A Change Is Gonna Come" for the LGBT community, as Sam Cooke wrote in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. But though we now have legal gay marriage in the state of New York, there are still many vestiges of discrimination toward gays here and across the world. There is another civil rights movement happening today for gays. We cannot rest until the change is complete. And yet, we must be happy for our success. It is an exciting time to be living, not unlike the sixties. We are finally seeing a change, if ever so slight, in people's attitudes toward more acceptance of the LGBT community and in particular, of gay marriage.

But for many people, gay marriage is still outside their comfort zone. Maybe gay marriage is okay if we don't have to witness it. In other words, let's still keep gay weddings in the closet. It is reminiscent of the military policy "don't ask, don't tell." We don't really want to see two women or men outwardly showing their love and commitment by kissing or holding hands on their wedding day, do we?

In other words, just because there is legal gay marriage in a few states does not mean that the average person accepts homosexuality. In our giddiness over the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York, we may have forgotten that discrimination and even hatred exists and can dampen an otherwise momentous, loving and beautiful event such as a gay wedding that has been waiting in the wings for eons to happen. With marriage equality a reality in New York, you would think that wedding vendors would be clamoring to provide services directed to the LGBT community. But, as noted by Brittny Drye at the recent bridal fair at Pier 94 in NYC, not many vendors were capitalizing on the new market and a few were even openly hostile.

Unfortunately, the harsh realities of discrimination are creating obstacles for many gay and lesbian couples as they start to plan the wedding of their dreams. Some vendors are even refusing service(s) to same-sex couples.

Take Alix Genter for instance. The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Alix had begun the search to find her perfect wedding dress. The dress she would be standing in while she vows to eternally love her bride, solidifying the everlasting bond they will share. The dress most girls have fantasized about ever since their childhood days filled with dreams of princesses and fairytales.

Excited to begin her search for the perfect dress, she found herself at the helping hands of the 'Here Comes the Bride' bridal salon -- or so she thought. After receiving a customer questionnaire for potential clients, she realized that there was not an appropriate area designated to announce her bride's name. Instead, it asked for the name of her "groom." Not thinking too much of it, she simply crossed out "groom," replaced it with "partner," and inserted the name of her fiancée. After Donna, the owner of 'Here Comes the Bride,' discovered that her potential client was a lesbian, she denied Alix her services and went further by lecturing Alix about her wrongful actions. When Alix then accused 'Here Comes the Bride' of discrimination, Donna quickly backtracked, stating that Alix's plans to wed another woman were illegal and 'Here Comes the Bride' doesn't participate in illegal activities. Little does Donna know that civil unions are legal in New Jersey and gay marriage is legal in New York (which is where Alix plans to wed.) Sadly, Alix is not alone in bigoted situations like this.

Todd and Mark Wathen experienced similar discriminatory actions when they were seeking a venue to host their wedding ceremony. Based out of central Illinois, they contacted two bed and breakfast establishments and were turned down by both. Beall Mansion located in Alton emailed Todd stating, "at this time we will just be doing traditional weddings. Weddings as opposed to civil unions." The TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast located in Paxton was a bit more adamant with their response. Jim Walder, the owner, emailed Todd stating that TimberCreek Bed and Breakfast will never participate in civil unions even if they do become legal. (The date of occurrence was in February. Illinois legalized civil unions in June.) For more information, check out this Huffington Post article.

Kate Baker and Ming Linsley are also victims of unwarranted discrimination because of their sexual orientation. They planned to hold their wedding reception at the award-winning Wildflower Inn located in Lyndonville, Vermont. After speaking on the phone with a customer representative who enthusiastically promoted the resort as the "perfect location" for the bride and groom's reception, Channie Peters (Linsley's mother), had to correct the employee that actually the event was for two brides. Almost immediately following the phone call, Peters received an email that the Inn would be rescinding the services previously offered. The email stated that unfortunately due to the innkeeper's personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at their facility. Their website now states they longer provide wedding or events services. Since then, the couple has filed a lawsuit against the Wildflower Inn under Vermont's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act which prohibits denying goods and services to customers based on sexual orientation. For further details, read this Huffington Post article.

Bottom line is that the time spent planning a wedding is every bit as important, if not more important, as the wedding day itself. It can be exhilarating and a further bonding experience for the couple. Usually the future brides and grooms are welcomed and congratulated at every turn and by every vendor. It's like you have a glow about you and people everywhere are so happy for you. Not so for all gay and lesbian spouses-to-be. They still have to face discrimination in many forms, from downright rejection, to odd looks, disgust, lectures about lifestyle, awkward moments, etc. These happy couples need more rejection like they need another taunt by a bully on the playground. They are adults now, should be tougher, right? But it still hurts!

As founder and CEO of Gay Ever After, I am devoted to making the entire wedding planning process as magical as it should be. If I have to say I will be "protective" of my clientele, so be it. Everyone deserves the very best on one of the most important days of their lives. For the LBGT community, a wedding day holds even more significance as it has been a hard won battle.

As a wedding and events specialist, I have extended my vendors database to ensure that my gay clientele will receive the service(s) they deserve. When I give client consultations for same-sex couples, I stress the importance of booking gay-friendly vendors. This includes venues, florists, caterers, photographers, videographers, music, bridal salons, hair, makeup, etc. Although we live in a time where human dignity and civil rights should be respected, wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? The states in which the incidents occurred all have laws forbidding unethical treatment based on an individual's sexual orientation, however, not everyone complies with the law. Your wedding day is the most important day of your life and careful planning is the only way to ensure a smooth process.

Gay Ever After was privileged to partner with visionary bridal designer Sarah Jassir on her spring 2012 runway collection dedicated to Marriage Equality. Sarah was one of the only designers I know that specifically featured two brides holding hands on the runway, obviously reaching out to the gay community. She understands that every modern bride is different. In the future I imagine that our bridal industry will not limit itself to the traditional notions of wedding ceremonies. These celebrations should be as diverse as the changing fall leaves!