Lesbian Bride Dissed in New Jersey
A New Jersey woman planning a New York wedding to her same-sex life partner encountered homophobic bias while trying to purchase a wedding gown at a salon in Somers Point, NJ, according to an Aug. 18 column run in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky recounted how Alix Genter, a doctoral candidate in history at Rutgers University, was not only denied the opportunity to purchase a bridal gown from a salon called Here Comes the Bride, but was also subjected to a humiliating harangue from the store’s manager. Genter and her fiancée plan to enter into a civil union under New Jersey law, and also to celebrate a wedding ceremony in New York next summer. But the manager referred to Genter’s upcoming nuptials as "illegal," and, according to Genter, stated that she would not help the bride-to-be because she is a lesbian.
Genter and several members of her family had gone to Here Comes the Bride to look for a gown on Aug. 13. The store’s manager, identified only as "Donna" in the column, initially seemed to be helpful, promising to find out if the dress that Genter liked was available in a lighter fabric for a summer ceremony.
While at the store, Genter filled out a form on which she scratched out the word "groom" and substituted the term "partner" before filling in her fiancée’s name. On Aug. 16, Genter received a phone call from Donna, who responded to the disclosure that Genter planned to marry another woman by insulting and refusing to serve her.
"She said she wouldn’t work with me because I’m gay," Genter told the columnist. "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,’ " Genter added. " ’And this is wrong.’ "
"This is one of those stories that make me want to say ’I’m sorry’ to gay people for the nonsense they endure from some heterosexuals who give the rest of us straight people a bad name," Polaneczky wrote in her column.
Genter’s family does not seem to view her wedding, slated for next July, as "a shame," however.
"We are very fortunate in that our families love and support us," Genter told Polaneczky. "They’re so excited about our wedding." So excited, in fact, that even Genter’s father was among the group who had ventured into Here Comes the Bride to check out the merchandise -- goods that, as it turned out, were not available for GLBTs to purchase.
"The fact that even my dad would come to a bridal shop -- that should tell you something about how close we all are," Genter said. Her mother had also come along.
Donna, perhaps not knowing the statutes in her state, which provides civil unions for gay and lesbian families, and in New York, where marriage equality recently became a matter of law, left a message on Genter’s voice mail claiming that the nuptials were "illegal," the columnist reported, and delivered the message that "we do not participate in any illegal actions."
Genter told the columnist that she was "devastated" by Donna’s message. She called the shop back and told the manager that she was a "bigot," and added,
"I am a happy person and you are a miserable person." Added Genter, "Then she hung up on me."
"You admit to using some choice words when you called her back," Polaneczky wrote in her column. "But trust me, whatever you said was probably poetry compared with what I believe most decent people would’ve spewed at her on your behalf."
The columnist followed up by contacting Donna herself -- the manager declined to provide her last name, either to Genter or to Polaneczky -- and instead of hearing any sort of denial, she heard that Genter’s story was correct.
But Donna also told the columnist that Genter had been "stirring up drama" in shopping for a same-sex wedding.
"They get that way," Donna said, evidently referring to lesbians as a whole. The columnist reported that Donna’s attitude toward lesbians was that they have turned to women as an "experiment" after losing patience with "difficult" men, implying that sexuality is a choice rather than an innate personal characteristic.
Donna also told the columnist that she was going to meet with Genter’s parents -- though the meeting did not seem to include the disappointed bride-to-be herself.
"Donna seemed kind of sorry about what she put you through," noted the columnist. "Granted, she sounded mostly sorry that people found out about it from the negative review you wrote of your experience on the Yelp business website."
A number of Yelp entries for Here Comes The Bride denounced the shop based on Genter’s reported experience there. One comment came from a person who claimed, in an Aug. 17 posting, to be a friend of a customer who had been denied a gown.
"it is my friend who was denied a dress," the posting read, going on to say, "it wasn’t too long ago that people were openly/publicly bad-mouthing my mixed-race parents for proudly holding hands in the street.
"you wanna judge?" the posting continued. "show me where it says ’God’ on your license. you wanna sell wedding dresses? then do that and chill. this place saddens me... and for the record, no one asked me to write in. i just heard about this through my social network and felt the need to respond."
Wrote another, "Didn’t you ever take Marketing 101? Make someone happy, they tell 2 people; piss off 1 person and they tell 10!!"
Another posted, "Having never been here, all it took was one horrendous story to never even CONSIDERING this store for ANY service."
A fourth individual commented, "Weddings are all about love and commitment. People who don’t understand that ought not to be in the bridal business. At Here Comes the Bride, all the pure white dresses are now sullied and soiled with the slime of prejudice."
The store’s manager offered a different story to CBS Philly.com, which reported in an Aug. 19 article that, according to Donna, it was Genter, not the store, that was at fault.
"According to Donna, she mentioned to Genter that she noticed she’d crossed out groom and wrote ’partner’ on a store form and Genter exploded and started cursing," the CBS Philly article said.
The article added that Donna said she had helped other lesbian brides in the past, and that she knew about New Jersey state law offering civil unions.
However, an audio clip of the voice message left for Genter is available at Philly.com. The caller in the clip can distinctly be heard describing the upcoming nuptials as "illegal."
"What you are describing on this paperwork is illegal," the caller says, "and we do not participate in any illegal actions. "Thank you. It’s Here Comes the Bride," the caller adds. "Bye."
Text at the Here Comes the Bride website promises, "For wedding gowns galore, / Come open our door. / You’re bound to find surprises..."