When Giulia Umile and her fiancée, Jess, got engaged earlier this fall, Umile knew just the place to hold the wedding.
A world traveler, the COO of Slice Communications in Old City said that one particular vacation she took in Mexico stood out “as one of the most beautiful and pleasant vacations of my life — I literally did not want for a single thing. The service was spectacular, the resort is gorgeous and I always thought that if I got married, this would be a phenomenal place to do it.”
The Le Blanc Spa Resort is one of 10 AAA Five-Diamond-awarded oceanfront properties belonging to Cancun-based Palace Resorts, regularly featured in celebrity magazines for the sheer volume of famous people who vacation at the resorts, most of which are in Cancun but also in Los Cabos and Jamaica. Ellen DeGeneres has more than once given vacations to her entire studio audience to at least two Palace Resorts.
So, Umile immediately contacted Le Blanc and filled out the form requesting a sunset wedding ceremony on the beach for Nov. 9, 2019. More than 30 guests would stay at the spa resort for one week, with a price starting at around $800 per night.
A destination wedding made sense for Umile, a Fishtown resident. “We’re older, our friends are more established and financially secure — with enough notice, they can come.”
The sales coordinator for weddings, Laura Jimenez, responded the same day Umile contacted Le Blanc, on Dec. 5 indicating she had received the request “and will be more than glad to help you.” What followed in the email exchange, a copy of which was provided to PGN, was a list of options for wedding packages.
Umile responded: “We are very excited. I do have a question — what if we have over 30 guests? Can that be accommodated at Le Blanc? Also please note there is no groom — two brides!”
Two and a half hours later, Jimenez replied: “I would like to let you know that as we still do not have our same-sex wedding program available we are not performing same sex wedding [sic] at the moment,” adding, “I will however keep your information on our file and if I receive any update I’ll keep you posted.”
At the time Umile received the email, she was sitting on the floor of the gym where she teaches cross-fit, waiting for her class to begin.
“I’m not an emotional person, but I started to cry. People noticed and came over to ask and I slipped them my phone. I took a screen shot and sent it to the group text I have with all these guys [her staff] and was like, ‘You have to help me – I don’t even know what to do with this.’”
Umile said she’s going public with her story to inform the people and hopefully spare other couples from having the same experience.
“It was so disappointing — you’re riding such a high of excitement when you get engaged and share the news with people and it was such a difficult pill to swallow. No one wants to start their wedding planning off on that note.”
PGN contacted Jimenez for comment on whether the resort — which offers weddings that vary from Mayan ceremonies to Catholic to enormous Bollywood-style Indian weddings, replete with a ceremonial horse, henna tattoos and fireworks — does in fact offer same-sex weddings.
Jimenez told PGN she had not received the email requesting comment for this story, but then said she was “instructed not to comment on this.” She then referred PGN to the Palace Resorts public-relations department, which had an email only and no phone number. Repeated requests for comment were not answered.
Mexico is a federation of states, with each determining certain matters such as civil law. In the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, same-sex marriage was legalized in May 2017, when the civil code there was reformed.
Article 602 of the civil code recognizes marriage as a legal bond between people, without any consideration of gender. As the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia told PGN in a statement, “At no time does sex [gender] distinguish between people who marry [sic].”
On a federal level, then-President Vicente Fox signed a groundbreaking antidiscrimination law in 2003 banning all forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation, in Mexico. The law bans any act that “has the effect of preventing or nullifying the recognition of rights and real equality of opportunity for people.”
Section XIV of article 9 in the law “considers as a discriminatory behavior to prevent the free choice of spouse or partner,” according to the consulate.
“The government of Mexico will seek, in the terms that this and other laws dictate, [to] promote the conditions of freedom and equality inherent in each person and, in any case, sanction public or private organizations that hinder its guarantee,” the consulate statement read.
Umile and her fiancée have since found another Cancun resort, Unico, that is more than happy to host their wedding. “Their paperwork had same-sex language on it,” she noted.
This incident serves as a reminder that discrimination occurs in ways you least expect it, said Umile.
“All I want is for people to have the information, so that when they’re thinking of booking a vacation, they can make an informed decision. Instead of wasting your time with people who want nothing to do with you, you can put your energy into places that you know will support you.
“There are plenty of people in this world who will make decisions that are guided by their hearts and moral compass — and sometimes those decisions come directly from our bank accounts,” Umile added. “If Palace Resorts realized there were consequences to their actions, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.”