RICHMOND, VA. — Even as lawmakers across the nation debate legislation banning same-sex marriage, couples are uniting in weddings both miniature and massive, fueling a growing industry peddling everything from pink triangle invitations to same-sex cake toppers. Vendors say attention to the marriage issue has encouraged more gay couples to recognize their relationships, though in most states, the ceremonies have no legal validity.
Marriage-minded gays and lesbians are purchasing basics like flowers and limousines. Unlike the multibillion dollar traditional wedding industry, experts say the gay wedding business is harder to track. Some estimates place its value at up to $1 billion. In 2005, gays spent $7.2 million with vendors found at the Rainbow Wedding Network website, according to data collected by the site, which publishes a national magazine and hosts wedding expos. That's up from $2.1 million in 2002, according to Cindy Sproul, who co-owns the North Carolina firm.
Massachusetts is the only state to date to allow gay marriage, since the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 the state constitution guaranteed that right. According to the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, 8,764 same-sex couples tied the knot in Massachusetts since the first same-sex weddings began taking place May 17, 2004 through Nov. 9, 2006, the most recent figures available. In November, Virginia was one of seven states that approved gay-marriage bans, joining 20 that had done so in previous elections. But other states are moving in the opposite direction: New Jersey's gay couples gained new rights very recently when the state legalized same-sex civil unions there.
Source: Associated Press