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Marriage Equality Expands In A Heartbeat: Virginia Is (& UT, OK, WI, IN are) For All Lovers!

Same-sex weddings in RichmondMy Monday had begun innocently enough for me. I put the finishing touches on an article for WeddingWire’s Pro Blog, and headed over to a committee meeting within the Arlington Public Schools system when an email from the Human Rights Campaign caught my eye. “BREAKING,” it said. “Supreme Court Action Means Marriage Equality for Five States by Declining Pending Cases.”

I was stunned.

Last week, the Supreme Court had passed on its first chance to announce its decision to review those cases and then, out of the blue, surprising almost everyone, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the 7 pending marriage cases from Virginia, Utah, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Oklahoma. The lower court rulings, which had overturned the Constitutional bans, would stand. Marriage equality would take effect as quickly as the individual states could respond.

And respond they did. Couples were marrying (and celebrating their now recognized out-of-state marriages) within hours of the news. And our same-sex marriage map, which had been frozen for months, suddenly exploded in a new burst of color, and those colors will be seeping across state lines in the weeks to come.

Lesbian weddings in Charlottesville

Because the Supreme Court declined to hear the 7 cases from the various Circuit Court of Appeals (rather than as individual states, like California’s Prop 8 in 2013), more states move into play. So, yes, just as we jumped from 19 states + DC to 24 states + DC yesterday, we quickly welcomed one more (Colorado) into the mix, and expect to soon be able to move the count of marriage equality states to 30 (with the addition of other 10th and 4th Circuit Court states: Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming & West Virginia).

And, of course, though the news is overshadowed by the Supreme Court announcement, it’s worth noting that Missouri just this past week has resolved that will recognize out-of-state marriages.

Robert Radifera PhotographyI’m still sitting here pinching myself to make sure that this isn’t all a dream. But it must not be because my mom, Gretchen Hamm, the founder of our company, emailed me to share her sentiments:

“Congratulations Virginia, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Wisconsin! How special to add you all to our ever growing list of states where same-sex marriage is legal, and where same-sex couples have the freedom to choose to marry.  Thank you all who have worked so diligently to have this become reality.”

So it must really be happening!

As surprising as this week’s marriage equality news was, the coverage and storyline to follow have played predictably. As the joyous coverage of same-sex couples celebrating their long overdue access to legal marriage at their nearest courthouses wound up on the first day, attention quickly turned to the story of the economic impact of these weddings.

Without a doubt, there is economic growth. There are implications for businesses who will have a better chance of recruiting LGBT candidates looking for a welcoming state. There will be a shift in the tax base. There will be couples who will celebrate in the short- and long-term, providing new business to area wedding professionals.

But will it be the stimulus it once was? That depends on where we are talking about.

Maggie Winters of Pop Wed Co

An area like Northern Virginia will not experience an intensely sustained rush because many couples have already gotten married to gain the legal recognition offered by the fall of DOMA. Most likely, Washington DC and Maryland stood to gain in the face of the Commonwealth’s delay. However, there will be a more noticeable bump in other areas of Virginia (like Charlottesville and Hampton Roads) and, especially, in states like North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia, once those states resolve the cases pending. These are states where couples have been waiting and it hasn’t been as easy to pursue a legal elopement.

In sum, this week’s surprise brings us lots of great news and, as we celebrate, it’s important that we recognize that the marriage point seems to have tipped and with that shift comes a new story of modern weddings and an inclusive market where LGBT couples are a welcome few among a many.

Thanks to Robert of Robert Radifera Photography and Maggie Winters of Pop! Wed Co for sharing their City Hall wedding images from Charlottesville, VA and Arlington, VA respectively. Both were gushing to us about how much fun they had celebrating with the couples who came to get legally hitched on such short notice!

{Editor’s note: Not long after publishing this post, news broke that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court rulings in Idaho and Nevada, paving the way for marriages to begin once the stays are lifted. Nevada couples may begin to marry as early as Oct 8.}

Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com