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Op-ed: It's Not a Gay Wedding or Straight Wedding — It's Just a Wedding

Op-ed: It's Not a Gay Wedding or Straight Wedding — It's Just a Wedding


A discriminatory Bay Area photography shop that won't shoot any couples in order to avoid photographing same-sex couples is getting left behind by its industry.

A couple of days ago I came across an article that left me horrified: The owners of a Bay Area photography business denied service to a same-sex couple's wedding, saying, "It's not the best match for us." I found it quite hypocritical, for a company called Urloved Photography. Nang and Chris Mai then stated publicly that they would no longer work with any couple in order to avoid working with same-sex couples. Had they not taken that step, Urloved Photography would have violated California law. There it's unlawful to refuse services to people on the basis of their race, gender, sex, religion, and sexual orientation.

My wife, Caroline Hart, and I own Back2Back Photography; we opened our doors in Massachusetts in 2005 and have photographed hundreds of weddings. In fact, our business focuses solely on engagements and weddings. We know that a couple's wedding day is one of the most important days of their lives, so we feel like it's a privilege when a couple will choose us out of a very competitive market.

From my experience I know for sure that no two weddings are alike -- they shouldn't be. When photographing a wedding it's like telling a story, and every story is different. From the father's first look at his little girl who has now transformed into a beautiful bride, to a mother gleaming with happiness that her son has found the man of his dreams, creating memories is what's it's all about.

As marriage equality is welcomed into more and more states, the number of same-sex weddings we've worked on has increased. Over the past couple of years we have received calls asking if we were gay-riendly. I simply reply, "Well, we must be gay-friendly, because Caroline and I are married." But I realized we were being asked that question as more same-sex couples visiting our studio told us stories about how many photographers say gay clients are welcome only to discover they've never photographed any same-sex couples. It becomes apparent that these claims were less a show of solidarity and more so a marketing method for gay (and ally) dollars.

Capturing the love between two people is priceless. And the best thing that any photographer can do is help the couple feel comfortable with you. I often tease couples during an engagement shoot by letting them know it's the perfect moment to "practice your kissing skills." Whether we're photographing a same-sex couple or not, one of them might feel shy or somewhat awkward, but by the end of the shoot the couple can't stop kissing! If you can make the couple feel relaxed, the lens will love them, making for some wonderful photographs.

Legal marriage equality is a personal matter for us. I found the love of my life across the pond in England, and we married in Massachusetts in 2006. But just imagine you're a wedding photographer, going to churches where you keep hearing the same thing over and over: "A marriage is between a man and a woman." As Caroline and I stared at each other while some preacher made those declarations, we knew that we had to make a difference. Photographing weddings and loving what we do, knowing that the federal government didn't even recognize our own wedding was galling, but despite that we never let it quash our passion for capturing love for everyone.

Last year Back2Back Photography launched its marriage equalitycampaign to show support in demolishing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. We reached out to our heterosexual couples asking if they would show support by using either their wedding or engagement photo to state, "We support marriage equality." We felt so overwhelmed by the love and support our couples showed us. We then created a collage of all our couple's photos and shared it on all social media sites.

With tears of joy, we learned on June 26, 2013, that a key section of DOMA was found unconstitutional, opening the doors for marriage recognition by the federal government for all couples across the country. To me, this proved that fighting for what you believe in can make a huge impact, and that's just what we did! And my own marriage was now recognized.

I really do hope other states get the memo that love is love. Nothing more, nothing less. If only all people and lawmakers (and wedding photographers) could see what I see behind my lens -- capturing couples who couldn't wed for decades suddenly earning the freedom to marry, was quite a momentous occasion.

Over the years Caroline and I have noticed a positive change in the wedding industry, from reluctance to serve same-sex couples to now catering to their needs. For many vendors, from venues to DJs, it's their first same-same wedding. Knowing we're a same-sex couple our wedding industry, colleagues often ask us, "What's the difference in providing services for same-sex wedding couples?"

Our response: "There's no difference. It's a wedding!"

LAURIE HART is a photographer in Massachusetts. Follow her business on Twitter @back2backphoto.

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