Despite the legalization of same-sex marriages in 2015, there are clear signs we’ve not reached true equality. We can do better.
There aren’t many client questions that catch me off guard but there are a few that force me to pause. This is one of them: “We’re two men/women. Do you do these kinds of weddings?” As someone who strongly believes love is love, the question is a reminder that despite same-sex marriage being legal across America since 2015, ‘legal’ doesn’t mean ‘equal.’
Clearly, there isn’t true equality. If there was, heterosexual couples would disclose their sexuality in the same way. “We’re straight. Is that OK?” Of course, I’ve never been asked this question. And it’s unlikely I ever will. (Although I have had straight couples ask if we organize weddings for gay couples because they want to work with vendors whose ideals align with their own.)
It bothers me that five years on — six years in my home state of Nevada — couples have to ask this as a way of protecting themselves. So, for Pride 2020 I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on marriage equality, Cactus Collective Weddings as an inclusive company, and what more we could be doing to better ourselves and step the industry towards true equality.
First, I need to acknowledge that I’m coming at this from the position of a straight white woman. A straight white woman whose brother is gay and was brought up to be open-minded. These two facts have influenced my belief that gay marriage is normal. I don’t believe someone should be denied the opportunity of marrying someone else just because they’re the same sex.
I realize that from my place of privilege my understanding only goes so far. I’m not the one at risk of prejudice, threats of violence, or having to alter my behavior because of who I love. To understand this, I must listen to those who do, unfortunately, face this reality.
There’s a lot for me to learn. Even the basics. For example, (and while I’m being completely honest) it was only while researching this article that I learned marriage equality was legalized in all states in 2015. That’s recent. Yes, this shows naivety. Just because I’m OK with something — my friends, family, and close connections are OK with something — and it’s now legal, it doesn’t mean everything is fine.
Supporting marriage equality and making sure my business is inclusive means doing more to educate myself. As the BLM movement is showing us, the only way to improve, better ourselves, and push for true equality is by those outside the immediate community taking responsibility for their own education to support the cause.
What does that look like for a vendor in the wedding industry? Well, it started with booking myself onto an LGBTQ+ wedding seminar run by The Equality Institute. One of my biggest anxieties was unintentionally offending someone by saying the wrong thing. From understanding the importance of using acceptable language to being sensitive to people’s needs, the course showed me how little I knew and started filling in some of the gaps.
The biggest take away for me was learning to just ask. If there’s something you’re not sure about — how people want to be pronounced, family dynamic, how they want to be posed for photos — then rather than assuming, the best way to learn what’s right is to just ask.
After the course, I took more notice of who was booking with us. If you’ve explored the site a little you may already know I’m a keen rock climber. It’s why I focus on coordinating weddings at desert locations but the outdoor recreation scene is a very white, heteronormative place. It’s a discussion I’ve been following for a few years and one that needs to change. People need to know these beautiful locations are open to them. It’s not just for a certain demographic. Everyone should be able to enjoy it.
At the heart of this discussion is we’re still battling against long-standing stigma and discrimination. That may be an obvious thing to say, but lingering inequality is why we have to make it glaringly obvious that we support marriage equality. It’s why we include photos of gay couples on our site, why I’m writing this column, and why we register the company with directories dedicated to same sex weddings. While this is the case, we can’t pretend the discussion is over just because gay marriage is legal.
So how do I answer the question of “Do you do these types of weddings?” Always the same. Yes. We do weddings. You love who you love and you are welcome to plan your elopement with Cactus Collective Weddings.