Update, 2/17: This morning, as I sat in a meditation on compassion at the Drepung Loseling Monastery, Weddings Unveiled responded to my letter. Find my letter below, then their response.
Dear Weddings Unveiled,
After 10 years of shooting weddings, this year, 2013, was the year I decided to purchase my first-ever print ad — a half-page in Weddings Unveiled magazine. WU has always been one of my favorite wedding publications. I love the photo-centric spreads and clean design; I love the beautiful, uncluttered covers.
My e-mails and phone calls back and forth with your editors were exciting! I felt like you were really happy to have me join the “team.” I signed my advertising contract and sent my credit card info over. I started putting together the artwork.
I could’ve chosen any number of lovely pictures of a smiling bride with her tuxedoed groom, or a clever detail shot of brooch bouquets and feather boutonnieres, or one of those dancing photos with the lens flare and the motion… but I wanted to publish a photo that says something about me as a photographer; about my philosophy; about my heart for photographing these momentous (and often wonderfully ridiculous) celebrations.
So I selected my image, and I submitted this ad:
I chose this picture because, to me, it says love. It says home. It says joy.
I sent this ad to you on Valentine’s Day. That afternoon, your editor called and said:
Is there possibly another photograph you’d like to use in your ad? We just don’t feel comfortable publishing an ad featuring a same-sex couple. These aren’t our personal beliefs, of course, but, you know…
In the seconds that followed, a little part of my heart broke. And all of me grew, with quick awareness, exponentially wiser and sadder.
“No,” I said. “No, I don’t have another photograph I would like to use.”
We chatted for a few more minutes, your very apologetic editor trying to explain and reason and justify. Me expressing my disappointment, but ultimately also my acceptance that you certainly have the right to choose what Weddings Unveiled does and doesn’t publish. The editor said she would have another conversation with her team and call me back.
The callback was unremarkable. There was no further discussion. “We haven’t even run your credit card yet,” she said, “so we can just move on without your ad. We’d still love to have you in the magazine, though, so let me know if you want to advertise in the future.”
As I write this, I’m shaking.
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.
I don’t shoot gay weddings or straight weddings, Christian weddings or Jewish weddings, good weddings or bad weddings. I photograph PEOPLE on their wedding day.
I’m shaking because I’m so angry. I’m shaking because I’m so hurt. I’m shaking because I was so, so naive.
Are there people who might have been offended or put off by this ad? I’m sure there are. But this ad wasn’t for them. This ad was for people who love black and white photography; this ad was for people who love a portrait taken in a warehouse stacked with bags of coffee beans; this ad was for people who love big puffy dresses; this ad was for people who love love.
My heart breaks because you could not see that this couple’s wedding portrait is every bit as beautiful and valuable as any other couple’s.
My heart breaks because you could not see beyond your fear, and into the warmer, brighter future that WE are responsible for building.
Someone has to be first.
Someone has to forge ahead.
Someone has to march.
Someone has to refuse to move to the back of the bus.
Someone has to see these two beautiful, brilliant women in love and know that there is nothing more right in the world than this couple.
Dear, dear Weddings Unveiled, my heart breaks because you could not find it within yourself to be that someone.
Before we finished our last phone call, your editor told me, “I’m not saying we won’t ever publish a same-sex wedding. It just isn’t the right time.”
In Dr. King’s words:
The time is always right to do what’s right.
I hope you will read this and really take it to heart. I hope you will see your decision through the eyes of someone who is gay. I hope you will see it through the eyes of someone who has dear friends and family members who are gay. I hope you will see it through the eyes of history, for surely someday very soon your decision will seem archaic and absurd.
And if, as you said, your decision was not a reflection of your personal beliefs, then I hope you will examine your personal beliefs and find them worthy of full and honest expression.
I’ve copied Weddings Unveiled’s response from their blog, which you can also read in it’s original form HERE.
We are Terri and Brooke, the publishers of Weddings Unveiled Magazine. We hope that you will allow us the opportunity to address an important issue that has angered and disappointed many people. We are incredibly sad that same sex marriage is still an issue in our society. When we were faced with the decision of whether or not to publish Anne Almasy’s advertisement, we acted in a manner that does not reflect our personal beliefs. We truly believe that all love is beautiful and that all people have the right to marry. You might ask that if we feel that way, then why did we make this decision? Honestly, we knew that everyone would not share our belief that all people have the right to marry. The issue is very sensitive and it is also very divided. We knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we published the ad and we knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we did not. We are so sorry that we acted out of fear and uncertainty.
We had never been faced with such a decision and we should have acted with our hearts.
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.
Terri and Brooke
And, finally, my reply:
Dear Terri and Brooke,
This morning I woke up with all of this weighing so heavily on my heart. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could sit down for a drink with all of you and we would have a marvelous time.
I went to meditation this morning; the first time in a couple of years. The teaching was on compassion, and I found myself crying the whole time.
On my way home, my dad called me. “I’m reading the apology,” he said. 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.
Thank you again. I look forward to talking with you soon!
Update, 2/18: I want to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion and shared their stories with me. Even if you disagreed with me, you were part of a very important conversation. At this point, I feel that everything that needs to be said has been said. The issue has been resolved, and I have decided to close comments for this post. Thank you all again!
I would also like to quickly address three points:
1 – This was not a marketing ploy. The women at Weddings Unveiled are wonderful women, and it never occurred to me that they would be uncomfortable publishing this photo. Their uncertainty was understandable on many levels. Their thoughtful reconsideration and change of heart is beyond commendable. I am honored to call them colleagues.
2 – I am not brave. The only bravery here came from the two women in the photograph, who proofread my letter before it was ever published, and encouraged me to share it along with their photograph. As a white, heterosexual woman, I have little to no personal understanding of bigotry and discrimination. These women (and others like them) have experienced it their entire lives. This letter is my very small plea for compassion and understanding in a changing world.
3 – I reject the notion that I overreacted. Activist and writer Elie Wiesel said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Thank you all again for lending your voices to this discussion. Your participation means more to me than you can ever know.