Gay and Lesbian Weddings

On May 15, 2008, California’s Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage was discriminatory, thus legalizing them. This was a landmark decision that the nationwide gay and lesbian (LGBT) community knew would affect their lives in the near future because California laws tend to have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the U.S. Gay and lesbian couples flocked to San Francisco to exchange vows.

Still many others await for the laws to change in their own home states, but until that time comes, LGBT couples are traveling to those states and countries where they can exchange vows and be considered legally married—at least somewhere in the world. For travel agents, this opens up a whole new arena—LGBT destination weddings.

While many people think of tropical locales as the setting for destination weddings, the ability to find the right hotel and arrange the appropriate activities to suit your clients’ needs means that any spot in the world can be a wedding-dream come true.

Some places recognize same-sex marriages, while others allow domestic partnerships/civil unions only, which entitle the couples to fewer benefits and rights. Here are the states in the U.S. and countries around the world where gay marriages or partnerships are recognized.

United States
Massachusetts. The New England state was the first to legalize same-sex marriage, which occurred in 2004. This is the perfect place to plan autumn weddings, allowing your clients to take advantage of the seasonal changes and cozy, romantic settings of the local inns.
California. The Golden State was the second state to recognize gay marriage. San Francisco and West Hollywood, in particular, are filled with gay-friendly properties.

New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state all allow same-sex partnerships or civil unions. (Note that although New Jersey and Oregon call it civil unions, the law grants LGBT couples the same rights as marriage.)

Globally
The first country to allow same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2001. This is a socially progressive nation and you are likely to find many venues for gay nuptials and honeymoons. Canada also allows gay marriage; Vancouver, in particular, is a gay-friendly city, so you may want to set up your clients there. Montreal, however, could provide a more romantic setting.
Other countries that recognize gay marriage are Belgium, Norway, South Africa and Spain.

Countries that allow same-sex partnerships or civil unions are Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and Mexico. Great Britain plans to legalize same-sex unions in the near future.

The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) (www.iglta.org) is dedicated to promoting LGBT tourism and can help agents plan the ideal trip for honeymooners. Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com) is a directory of gay-friendly properties. The site has a search engine specifically for agents to find tour operators that deal with various regions. And it even has a special weddings/honeymoon category that allows you to search properties around the world amenable to gay commitment ceremonies.

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