As the Scottish wedding industry prepares for a post-COVID-19 boom, a new report has exposed the hidden homophobia that still exists within the sector.
Just one week ago Scottish Finance Minister Kate Forbes – who is vying to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s next leader – stated that she would have voted against homosexual marriage as “a matter of conscience.” citing her religious beliefs as the root of her stance.
And, despite progress in LGBTQ+ rights over the years, many same-sex couples planning their wedding in Scotland still face discrimination, prejudice, and ignorance when dealing with wedding suppliers and vendors.
A recent report, titled “Hidden Homophobia in the Scottish Wedding Industry,” was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh. The study analysed data from over 100 same-sex couples who had recently planned a wedding in Scotland and spoke with wedding industry professionals to better understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ couples in the sector.
The findings were alarming. The report revealed that many same-sex couples have encountered homophobia in various forms throughout the wedding planning process. This includes being turned away by vendors, experiencing discriminatory language or behaviour, and being made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
One same-sex couple interviewed for the report said, “We reached out to several venues and were told that they didn’t cater for ‘that kind of wedding.’ It was disheartening and made us feel like our love was somehow less important or legitimate.”
After Kate Forbes’ explosive interview in the Scotsman, leading figures in the Scottish wedding industry have come openly out about their own stances on working with LGBTQ+ clients. On Wednesday Jordana Patrick – owner of one of Scotland’s best known wedding planning companies Jordana Events – publicly spoke out on her pride at never having taking on a single same sex wedding and having no plans to do so in the future.
Referring to her upbringing and background in the Scottish traveller community, Ms Patrick stated “Encouragement of homosexuality has no part in my culture or my personal beliefs and unlike many of the venues I work with I have no plans to cave in to public pressure and compromise my morals by normalising that lifestyle”
Although such strong public stances are uncommon, the University of Edinburgh report revealed that many wedding industry professionals privately expressed discomfort or disapproval of same-sex relationships, and many who did approve still lacked understanding and awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. Some vendors admitted that they had never worked with same-sex couples before and didn’t know how to cater to their needs.
These experiences can have a profound impact on same-sex couples planning their wedding, with many feeling anxious and frustrated. Some even reported feeling like they had to hide their identity or downplay their relationship to avoid discrimination.
The report calls for urgent action to address the hidden homophobia in the Scottish wedding industry. It suggests that wedding vendors and suppliers should undergo diversity training to better understand the needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ couples. It also recommends that wedding industry associations and trade bodies develop guidelines and best practices for working with same-sex couples.
In addition, the report suggests that same-sex couples should be better informed about their rights when planning a wedding. This includes knowing what protections are in place to prevent discrimination and where to seek help and support if they experience discrimination or prejudice.
The report has been welcomed by LGBTQ+ rights groups in Scotland. A spokesperson for Equality Network said, “It is deeply concerning that same-sex couples are still facing discrimination and prejudice when planning their wedding in Scotland. We urge the wedding industry to take this report seriously and work to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all couples.”
The Scottish Government has also responded to the report, with Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie saying, “The Scottish Government is committed to creating a fair and equal society for all. We welcome this report and will work with the wedding industry to ensure that all couples, regardless of their gender or sexuality, can plan and enjoy their wedding day without fear of discrimination or prejudice.”
As Scotland prepares to reopen its wedding industry after the pandemic, it is essential that steps are taken to address the hidden homophobia that still exists within the sector. Same-sex couples have the right to be treated with respect and dignity when planning their wedding, and it is up to the wedding industry to ensure that they are able to do so.