Post submitted by Ryan C. Wilson, HRC Senior Regional Field Organizer
South Carolina is missing out.
As a state where tourism is one of the major economic drivers, South Carolina is leaving money on the table. Over and over, historic Charleston has been ranked as a top tourist destination. One publication ranked Charleston as one of the top ten destination wedding locations in the world. Imagine the influx of dollars to the state from weddings employ small businesses, filling event venues, and reserving entire inns and hotels. Think of all the potential taxable revenue for the Palmetto State.
But if you are a gay or lesbian couple looking to wed in South Carolina, there’s a problem. You can’t legally marry in South Carolina, so you’ll have to plan a second wedding in one of the 19 states with marriage equality. That might make you rethink that plan of making Charleston your dream wedding destination.
Well not if you are part of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA), an organization advocating for equality for LGBT people in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Thanks to their work, dozens of Charleston businesses have volunteered to “roll out the rainbow carpet” to a gay or lesbian couple that submits the winning auction bid for a dream wedding package valued at over $45,000.
AFFA’s Executive Director Warren Redman-Gress explains, “We need folks to realize how much money would be coming to Charleston if we had marriage equality. All of the vendors who signed on are very aware they’re missing out on this.”
LGBTQ Nation reports that, “Businesses have donated the entire wedding package, including invitations, catering, flowers, photography, a horse-drawn carriage ride, and a hotel suite.” The only catch, you have to come with a wedding license from another state in hand.
A 2013 poll by Winthrop University showed at 26% decrease in opposition to marriage equality since the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment passed seven years before, a sign that attitudes are shifting in the South.
AFFA’s Redman-Gress concluded that, “Tourism is the Number One driver of the local economy, and we are constantly ranked as one of the friendliest cities, with the most mannerly residents. So we think it’s time for Charleston to show what we’re really made of: acceptance for all.”
In addition to sending the clear signal that South Carolinians are ready for marriage equality, this wedding auction shows that local businesses are ready to say “I DO” to gay weddings in the Palmetto State.
Check out HRC’s Municipal Equality Index to see what steps Charleston and other South Carolina cities are taking to protect residents and visitors from anti-LGBT discrimination.