Treasure Valley wedding firms embrace gay marriage

If it becomes legal in Idaho, having more Valley couples stay local for ceremonies could provide a boost.

adutton@idahostatesman.comMay 16, 2014 

The owners of Two Birds Studio in Boise planned to spend Thursday evening at Table Rock doing an engagement shoot for a same-sex couple planning a wedding in California this fall. Photographer EB Belts-Kauffman and her videographer husband, Jason Belts-Kauffman, plan to go to another shoot Friday morning: two Boise women who have legally wed in another state and who share a last name and a child.

The Belts-Kauffmans were so pleased to record what would have been the historic vows of the couple - who've become their friends - they wanted to do it pro bono.

"They are the sweetest two women you've ever met," EB Belts-Kauffman said.

Their business is one of several in the wedding industry that could benefit if this week's federal court ruling is upheld, forcing Idaho to recognize same-sex marriages as legal.

A court stay was issued Thursday, preventing weddings from taking place Friday morning, when Magistrate Judge Candy Dale's ruling was set to go into effect.

Same-sex marriage packs an economic punch, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law School that does research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.

The institute said in April that same-sex marriage in Utah would generate up to $15.5 million for state and local economies over three years, if an estimated 1,955 same-sex couples stayed in Utah to marry and brought in out-of-state wedding guests. Oregon's same-sex couples would add $47.3 million to the economy over three years, according to its report for Oregon, also issued in April.

The institute has not yet studied what same-sex marriage could to for Idaho's economy.

BUSINESSES SERVE SAME-SEX COUPLES

Karen Buich, owner of the Adelmann Event Center in Downtown Boise and the new Waters Edge Event Centers in Eagle, has hosted "probably five" same-sex ceremonies in the past year.

"I've found that in my interviews and dealings with couples that they've been very discriminated against, and we were one of the few vendors that didn't discriminate, or try and charge them more, or discourage them," she said. "I'm not partial that way. I run a business. I rent the space, and what personal choices they make is their business."

Greg Marsh Designer Cakes has about five or six customers a year who are same-sex couples, said owner Greg Marsh. He hasn't been "inundated with calls" this week, but he expects "some change" in demand if the ruling invalidating Idaho's ban is upheld.

There have been several receptions for same-sex couples in the Penthouse at CW Moore Plaza in Boise, according to Ellen Weiss, corporate concierge.

When the ruling came down this week, Weiss had just shown the venue to some couples who planned to leave the state to wed, then have a reception in Boise.

The plaza's event space hosts 50 to 80 events per year, she said. Most of those are weddings - daylong events that cost $1,200 to $1,400 and usually require more than three employees to pull off, she said.

"I think we will see" what effect legalizing same-sex marriage would have on business, she said. "I would imagine that it would increase (if) people are able to go ahead and legally get married here in the state of Idaho, and we are happy to make that happen."

'RIGHT THING TO DO'

For some business owners, the marriage issue is personal.

Extending the right to marry to gay couples means "a larger potential client pool," EB Belts-Kauffman said. "But really, for us, it's more about the fact that we get to be part of anybody's wedding regardless of sexual orientation."

She doesn't expect much backlash against her business, or against others in the Treasure Valley that serve same-sex couples.

"I honestly, truly, think the opposite would happen. People who are taking a stand, I think they would be more supported by all couples," she said. "Jason and I talked about this last night. We don't care if there's backlash for us; it's the right thing to do. And if our business takes a hit? Fine, it takes a hit. But we spoke our minds."

MORAL STRUGGLE

The decision to cater to same-sex couples was more of a process for some local small-business owners.

"I've been thinking about it for a year," said Ruth Anne Inselman, who owns Fourth Street Gardens and is a member of the Church of the Nazarene. "To say I didn't struggle with it would be a lie."

At first, she was staunchly opposed to having same-sex weddings at her Emmett venue. She was even willing to go out of business.

But she said a column in the Statesman and a conversation with a local photographer got her thinking about whether she was being consistent in who she welcomed and who she didn't.

"I don't believe that God intended for same-sex couples, but I also know he loves them," she said. "I can share my heart with them and love them, and let them know that I struggle with it, but they can still get married here. And that's how I feel."

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey

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