- Tallahassee, Fl. - May 07, 2012 -
Same-sex marriage has taken hold in seven states in the union plus Washington D.C., but none anywhere near the south. Still some couples live together as though they are married, whether their state recognizes it or not.
Katie Becker is planning her dream wedding with her fiancee Erica by her side every step of the way.
But once they exchange vows and a kiss, they still won't be married. Because same-sex marriage is banned in Florida.
"It's about your relationship, not about a piece of paper," Katie said.
Katie and Erica have been a couple for two years. These two women live together in Tallahassee. They say they got engaged in February.
But after their wedding day, they'll join in a union that exists only in their minds. But don't tell them that.
"Most of our friends have had marriage ceremonies and to them it's very real; it's really important to them. They call each other their wives. They're just as committed and just as loving as any other couple I know," Katie said.
Florida voters passed a measure in 2008 legally banning gay marriage in the state. In Georgia there is no official ban, but it is still not allowed. In fact, not one state in the Bible Belt recognizes same-sex marriage.
The strongest opposition is often for religious reasons and Baptists are often the most outspoken. Including at Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta.
But Pastor Bill Blanchard says he attempts to meet the issue with compassion rather than fire and brimstone.
"I really think the key issue here is how do we define marriage? Do we just leave it up to each individual to define marriage according to what is right in his or her own eyes," asked Pastor Blanchard.
Pastor Blanchard says homosexuality is sin, therefore same-sex marriage is an affront to God. But he gave a sermon in late April where he preached compassion because all people are capable of change.
"It's very important that we draw a distinction between "Homophobia" and "Informed Disapproval". Homophobia of course just means it's an irrational fear. That's not what we are talking about here," said Pastor Blanchard.
Katie and Erica say their search for a place to have their ceremonial wedding has met some resistance. They of course can't get a marriage certificate so some venues have turned them away.
"Even some photographers I have spoken to have said, 'Oh I'll definitely do your wedding but I probably won't blog about it because I might lose some clients,'" Katie said.
These two are taking their time. They plan to have their ceremony in 2014 when they're more financially stable.
Katie and Erica want a traditional wedding. But from brides maid's dresses to wedding cake toppers only being made for men and women, how does a same-sex wedding work?
"Pretty much all the women on my side will be wearing a (tuxedo) just like the regular goom's men do," Erica explains. "Our only challenge is trying to find (tuxedos) that fit because we're so much smaller than everybody else."
"Yeah, cause I'm not wearing a tux. I already have the dress," Katie said.