Spencer Butler and his fiancé, Daemyen, have been preparing to celebrate one of life’s happiest occasions: their wedding. They even had the venue chosen, one of Nashville’s iconic wedding spots, The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, which features both “traditional” and “Elvis” weddings! According to its listing on TripAdvisor, the chapel, which is located in The Arcade downtown, “is among the Best of the Destination Wedding Chapels in Nashville…”

What the couple did not expect was that, in the blue bubble, the liberal heart of Tennessee, they would be rejected for being gay by a Nashville business selling weddings.

Spencer and Daemyen
Spencer and Daemyen

That this should be a happy occasion is clear: it should be for any couple. Spencer said he and Daemyen “have been dating since high school,” adding, “we are about to have 5 years under our belts! Both of our families are extremely supportive and loving, something we are blessed to have…”

About his partner, Spencer added, “Daemyen is Christian and a loving human.” That no doubt made what happened when the couple called The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, which performs Christian services, all the more devastating.

The couple had previously spoken with the chapel to confirm that the date they were looking for was open, and they were told it was. “We called Sunday morning to talk about dates, and we agreed on a date a time then,” Spencer explained.

However, when they called today, at around 11:30 a.m., they were told that they could not be married at The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel. “When I called today to pay for it and put names down, that’s when the language of ‘grooms’ was brought up. And I asked if they did LGBT couples. She was polite and quick to the point: She said no.”

“There was not argument, just a simple okay,” Spencer explained, “and we hung up. I was heartbroken… I have never been rejected because of my sexual orientation. I mean I know it happens, but it hasn’t happened directly to me.”

Daemyen, he said, “was pretty quiet on the matter… He just wants to find something that will work for us and accept us.” But this event, Spencer said, makes him wary of approaching other wedding providers in the area.

When you visit The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel’s website, at first you might miss the signs. The weddings services, from Elvis officiants to photo shoots are touted. Only under the page titled “Fine Print” do you get to the root of the matter, and we all know no one reads the fine print.

After detailing Terms & Conditions—mostly about credit cards and scheduling—in much larger font, you get to a numbered list. The first describes the Christian nature of the ceremonies provided: Even the Elvis ceremony is religious.

The second explains everything: “Ceremonies that are not performed here at The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel including and not limiting to, are as follows: No other Religions or non-Christian Ceremonies, non-Binding Ceremonies, Same Sex Ceremonies, Secular Ceremonies, Minors or Cousins. (Yes, Cousins in Tennessee allowed to marry, including first).”

Most of the rest of the list details payment terms. So again, it’s understandable that someone eagerly planning their ceremony might miss it. Spencer and Daemyen certainly did, and it has shaken their confidence in the power of our liberal bubble. Even here, businesses eagerly discriminate.

So, buyer beware: research businesses you deal with to make sure they are supportive. And encourage your ally friends to cease doing business any company that, like The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, discriminates against LGBT couples.

 

For more on recent issues related to same sex marriage, see A Plot Against Marriage Equality in the TN Legislature and TEP Alerts Members to the Legislature’s 2019 ‘Slate of Hate’.