The issue of companies that cater specifically to weddings and their positive or negative responses to same-sex weddings has been in the forefront of the social discussion lately. The most recent is an incident involving a photographer named Anne Almasy who wished to place an ad for her wedding photography business in a publication called Weddings Unveiled. The photo she selected was a black and white picture of two brides.
The editor of the magazine called her back and asked if she had another photo she was willing to submit for the ad because while it did not reflect their personal beliefs, they weren’t comfortable with publishing the ad she submitted. Anne said no. Then she wrote a blog about her experience and the sadness it created for her surrounding the issue of weddings being about love. Her blog caused an enormous reaction across the social media world. Then the owners of Weddings Unveiled wrote a very personal apology on their blog directly to Anne. Anne responded in kind on her blog accepting their apology and the situation seems to be resolved.
You can read Anne’s letter about the experience, the Weddings Unveiled response and Anne’s final letter on her blog by clicking Here
An excerpt from Anne’s blog: “A friend of mine asked me, “Aren’t there other publications who would be happy to advertise to the gay community?” And, you know, yes, I’m quite sure there are. But I chose Weddings Unveiled because I’m not trying to advertise to “the gay community.” I’m advertising to couples who are getting married. This couple didn’t get “gay married.” They didn’t have a “gay wedding.” They got married. They had a wedding. They share their lives, their joys and sorrows, and all the mundane daily things that we all share with our partners. They are just people. In love. Committed to one another.”
An excerpt from the response from Weddings Unveiled: “…We are two women who operate a small business that we care deeply about. We love all weddings. We love all people and would never want to anger, offend or disappoint anyone. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support for Anne. We are so sorry that we have disappointed you and we ask for your forgiveness. If Anne would still like to run her ad in Weddings Unveiled, then we would be proud to publish it.”
And from Anne’s final response: “I cannot tell you how completely stunned, humbled, and honored I am that you took the time to truly read my letter, and chose to side with your hearts. I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome. I hope you have recognized the vast community of support you will have for championing what is right and true. I will gladly stand with you in this fight for equality, and would be thrilled to move forward with this ad in Weddings Unveiled.”
I share these three pieces because it helps to see the level of maturity from all three women in handling a difficult situation with the focus on communication and honest discussion. (Yes, I know, it shouldn’t be difficult, but let’s acknowledge reality here.) I also share it because the words these women use are in stark contrast to the reaction of onlookers and the comments on their various sites that have covered this story. Those opposed to same-sex marriage have unsurprisingly lambasted Weddings Unveiled for caving to social pressure. However, the words of Terri and Brooke make it clear that they are not changing their personal beliefs, but actually allowing their business decisions to support their beliefs rather than operating out of fear.
My great disappointment comes from the cynical, judgmental and extremely bitter response of many same-sex marriage advocates to the apology. There is an enormous amount of “too little, too late” and “you’re just saying this now because people got so angry” attitude being thrown at Weddings Unveiled.
Okay, what if that’s true? Although judging from the conversation with the editor that Anne relayed, it does seem clear they were making a decision out of the concern for the impact on their small business, rather than from a genuinely bigoted set of beliefs. But what if they did just cave to social pressure? That is a victory. In the process of advancing rights, sometimes the process is forcing people to change their actions on the way to changing their hearts. It’s still a positive step, and I do not believe that is even what happened here.
Second, many doubt the sincerity of their apology. But go back and read it. This is not an apology crafted by a giant PR firm with an eye towards a bajillion dollar bottom line. These are two woman who publish a magazine with the subtitle “Inspiring Style for Southern Weddings”. For me that conjures up Gone With The Wind and Alabama debutante balls, so it’s not the most progressive audience that makes up their readership. I’m not excusing the fear-based decision, but I also think it’s a little unreasonable to expect every small business to make social change their number one priority when operating a small business in challenging in any economic environment. That notwithstanding, these two women came around and expressed their personal beliefs, a public apology and then reached out to the photographer again with no sense of defensive posturing. Just an open admission of failing to do what they knew was right.
Yet so many seem unwilling to accept their apology. This isn’t Tracy Jordan taking a few pictures with the Trevor Project to make a huge public anti-gay rant go away because his publicist told him to do so. These women don’t operate on the national stage and in national publicity. They are most likely terrified that the small business the work so hard to keep afloat is going to go under because of a decision they made where they felt damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.
To be clear, I think they made the wrong decision to begin with, though it is not hard to comprehend why they did so. I also think that Anne’s letter to them, their response and her final response serve as a perfect example of how small changes are the most important and that actual communication over inflammatory rhetoric is the best course of action when dealing with real people.
Because, in trying to create change, we have to be willing to allow people to actually change and truly accept it when they do. This isn’t politicians flip-flopping with the prevailing winds, these are real people growing and changing – as we are asking them to do!
If every time an individual, a company, an organization or a corporation comes around to our viewpoint our answer is, “sorry, you should have gotten there sooner,” what true impetus is their for anyone to change? Whether they did it for purely fiscal reasons, or for a genuine ability to finally not be afraid to let their business reflect their personal beliefs in equality, why are we not cheering it as a victory? Why are we not accepting them as we are demanding to be accepted? Why in so many cases are we unwilling to forgive? It is not fair to take our frustration at the fact that we continue to have to demand change out on those who join us if they do not do it fast enough.
There is a viciousness in knocking someone down for an action or belief that is wrong, and then refusing to extend them a hand when they are ready to stand up on our side for equality. As we continue to agitate and demand and fight for change, we have to truly forgive and accept it in those who truly change. Cheering those at the forefront of the fight will always be important, but welcoming those who come later to the party will be just as important to our continued success. Judgment has a place and a purpose, but so does forgiveness and acceptance. Anne Almasy extended her hand out to welcome Weddings Unveiled to the right side of history, and it reflect poorly on the rest of us if we cannot do the same.