Bil Browning

NJ Bridal Shop Refuses Lesbian Business

Filed By Bil Browning | August 18, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: anti-gay discrimination, bridal shop, lesbian bride, marriage equality

In a strangely worded column, Philadelphia Daily News writer Ronnie Polaneczky brings us word about New Jersey bridal shop Here Comes the Bride and the lesbian-wedding-cake.jpgowner's anti-gay behavior with a lesbian customer. Polaneczky pens the piece as a letter to Alix Genter, the customer the shop refused to work with because they said same-sex marriage were "illegal."

The bride-to-be went to the store with her family to pick out a wedding dress. They found the perfect gown and everyone left happy thinking things were peachy keen.

So how weird it must have been to get a call on Tuesday from Donna (she wouldn't tell you her last name, and she wouldn't tell me, either, when I spoke with her yesterday), and to have a conversation so different from the one you had with her on Saturday.

Apparently, Donna was stunned to learn, after reviewing your customer-information sheet, that you're a lesbian. On the paperwork, you'd crossed out the word "groom" and written "partner" instead, and then inserted your fiancée's name.

"She said she wouldn't work with me because I'm gay," you recalled. "She also said that I came from a nice Jewish family, and that it was a shame I was gay. She said, 'There's right, and there's wrong. And this is wrong.' "

She also said - and you have the voicemail to prove it - that what you were planning was "illegal" and that "we do not participate in any illegal actions."
You know what's strange? When I called Donna yesterday to get her side of the story, she both confirmed your version of events and accused you of "stirring up drama." She said that your writing the word "partner" was basically a provocation, evidence of a need "to show that she's different."

The author goes on to apologize to the bride on behalf of straight people everywhere.


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I find the desire of business owners to openly discriminate against customers for arbitrary reasons mind boggling. It's shocking really, when you think about the level of hatred that is needed for someone to act against their own best interests.

So many problems with this.

Even if gay marriage is illegal in New Jersey - that has no bearing on the sale of a wedding dress. I mean, it's not illegal to sell fishing rods outside of fishing season.

Even if crossing out groom and writing partners was "evidence of a need to show that she's different" - so what?

Naturally, I had to write about this:

Why don't these fu**ing people put up a SIGN?

WE all know why they don't...but they SHOULD.
And they should also be CONSISTENT, and list the STRAIGHT people that would meet their religious test in order to be served.

We all know why about THAT too.
The BS factor in all this is those Christians out there who think it's so brave to SECRETLY harbor this test, and not make it public nor consistent for everyone.
THAT is the honest and courage of convictions I'm looking for in people like this.
I won't hold my breath.

This sort of thing happens more often than you might think. Everyone thinks that because NJ has full LGBT workplace rights and civil unions that we're totally progressive, but the visibly LGBT who actually live and work here know otherwise.

As Monica Roberts and I were discussing on my show last night, other areas tend to have what I call the "big bigotries", anti-LGBT protests, political efforts, etc. while NJ tends to have the "small bigotries", LGBTs quietly being refused work, housing, and service from merchants.

Several years ago, I tried to open an account at a local bank but was refused by the bank's manager. It was quite clear that he didn't want a visibly transgender person coming into his bank. These days, a visibly Queer person will have a tough time finding work at any level in this state. Nothing overt, you'll just never get a callback no matter how qualified you are for the opening.

As public attitudes progress, I am less and less troubled by such things. In most cases, there is always a competitor that we can take our business to. Obviously, if a business doesn't want our business, then they also don't deserve our business -- so why force someone to take our money?

Although I support anti-discrimination laws, I also think there is a point where it is best to just let the market deal with these problems. If a couple (or single) were having trouble finding that product or service at a competitive price, however, I would feel differently. And no one should be denied basic requirements of life, such as food and housing.

Kathy Padilla | August 19, 2011 11:14 AM

This highlights the need for public accommodation protections. As was discussed extensively regarding the MD nondiscrimination bill.

I am pretty sure this is a "human rights law" issue in New Jersey. A business holding itself out to the public doesn't have an automatic right to discriminate like that.

That being said, and knowing the proprietor's animus, if it were my wedding, I would not want a dress from that shop. There are too many opportuities for some kind of mischief, or "unintentional" delays or errors.

For my 2009 wedding, we did not have a very big budget at all, so I felt very lucky to find that my perfect wedding dress was also one of the two least expensive dresses available in my size at a local David's Bridal store. Everything from trying on through the fittings, went very well, and yes, we also crossed out "groom" on our information.

If in this case, the customer knows the designer and the model number, it should be possible to get the same dress elsewhere, maybe even at a better price, and certainly from a shop with a better attitude. A human rights law complaint might be appropriate, too, whatever the law and procedure may be in New Jersey, but that might be something one might want to leave until after the wedding - there are too many things leading up to "the day" that require attention (and in my wedding, we had issues that required pre-wedding court attention to just get my @#$%^&* birth certificate out of the NYC Bureau of Vital Records, so we could get the license (which has its own extra story) , not a pleasant prospect when "the day" is less than a month away . . .).

The correct reply would have been to ask if her fiancee needs a dress too

As far as I know, that is against New Jersey law.
However we know how that can go as previously mentioned.
There was only a "groom" name available for the Bliss Bridal show registration in Atlantic City and so I was a groom named Sheila. When picking up the name tags, they wouldn't let me be either the groom or the bride. I thought it would have been cute running around with groom on the name tag. I could have raised a fuss, and probably will for the next show.