CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Planning a wedding is supposed to be fun, but for Kristen and Torey Predmore the experience caused anxiety and fear.
As they began to contact vendors for their big day, Kristen felt apprehensive that some might refuse to serve them because they are a lesbian couple. It didn’t take long for her worries to become reality.
First, a DJ refused them service, and then they started having trouble finding an officiant.
“We had a really hard time finding someone to actually marry us,” she said. “We would reach out and they would be willing until we disclosed that we were a same-sex couple. Then it was just silence.”
Those experiences only made her feel more apprehensive about contacting other vendors like photographers, florists and venues.
“I was terrified to call people,” she said. “We have two other friends who just got married, a male couple, and they were so scared that they just decided to not have a wedding. They just went to a courthouse.
“It was very frustrating and honestly very shocking. I feel like we lived in this bubble because both of our families are super accepting and we have a lot of friends who are so supportive. We had never encountered this type of thing before.”
A majority of LGBTQ people say they have experienced discrimination in their daily lives. This treatment can be especially painful when it is part of planning for what is supposed to be a joyous occasion.
That’s why Fairness West Virginia is launching an LGBTQ Wedding Resource Guide just in time for the 2018 wedding season. The guide contains well over 200 vendors who are ready and willing to work any wedding, regardless of the gender of those being wed.
Fairness solicited for vendors online and in person. Every vendor on the list has asked to be included.
“Our community now has marriage equality, but in some ways that has made us targets of discrimination in all new ways,” Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider said. “We hope this guide alleviates some anxiety for people. Any couple getting married in West Virginia can look to this list to be certain they are dealing with a vendor that does not discriminate.”
Fairness also has been pleasantly surprised to hear from straight couples who said they plan to use the list when planning their celebrations. These couples said they want to choose vendors that are proud to serve everyone equally.
“We’ve only experienced positive feedback on this project,” Schneider said.
Eleven West Virginia municipalities protect their LGBTQ residents from discrimination, but the vast majority of Mountain State residents have no such protections. Schneider said the issue underscores the need for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination statute.
Guides like Fairness West Virginia’s could become even more important if the United States Supreme Court creates a license to discriminate in the Masterpiece Cakeshop LTD. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.
This case centers on a bakery that refused service to a same-sex wedding. The owner of the shop was found in violation of Colorado’s nondiscrimination law, and is appealing the ruling to the nation’s highest court, claiming that his cakes are a form of speech and that he should have the right to discriminate because of his religious beliefs.
Should the court side with the owner, it would set back progress on civil rights by decades, Schneider said.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the case. This issue has gone to the Supreme Court before and the court has said that religious beliefs do not provide a license to discriminate,” he said.
Kristen and Torey went on to have a beautiful wedding at the Confluence Resort, one of a dozen venues found in the Guide. A friend became ordained online and officiated the wedding. Overall, they were happy with their wedding day, but Kristen said the planning process would have been much more enjoyable if the guide had been in existence then.
“It truly would have made me feel so much less anxious and scared,” she said.
But she stressed that most vendors she dealt with were professional and open to everyone.
“There were far more good than bad,” she said.
Vendors may sign up for the guide by contacting Fairness West Virginia communications specialist Billy Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org.