Local couples flock to gay wedding expo

By |2018-01-16T09:04:23-05:00May 7th, 2009|News|

ST. CLAIR SHORES – For the past eleven years, Akita Stewart of Detroit and Bridie Johnson of Redford have shared the closeness of a dear friendship that has grown into a romance and love that they hope will last a lifetime. They attended the first-ever gay wedding expo in Michigan on May 2 to get ideas for their own wedding, which they hope will be next summer.
“We’re conflicted,” Johnson commented. “It’s great that you can go to Canada to get married, but then you come back here and it’s still not real.”
“Yeah, but if we wait on it to be legal we’ll never get married,” Stewart added.
It is because gay marriage is not permitted in the state that the first gay wedding expo is such a big event. The Same Love, Same Rights Expo was held on Saturday aboard a three-tier luxury yacht at the Jefferson Beach Marina in St. Clair Shores. Dozens of couples enjoyed meeting over 40 gay-friendly businesses eager to work with couples of all kinds to plan their special days.
“Michigan, unfortunately, does not have a history of tolerance with regard to marriage rights for its LGBT citizens,” said Rainbow Wedding Network founder Marianne Puechl who helped organize the event. “That brings an even greater sense of necessity for resources like those available at the Same Love, Same Rights Expo.”
Johnson and Stewart were especially attracted to the idea of taking a yacht into Canadian waters for the ceremony. “The whole yacht philosophy of taking all your friends with you sounds great – easier than getting all the guests across the border,” they said. “And this way, more people could come than if we went to New York or any other state.”
Companies that assist in both Canadian marriages and local commitment ceremonies were on hand to show couples what their options are for tying the knot. Mike Cardinal, a marriage officiant from Civil Marriage Celebrations, performs weddings and other ceremonies in Windsor. “Canadian law is really clear,” Cardinal said. “Human rights are human rights.”

“You can get married in Windsor now and your marriage is recognized in five, about to be six, U.S. states,” he added.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa and Connecticut. Same-sex marriages performed other states are recognized as legal in New York and Washington, D.C. New Hampshire and Maine are on the verge of passing legislation to allow same-sex marriage, while New York and New Jersey are expected to follow suit later this year.
But despite the fact that Michigan lags far behind in support of same-sex marriage, visitors and presenters still came out for the Same Love, Same Rights Expo.
Presenters at the expo included photographers, caterers, beauty experts, DJs and other businesses eager to help gay and lesbian couples feel comfortable shopping with them or using their services. “Sometimes we feel like we don’t have people we can go through who are safe,” Johnson explained. “That’s why this is so great.”
Mary Kator and Denise Brogan-Kator of Rainbow Law Center also had a booth at the expo, offering their legal services to families and couples who suffer because of the inequities in Michigan family law. “We have a whole list of things a gay or lesbian couple can do to protect themselves,” Brogan-Kator said. This list includes helping set up wills, powers of attorney for health care and finance, domestic partnership agreements and living trusts. They also help mediate divorces and separations. “There are a lot of special problems that our community has. We understand these problems better, and that’s important because the law is not designed for our community.”
Wedding photographer Annie O’Neill had a great time hosting a table at the expo. “The most memorable moment was when a women named Suzette was leaving with a group of her friends and she yelled out. ‘I had a great time! Thank you!’ It felt like it summed up the event.” O’Neill said. “It was a beautiful setting on the yacht, there were really high quality services being offered and there was a wonderful feeling of camaraderie. This was my first GLBT event to participate in and I loved it. My partner Nancy and I were there together. We are often at the more “traditional” events, but this felt so great to be among ‘family.”
If you missed the Same Love, Same Rights Expo, you can still check out area LGBT-friendly businesses at http://www.samelovesamerights.com.

About the Author:

Crystal A. Proxmire
Crystal Proxmire is the editor and publisher of The Oakland County Times. She loves covering municipal governance and cheering on community efforts.