Group: Super ModEARator
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: April 08, 2007, 1:02 am
Was it the threat of lawsuits that made The Walt Disney Company change its policy on in-park weddings?
Disney relents over 'fairytale' gay weddings
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington, the Belfast Independent
April 7, 2007
In the world of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, a sense of fairness and equilibrium has been restored. Having sparked widespread controversy by insisting that same-sex couples were not eligible to have "fairytale weddings" at their US resorts, the Walt Disney Company has had a change of heart; gays, too, can now participate in the saccharine-sweet, faux adventure that is a Disney-arranged marriage.
What was it that caused the shift in policy? Was there an outcry from Cinderella, did Tinkerbell cause a fuss, did the fairy queens of Disney protest?
That is unclear. Disney says the change in policy was prompted simply by a "an inquiry from a guest that asked about the service". A Disney spokesman, Jacob DiPietre, told The Independent: "It's a slight change. Now, wedding ceremonies, celebrations, commitment ceremonies and vow renewals are offered at the Walt Disney pavilions. Previously, commitment ceremonies were offered at other venues and the change is that they are now offered at the pavilions [where the fairytale wedding package takes place]. That is the change."
Mr DiPietre denied the change in policy was brought about by the criticism from the gay community and elsewhere after it emerged that Disney had ruled that while gay couples could organise their own weddings or commitment ceremonies at rented rooms at their resorts in California and Florida, they were not eligible to purchase their fairytale wedding packages. The packages consist of various options to ensure "your wedding day is everything you have always dreamt it would be. This is the magic of Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings".
The company had originally claimed that it could not offer the service if a couple did not provide them with a legal wedding certificate from the state in which the resorts are located. The claim last month sparked a reaction from campaigners who pointed out that the service Disney was offering was a wedding ceremony rather than a wedding licence. They also pointed out that in California, Disney may have been in breach of state legislation that prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation.
Mr DePietre said yesterday: "We believe the new policy is consistent with our long-standing tradition of welcoming all guests in an inclusive environment. We want everyone who celebrates their special occasions with us to feel welcome and respected." Disney's fairytale wedding packages start at $8,000 (£4,000) and include a wedding planner, the ceremony, food and drinks, flowers and table decorations. The so-called "lavish wedding" option also includes a ride to the ceremony in the Cinderella coach and costumed trumpeters that mark the arrival of the couple - at night, if wanted. The cartoon characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse also attend the ceremony, dressed in formal attire. For years Disney has come under fire from right-wing religious conservatives, among them the powerful Southern Baptist Convention, which accused the company of promoting a gay agenda. For eight years the group had enforced a boycott of Disney, criticising it for corporate policies such as providing health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, allowing "Gay Day" celebrations at its theme parks and airing a prime-time television show on its ABC network featuring the lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres. The boycott was dropped only in 2005.
Disney's decision to open its fairytale wedding package to same-sex couples was yesterday welcomed by members of the gay community. Writing on the gay website AfterElton.Com, Michael Jensen said: "I congratulate Disney on stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. In fact, I think everyone should get in touch with Disney to thank them for making this change, as I have no doubt at all that the homophobes will be out in droves screaming that Disney's treatment of gay and lesbian couples somehow discriminates against their religious beliefs."