Why the ACLU is Paying for 5 Gay Couples to Have Illegal Weddings

The ACLU wants to give five lucky couples the chance to win the big gay wedding of their dreams. There’s a serious point to this competition, though. The couples’ marriages will all be illegal in their home states.

The competition aims to draw attention to the fact that outside of the 16 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marriage equality, many states still deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. What’s more, they won’t even recognize as legal same-sex marriages that have been carried out in other states.

The drive, called My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding, sees Project Runway mentor and fashion expert Tim Gunn in an animated video asking committed same-sex couples to submit their ideas for their “dazzling” wedding ideas.

In the video, Gunn highlights the serious issue that faces same-sex couples despite the massive amounts of progress that have been made on the marriage equality front this year, saying, “[A couple] can get married in California, but if they cross the imaginary line to Arizona they suddenly lose that right. [They] lose the recognition of the love they share and all the protections that come with it.”

While the Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3 has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, meaning that the federal government can now recognize same-sex marriages, Section 2 remains in force. This aspect of the law means that no state must recognize the same-sex marriages recognized by other states. As such, recognition and the safety that comes with having a state sanctioned marriage, is still patchy for same-sex couples.

Watch the campaign video below:

“The freedom to marry the person you love is a basic freedom that should not be denied to anyone, including committed gay and lesbian couples who want to stand in front of family and friends to make a lifetime commitment to each other,” Tim Gunn is quoted as saying. “I’m proud to support the ACLU in its efforts to ensure that all Americans have the freedom to marry the person they love no matter where they live.”

The competition, designed by ACLU partner New York social change organization Purpose, allows friends, family and those with a general interest in the campaign to vote for their favorite couple to win so that those couples can have the amazing wedding of their dreams. The competition is open to all people from states bordering D.C. or bordering states with marriage equality (except for Virginia and Wisconsin).

Based on these votes, five lucky couples will win cash prizes, and a trip to New York for a wedding reception in March. All winning couples are also encouraged to return to their home states and present their wedding guestbooks to their state officials. These guestbooks are meant to double as a chance for the couples’ supporters and marriage equality advocates to tell state leaders why marriage equality matters.

“This campaign is about basic fairness and ensuring that same-sex couples can protect their families and care for one another like other married couples,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero is quoted as saying. “The ACLU will not rest until all 50 states allow everyone to marry the person they love.”

Currently, the couples in the lead are:

  • Jeromy and Brian from Nevada
  • Chris and Alex from Pennsylvania
  • Cinnamon and Jamia from Pennsylvania
  • Becky and Kelly from Missouri

The fifth spot is still to be decided.

To highlight why marriage means so much to these couples, the ACLU catalogs their stories. Here is why marriage matters to one couple, Mara and Rebecca:

Rebecca is frequently misgendered, and we worry constantly about what will happen when the next gatekeeper — a nurse, a flight attendant, a cashier — refuses to acknowledge her and her relationship to me…and our future family. I want to work with the Philly public schools when I finish my PhD, but how can I insist that we stay here when another state will be so much safer?

Another couple among the contenders is Phillip and Matthew from Pennsylvania. They also have their minds on how their relationship will be treated as they grow older:

We’re approaching the latter half of our lives together. We want the comfort of knowing that we will be accorded all the same rights of our legally married siblings. It would also be nice to be recognized legally for the 16 years we have put into building our life together.

All of the above couples come from states where marriage equality is currently illegal but where pro-equality lawmakers have started the process of allowing marriage equality. On its own, though, this will likely take a number of years.

Those interested in finding out more about the contest, including the official rules of the Big Fat Gay (Il)legal Wedding, can visit the website here.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Jane H.
Jane H4 years ago

Proud to be a card carrying member of the ACLU!

Darryll Green
Darryll Green4 years ago

somebody get rid of the aclu, again they try to push liberal sh&^ on the rest of us even if we don't want it, but then again why should i expect different, the only ones they don't represent are the religious right because they aren't for Americans, only liberal special interest groups

John B.
John B4 years ago

Thanks Steve for the great article and link. Kudos to the ACLU and to Tim Gunn!

Robynne W.
Robynne W4 years ago

Great idea! I just LOVE Tim Gunn and will be voting! LOVE WINS

Franck R.
Past Member 4 years ago


Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago


Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B4 years ago


Mary L.
Mary L4 years ago

Wow I wish all the couples the very best. I wish I had know, I would have entered. I was and still am legally married to my husband.

He no longer exists. The love of my life is now my wife. At least in our eyes we are still married even though the state we were wed in nor the state we live in acknowledge that truth.

Sue H.
Sue H4 years ago

Good on the ACLU!

Anne Moran
Anne Moran4 years ago

Good thing that they are jump-starting the process...

Hey,, it's their life !!