A lesbian couple was recently turned away from a Scranton-area wedding venue that admitted it has a stated policy that it does not host same-sex weddings. While the policy is, of course, abhorrent, antiquated and just stupid, situations like this could actually be a boon for the LGBT-rights movement.
For a long time, Pennsylvania held the dubious distinction of being the only state in the Northeast without marriage equality. Now that we’ve got that title ticked off, we are labeled as the only marriage-equality state in the nation to lack a law preventing discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. So, the couple who wanted to have their wedding at the Inne at the Abingtons technically has little legal recourse, as the township that is home to the Inne is not one of the 34 Pennsylvania municipalities that bans LGBT discrimination.
But, unlike some venues that may mask their animus toward LGBT people behind fabricated excuses, the Inne plainly stated that the couple was not welcome simply because they are both of the same sex. That this venue could vocalize that it was blatantly discriminating and not face any penalties seemed to have come as a shock for many online readers and commenters — and that jarring realization could be used to propel House and Senate Bills 300 forward.
The legislation would amend the state’s nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, along with currently protected classes like race and religion. Pennsylvania may have marriage equality, but we certainly don’t yet have full LGBT equality.
So we need more couples who face outright, and seemingly legally justifiable, LGBT discrimination to come forward and share their stories. And, as odd as it sounds, we need more venues like the Inne at the Abingtons to admit that their bias against LGBT people factors into their business. The plainer it’s stated, the clearer it becomes to LGBT people, allies and potential allies how important it is that this legislation is pushed forward.
The attorneys for the plaintiff couples who helped dismantle the state’s ban on same-sex marriage used their clients’ personal stories — struggles with adoption, the death of a spouse, medical challenges — to put a human face to the issue of marriage equality. It became harder to deny these couples and families the full benefits of marriage once they became relatable and humanized figures.
Likewise, instances of LGBT discrimination, especially in the face of the new marriage-equality law, should be circulated as widely as possible. The disparity between how LGBT people are treated under one sector of the law, compared to another sector, is striking — and that stark contrast, and the people affected by it, can help close the gap of inequality for LGBT Pennsylvanians.