After saving for over a year and planning down the last detail for the wedding day of their dreams, a same-sex couple in North Carolina were devastated when their videographer ghosted on them as they made their way down the aisle.
For 14 months Clarissa and Teegan Templeton each worked two jobs to save up for their dream wedding at a scenic farm in North Carolina. Having done their research, they booked the venue, the photographer, the flowers, and a videographer through Tolman Media.
Clarissa told the News Observer that in all of their planning, the couple was careful to search for LGBTQ-friendly companies
But on the big day, the videographer decided to abandon the gig moments before the ceremony was to begin without saying a word to anyone.
Clarissa Templeton says she discovered Tolman Media on Instagram and made the booking through the company’s South Carolina branch in June 2020 for their April 3 wedding.
The company has several branches across the U.S. and reportedly contracts with many videographers.
The couple says they were in email contact with the camera man, Seth Curl, via email leading up to the big day.
Capturing the happy moment on video was especially important to the couple since, with the ongoing COVID pandemic, many family members and friends weren’t able to attend. Teegan and Clarissa hoped a video to share with loved ones would be the next-best thing.
Teegan, who arrived at the venue first, recalls seeing the videographer early on. But as the ceremony began, Clarissa realized he was no where to be found amid the crowd of attendees.
“I had a mini panic attack,” Clarissa shared with Insider. “I started to panic in my head and told myself maybe he ran to the car or had some technical difficulty.”
She added, “I refused to let myself focus on it anymore and put 110% of my focus on Teegan in that moment we were sharing together. I wanted to be in that moment.”
Following the ceremony, the couple began to take their wedding pictures with their photographer (hired separately from Tolman Media). When Clarissa asked the photographer if she knew anything about the videographer’s disappearance, the photographer paused before answering, “He left.”
During this time, the couple’s wedding planner, Ashley Hansen, scrambled to contact Curl via phone. He reportedly told Hansen he left because “of his faith and that he didn’t feel comfortable because it’s a same-sex marriage.”
Ultimately, Hansen tracked down the folks at the South Carolina office of Tolman Media who dispatched another videographer to the event. According to a Facebook post by Clarissa, the company promised to “refund the entirety of our money and give us the footage this new videographer was going to capture for FREE.”
By that time, even though the wedding was winding down, the brides went about recreating some of their big day. But, as Clarissa explained, it felt “fake” to the couple.
Fortunately, the couple’s photographer was able to capture the joyous moments via still photography.
The Templetons reached out to Tolman Media following the wedding requesting the previously mentioned refund, but it wasn’t until Clarissa posted her story to Facebook that she heard back from Tolman. At that point, Tolman Media issued a full refund and said the videographer was no longer employed by the company.
Ben Hillyard, president of Tolman Media, also issued a statement saying, “We at Tolman Media hold discrimination and discriminatory behavior as a very serious offense against individuals. We do not tolerate it within our organization.”
“Tolman Media is not this videographer,” added Hillyard. “The opinions and beliefs of this videographer do not represent our beliefs or our track record in any way shape or form.”
Hillyard also told Insider that moving forward he will ensure all branches are “fully aware” of the company’s nondiscrimination policy. And – future contractors will be required to be transparent about being available to work on same-sex weddings. And if they refuse, the company will not work with them.
Two weeks after the wedding, the Templetons received an email from Curl.
“On April 3, I did something that I have never done, nor ever had to do before,” wrote the videographer as reported by the News Observer. “Because of my faith and what I support, I made the decision to leave and not film Clarissa and Teegan’s wedding day.”
He added that he knew abandoning his assignment “would have severe consequences” and that his unannounced departure “ruined a beautiful wedding and left so many heart broken (sic).”
While Curl did apologize to the couple, he added, “This destroys me that I’ve ended up in a position where I am getting so many people saying so many negative things about me, my life, my career, and my beliefs.”
At the end of the day, the couple who did everything they thought possible to avoid such LGBTQ discrimination on their wedding day say they hope others don’t have to have the same experience.
“The last thing we would ever want is for anyone to go through this again,” Clarissa explained to Insider. “It is our wish to do everything we can to ensure that no other couple has to endure the heartache we are left trying to cope with. What happened to us isn’t rare.”
Another gay couple denied service by a business because of the owners’ beliefs in the “sanctity of marriage.”
Local news station WTVD in North Carolina reports a gay couple approached the Highgrove Estate in Fuquay-Varina for their upcoming nuptials but were turned away after the owners became aware they were a gay couple.
Ironically, the venue purports to offer “the best of Southern hospitality.”
McCae Henderson, an attorney, and Ike Edwards, a cosmetic dentist, told WDTV they filled out an inquiry form for the venue. In the spots where they were to identify the ‘bride’ and ‘groom,’ they left a note saying they were both grooms.
The Christian-owned estate sent a reply saying they don’t host same-sex weddings and offered a list of alternative venues.
The rejection was “disheartening,” said Henderson. “We had not had anything like this throughout the process or really in our lives.”
“This is us. We are gay and we did not choose to be gay,” he continued. “The fact that we don’t have access to things other people do is discrimination in my eyes. I think everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe to an extent. I don’t think you get to be racist because your religion tells you to be racist. I don’t think you get to be homophobic because your religion tells you to be homophobic.”
“Highgrove has always welcomed vendors, guests and employees of all orientations and we do not discriminate against a people or group,” read a statement from the Highgrove owners released to WTVD. “We believe in the sanctity of marriage as God says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman and we choose to honor Him above what the world decides what marriage should be.”
So, two things.
One, they are discriminating against “people or a group.” They refuse to treat LGBTQ people the same as heterosexual people.
Two, in citing the “sanctity of marriage” I’d like to know if they’ve ever hosted the wedding of someone who’s been divorced? Cause….that’s a sin in the Bible that’s directly connected to the “sanctity of marriage.” This is just more picking and choosing parts of the Bible that support their bias.
While there are federal civil rights laws that protect against discrimination – based on race, color, creed, religion, sex and national origin – there are no such protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.
And in North Carolina, some local ordinances have passed protections against LGBTQ discrimination, but not in Highgrove’s jurisdiction.
The Equality Act – which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights laws – recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the legislation faces an extremely steep climb in the U.S. Senate where Democrats would need 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster blocking the bill from a vote.
In partnership with Brides.com, Chase and Southwest surprised five essential worker couples across the country with a pop-up backyard honeymoon experience PLUS 200,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (about $3K in value) that don’t expire so they can take their real trip (or trips) when they are ready to travel.
Chase and Southwest took the time to get to know each couple over the past few months, including their unique love story and ideal honeymoon destination, so that they could design a pop-up backyard honeymoon experience that felt special and personal to their relationship.
For example, Erica, who is a pediatric ICU nurse, and Kaila, who is a licensed clinical social worker in New York City, were planning to visit a tropical island for a relaxing beach trip, but had to put their plans on hold when COVID started ramping up across the city.
Chase and Southwest decided to surprise them with a Bohemian Picnic backyard honeymoon experience, inspired by the islands of Belize and Turks and Caicos, to give them the chance to relax and unwind on the beach as originally intended, without any of the hassle or worry.
All of the couples also received Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status through EOY 2021, which allows a Rapid Rewards member’s companion to fly with them free of airline charges every time they book a flight using points.
It’s totally a ‘best practice’ to use a credit card like Southwest’s for expenses. If you’re going to be spending the money on the happy nuptials anyway, why not earn points for use towards the honeymoon?
As part of the campaign, over 1,000 individuals were surveyed about their honeymoon plans and as you might expect, 2/3 of couples had to change their honeymoon travel plans (coronavirus pandemic, don’t you know…). But 3/4 of couples do intend to stick with their original honeymoon destination when they finally feel comfortable traveling.
The Bay Area Reporter shares that, just as cities and states began to follow shelter-at-home orders in March, César Salza and Kyle Hill found they had to rethink the wedding ceremony of their dreams they’d hoped to host in San Francisco.
Having already obtained their marriage license (which the city has now stopped issuing due to the epidemic), the couple arranged to be married on April 18 in a friend’s backyard complete with face masks and social distancing among 8 friends.
“We had planned on something in June but we realized quickly with COVID-19 that it wouldn’t be possible,” Hill told the Reporter.
“The pandemic couldn’t stop us,” Salza wrote on Instagram. “Don’t worry we practiced social distancing with the rest of witnesses.”
A wedding photographer in Louisville, Kentucky, has filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s Fairness Ordinance saying it forces her to “use her artistic talents to promote same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
The photographer, Chelsey Nelson, asks in the lawsuit that the city not only stop enforcing the 20-year-old ordinance but also requests ‘compensatory damages.’
In the filing, Nelson’s lawyers from the anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) assert the law would “force Chelsey to create photographs for, blog about, and participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with–same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
“She believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman,” said Jonathan Scruggs of ADF speaking to WDRB.com.
“The way Louisville’s law works, because Chelsey wants to photograph and blog about weddings between a man and a woman, it requires her to do the same type of thing to celebrate same-sex wedding ceremonies, and that’s just wrong,” added Scruggs.
The lawsuit claims the ordinance violates the First Amendment, which protects religion, speech, assembly, and the press, as well as the 14th Amendment, which says the government cannot “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”
Louisville Metro Ordinance 92.05 states it is an unlawful practice to deny someone “full and equal” enjoyment of goods, services, privileges, advantages and public accommodations based on their race, color, religion, nationality, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The ordinance also prohibits communications that suggest a person could be discriminated based on the above criteria.
But here’s the thing – no same-sex couple has even approached Nelson to photograph their wedding let alone bring charges against her via the Fairness Ordinance.
Scruggs calls the lawsuit a pre-emptive strike saying his client “just wants clarity” just in case a same-sex couple might approach her for their nuptials.
Chris Hartman, director for the local LGBTQ advocacy group The Fairness Campaign, calls the filing a “fishing expedition” that basically amounts to a “frivolous lawsuit.”
Noting ADF’s predilection of running back and forth across the country representing anti-LGBTQ clients, Hartman likened the legal action to “throwing spaghetti at the wall” in their attacks on the LGBTQ community hoping something will stick.
Hartman points out that the Fairness Ordinance prohibits not only discrimination based on sexual orientation, but bias based on religion or color.
“What they are challenging in this lawsuit is a provision that has been well accepted in civil rights statutes across the entire nation for more than 50 years, which says that a business may not post on its business front or I suppose in this case, on its website, that it will not serve protected classes of people,” Hartman told the Courier-Journal.
He added, “This has been an instrumental part of civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.”