The twentieth of May this year was cause for celebration for many Pennsylvania residents: the state’s same-sex marriage ban was lifted and gay and lesbian couples were finally able to legally unite. Our local LGBT business council soon began planning the first ever LGBT wedding expo in our region. On Sunday, October 5, the event took place at the Bethlehem Steel Stacks. There were hundreds in attendance—some were LGBT couples, but there were many others as well who were there to show interest, support, and excitement for the newly changed laws. As a wedding officiant, I was one of forty wedding professionals who participated in the expo, providing information about services offered for LGBT couples wanting to marry.
Feeling that a wedding is a wedding, some questioned why an LGBT expo was even needed. The necessity became quite evident, however, when speaking with some of those in attendance. Many couples explained that they had faced roadblocks while trying to plan their weddings and hire vendors. Indeed, in July the story of a local couple, two women, who were turned away by the Inne of the Abingtons, a central Pennsylvania venue with a policy of refusing to host same-sex union/wedding receptions, went viral on social media and put a spotlight on this form of discrimination. Until antidiscrimination laws are passed statewide and nationwide, same-sex couples will continue to face the possibility of being rejected when planning for this most important day.
The LGBT business council understood this need and hoped the event would be a welcoming response to our newly changed laws. Same-sex couples could attend the expo knowing that every professional there was in support of these long overdue rights.
I began my career as a wedding officiant after the same-sex marriage ban was lifted in Pennsylvania. I work in the education field and have been able to officiate weddings for quite some time, but it wasn’t until marriage was made legal for all Pennsylvania residents that I felt compelled to provide this service. Soon after, I was contacted by an attorney friend who had clients interested in a quiet ceremony in her office. Several days later I met with Alan and Scott and performed their wedding ceremony. They were an older couple who had been together for decades. They never thought they would see the day when they would be able to legally marry each other. During the ceremony, they wept. After they left, I wept as well. That was a life-changing moment and I was filled with emotion for several days afterwards. I realized that I wanted to continue to perform wedding ceremonies for all couples, and particularly LGBT couples.
The next several months were a whirlwind! I developed a website, created a social media presence, and performed a dozen weddings. I also decided that since I was going to take this very seriously, I wanted to align myself with an organization that I felt spoke to my own personal beliefs with regard to secular ceremonies and also honored the principals of marriage equality. Being certified as a humanist celebrant through the Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, has helped me unite my personal philosophies with my professional responsibilities.
I look forward to a time when we won’t need to have LGBT wedding expos. I am hopeful for antidiscrimination laws to be passed across the country. Until then, there will be people like those in my community who step up to support equality for all people. We are happy in Pennsylvania to say, “Love Wins!”