Civil Unions Legalized in Rhode Island

So, there's good news and there's bad news...civil unions were just signed into law in Rhode Island, effective July 1, 2011.  How can this possibly be bad?  I mean, think of all those Newport gay weddings (and civil unions)!

Well, the only way the bill passed was if it included the right for religious institutions to not recognize a civil union.  This basically legalizes discrimination by religious institutions.  The law of course gives a church the right to say, "We won't perform a gay wedding here" (which is totally fine if they so choose).  But it also allows religious institutions to deny other services to same-sex couples, such as adoptions, social services, funerals and so forth.  

I have mixed feelings about this, as much as I would LOVE to help gay couples have a beautiful wedding in Newport (and other parts of Rhode Island).  I don't mind some religious exceptions but these ones seem particularly extreme.

Are you going to plan a Rhode Island gay wedding or civil union now that it's legal?

(photo by Kristin Spencer)

Thoughts on Proposition 1 in North Carolina

Yesterday, the Proposition 1 ballot initiative passed in North Carolina.  I can honestly say that I was in tears.  Our company has worked with dozens of couples from North Carolina over the years, including one of our 5/15/12 weddings and one of our 5/19/12 weddings.  Two couples this month, from (yet another) state which treats them as second-class citizens.  

The passage of this proposition forbids those kind, loving couples from equal marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and every other "family" construct.  The way the amendment was written was truly horrifying.

I honestly try to focus this blog on the "how to..." elements of wedding planning, but the truth is that 14 Stories is an activist-type company.  We care about the laws. We only plan legal weddings.  We provide every couple we meet with a list of resources that can help them protect their families.  The reality is, for LGBT couples, marriage is not enough.

14 Stories is paid to plan beautiful weddings, and I love that.  But we have gone through the process of planning our own wedding, having some family support and some not, having to hire a lawyer for all this extra paperwork, the same stuff that every LGBT couple must face.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what makes LGBT weddings different. 

I love working with couples who give a damn, LGBT couples for whom this stuff is important, who don't take equal marriage rights for granted and who want to make some slight political statement with their marriage ceremony (and if you don't know how, we have ideas...)

Even if you live in a big city (like we do) with many LGBT friends (like we have), please don't take whatever rights you have for granted.  We have to keep fighting because, in most of the world, our LGBT brothers and sisters have no rights.  Even in states like California and Florida with "gay mecca" cities, LGBT couples have very limited rights.  

Your marriage and wedding is important, of course, but please, above all, protect your family.  Please contact us if you need resources in your area for financial planners, estate planning attorneys, insurance agents and other professionals who can help protect your family.

And please, along with us, keep up the good fight.  It's not just about the wedding.

Gay Weddings in Washington State

Washington State became the seventh U.S. state (plus D.C.) to legalize gay marriage on Monday when Governor Gregoire signed the marriage equality bill into law.  This is very exciting but you may want to hold off on your gay wedding plans for a little bit longer.  Opponents of marriage equality still may try to stop it from going into effect on June 7 - so the matter is not yet settled - but this is a huge step forward.  Congratulations!

Judge Vaughn Walker's Ruling as a Gay Wedding Ceremony Reading

Gay wedding ceremonies continue to have political elements and the latest trend I've seen is the use of an excerpt of the ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker in the Prop 8 Trial.  What you see below is an excerpt which can be taken in full or further shortened for the ceremony:

“Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents. ...

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. 

Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage... Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals…

They seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage… seek recognition from the state that their union is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.’”  

Of course lots of couples are still using the Goodridge ruling as well.  Are you planning to have any political elements in your marriage ceremony?

Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies Officiated by Military Chaplains

It's super exciting that the Pentagon will now let military chaplains officiate gay marriage ceremonies.  This is in light of the recent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  

We have worked with many couples who are former or current military.  In fact, one of our brides who was married last Saturday was a manager at an Air Force base in Afghanistan, and would have loved to have the option of being married by a military chaplain.

So, because we dream in logistics, some important considerations if you are interested in being married by a military chaplain:

1.  First off, the chaplain has the right to say no, that he or she is not comfortable officiating the ceremony or if it goes against his or her personal or religious beliefs.  So not all chaplains are an option for you.  

2.  The ceremony must be legal and you must live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.  Military chaplains are only allowed to perform legal marriage ceremonies for couples who live in states where a legal ceremony is an option.

3.  The ceremony must be on a military base.  

Is this something you would consider for your marriage?

How to Get Married In New York (Updated!)

Now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York state (YAY!), you're probably wondering how to get married.  Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:

When does gay marriage go into effect in New York?
The law goes into effect on July 24 but that date is a Sunday.  The New York City marriage bureau will be open on Sunday to accept applications and judges will be on hand to waive the 24 hour waiting period to marry, and also to officiate ceremonies on that same day, July 24.  Binghamton and Syracuse city halls will also be open on the 24th.  It is unclear whether those cities will have judges on hand to waive the 24 hour wait and perform ceremonies.  

To the best of our knowledge, only New York City is making it possible for couples to legally marry on July 24. Couples looking to marry in other parts of the state can begin having marriage ceremonies on July 26, 2011.  

Do I have to live in New York to get married there?

No, anyone can apply for a marriage license in New York State.  There is no residency requirement but you must be unmarried and 18 years or older.

Where can I apply for a marriage license?
You can apply at any city or town clerk's office in the state of New York.  Both partners must be present.  Couples can apply online through the City of New York as early as July 5.  Couples who apply in person can apply beginning Monday, July 25.

Is a blood test required?

Is there a waiting period to get the marriage license?
There is not a waiting period to get the license - you receive it right away.  

How soon after applying for a license can I get legally married?
24 hours or more.

Are there witnesses required in order to get legally married?
One witness 18 or older is required.

How much is the marriage license application fee?
Outside of New York City, the fee is $40.  In NYC, the fee is $35.

How long is the marriage license valid for?
60 days

Can I apply online for a marriage license?
Yes, you can, in New York City, but both partners must still go in person to pick up the marriage license.

What paperwork is required when I apply for my marriage license?

This varies by the city or town in which you apply.  In New York City, you can bring a driver's license or passport and be fine.  Elsewhere you may be asked for two things: Either a birth certificate OR a baptismal record OR a naturalization record OR a Census record AND a driver's license OR a passport OR a work ID with photo OR an immigration record. 

Who can officiate the marriage ceremony?
The mayor of a city or village; the former mayor, city clerk, or deputy city clerk of a city with 1 million+ residents; a marriage officer appointed by the town or village board; a justice or judge; a village, town or county justice; a member of the clergy authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.

If I don't live in New York, will my marriage be recognized by my home state?
It depends on where you live, but in most cases, probably not.  It will be recognized in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, California, New Mexico, Maryland and D.C.

Is my New York gay marriage recognized by the U.S. federal government?
Unfortunately, no it is not.

If I get legally married in New York, will I still need special legal paperwork to protect my family?
Yes, if you plan to travel with your partner beyond New York state, it will be necessary for you to hire an attorney to draw up paperwork to protect your family in case something happens in a state where your marriage is not recognized.  You will need a Health Care Proxy, a Durable Power of Attorney and a will or trust.

How do I change my name?
You'll be asked your new last name on the marriage application.  Once you receive your official copy of your marriage license, you can use that document to change your name on social security card, driver's license etc, if you live in the state of New York.  If you live out of state, and in a state where your marriage is not legally recognized, it's much harder and will, in most cases, require a judge's order.

Marriage Equality Updates

It seems like every day there's news about some state attempting to ban same-sex marriage or another trying to pass it.  Some are moving forward with civil unions....  It's a lot to keep track of, so here's the latest scoop as of today (Feb 18, 2011):

The good news:

  • Hawaii - a civil unions bill passed by the House and Senate is on its way to the Governor for approval.  They would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
  • Illinois - passed civil unions earlier this month, effective as of June 1
  • Maryland - a bill to legalize gay marriage was introduced and approved by a committee of the Senate.  It still has a few steps for approval but the signs look good.
  • Rhode Island - three different bills related to same-sex marriage have been introduced (only one for full marriage equality) and hearings are underway
The bad news:

  • California - the challenge to Prop 8 is under review and a decision isn't expected until the end(!) of this year.
  • Indiana - The Indiana House approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions. This now goes before the Senate, and must be passed by both again next year in order to go on the ballot for voters.
  • Iowa - nearly two years after same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa, the House voted to ban gay marriage.  This is the first step in the lengthy process which requires Senate and voter approval.
  • New Hampshire - gay marriage is currently the law (as of Jan 2010) but two separate bills are trying to end it.  There have not been any votes yet.
  • Wyoming - The Wyoming Senate narrowly voted today to stop recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions from outside the state. It currently bans them outright, but still recognizes marriages from other states. The House already passed a different version of the bill, so they now have to vote on this version before it goes to the Governor.

Politicians at Gay Weddings

I'm thrilled that the DC Council has approved same-sex marriage.  The next stop is the Mayor's desk, and he has promised to sign it.  Then, if all goes well with the Mayor, Congress has the right to intervene.  Rep. Pelosi has indicated that Congress will let gay marriage go into effect.

This is great news in our nation's capitol.  I'm particularly excited because I'd love to see some Congressmen and women invited to some gay weddings.  You know what happens when people go to gay weddings, right?  

Regardless of their feeling on gay marriage in the past, or their political views, they witness a legal marriage ceremony.  Not a commitment ceremony, not a civil union, but a legal marriage.  This is a big deal, still a historical big deal because there are so few places gay marriages are possible.  And those guests at gay weddings leave and say, "wow, that was the best wedding I've ever been to." Not just because it was a beautiful wedding but because it had this amazing sense of triumph and validation.  It was a real wedding and those guests will start talking about it.

If you are an engaged gay couple in the greater DC area, what should you do?  If you are planning a legal gay wedding in DC, I urge you to invite your Congressmen or woman to the wedding.  With any luck, they'll come and there will be this giant tide of change that will sweep through Congress and overturn that awful Defense of Marriage Act.  That may sound idealistic, I know, but that's how change happens.

With any luck - but it's got to start with you.  

Heck, even if you don't live in DC, you should consider inviting your Senators or Rep.  I'm now wishing we had.

Are you planning to get married in DC when it becomes legal?

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today....

I arrived to my job at a nonprofit organization and heard the news that Massachusetts' highest court had ruled that, when it comes to marriage, it was illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  Six months from that date, same-sex marriage was going into effect in Massachusetts.  It was SUCH a big deal, such an amazing day!  

A few months after the ruling, I decided to open It's About Time (now 14 Stories) as the first gay wedding planner in the U.S..  I can't believe I've had my business for almost 7 years!

Now we have four other states and D.C. with legal same-sex marriage.  I can't wait for the day when all of the same-sex couples in the United States have this right.  While the weddings are so much fun and totally great, and we love love love our clients - we also feel like we're part of the marriage equality movement, and that is just so exciting.

Check out the links to some great organizations that promote marriage equality nationwide:

American Foundation for Equal Rights
Human Rights Campaign
Marriage Equality USA

Where were you seven years ago today?

Same-Sex Weddings In California

We heard the news this week that Judge Walker, a federal district judge in California, overruled the ban on Prop 8.  Tons of people are ecstatic about this ruling - it's a huge step in the right direction of marriage equality.

Since this ruling has been appealed and will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court, many LGBT individuals fear that the timing is not right and the U.S. Supreme Court will vote unfavorably.  That remains to be seen but I for one, am thrilled that marriage equality won round one in this Prop 8 case.

So, what does this mean right now?  Currently there is a "stay" on the ruling which means that same-sex marriages have not resumed in California.  Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, among others, have both submitted motions to have those marriages resume.  We're waiting to see what happens and hoping for the best!

I'm currently working with four couples from California on their wedding plans in Massachusetts.  What are your plans and how will this ruling affect them?