In May 2004, Cindy Sproul addressed a crowd of three hundred fifty at the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Cambridge, MA, inviting them to mark the moment by raising a glass to toast the passage of the landmark Goodridge Decision. The crowd, gathered for the auspicious occasion at the first annual 'Same Love, Same Rights'TM LGBTQ Wedding Expo that afternoon, was joyful, attentive and many clung to handkerchiefs: Dozens of couples and wedding professionals alike were teary-eyed and struck with disbelief that the day had finally arrived when same-gender couples would be legally permitted to marry in the Bay State.
Just four and a half years earlier, Sproul and her partner Marianne Puechl had co-founded RainbowWeddingNetwork.com, the first wedding gift registry ever specifically dedicated to the Gay and Lesbian community. The women, planning their own commitment ceremony, saw the need for a website dedicated to LGBT unions: having encountered awkwardness themselves as they approached wedding vendors, they decided it would be a wonderful & productive resource to screen vendors so that other LGBT couples would not have to experience discrimination.
And so at its launch in September 2000, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com (RWN) included the gift registry and also a nationwide Directory of LGBTQ-friendly wedding professionals. Quickly the site grew in popularity, receiving over 1,000,000 hits in its first six months of existence. Sproul & Puechl moved the company to Asheville NC, hired a team to assist in growing the company and in 2003, RWN began producing many of the nation's first Gay and Lesbian Wedding Expos, the first in Minneapolis and the second on that happy May afternoon in Cambridge.
As the issues surrounding LGBTQ Marriage Rights and Equal Rights for LGBTQ Families became more heated throughout the country, the team of RainbowWeddingNetwork decided to bring a stronger sense of Activism to the Expos and to the company's work generally on behalf of LGBTQ weddings. With the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment Act in 2004, the founders of RWN moved forward with the 'Same Love, Same Rights'TM campaign in full force, and the company also began publication of the nation's first print magazine dedicated to LGBTQ Weddings, 'RainbowWeddingNetwork Magazine.'
Today, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com provides a diversity of resources for the LGBTQ community and our allies. The ongoing tour of boutique-style LGBTQ Wedding Expos is still going strong, having visited 33 states and with approximately 25 new events each year. The Online Directory of screened wedding, travel, home and family-related businesses is still at the heart of RWN, providing couples, singles and our allies immediate access to welcoming, respectful business professionals all across the United States, and beyond. Recently, the founders created a coloring book for children with 2 moms or 2 dads, and now offer that publication along with other blossoming parenting resources through the website.
While RWN's resources have continued to evolve throughout the past seventeen years, its core mission remains: to serve as a bridge for LGBTQ couples and our allies to access the resources needed to successfully plan Our Dream Weddings and our committed lives together, free from discrimination. And at the same time, RWN proudly offers wedding and home-related vendors who wish to uphold a policy of non-discrimination an active means to reach out to the LGBTQ wedding market.
"Win, Win!" is one of the slogans heard often in an echo around the office, as well as the ever-proud, "Same Love, Same Rights!"(TM) And not that long ago, in November 2015, Cindy Sproul found herself once again in the George Washington Ballroom at the Sheraton Commander Hotel, addressing a crowd very similar to the one that had gathered with her in that same room eleven years prior. -Some tearful, most giddy with laughter, this time Sproul asked each of those in attendance to join with her in a moment of gratitude as together they honored the landmark Supreme Court Decision that had taken place earlier that summer. At last, with the decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage recognition for the LGBTQ community was nationwide.
In the nearly two decades since the launch of RainbowWeddingNetwork.com, there have been great strides toward equal rights in marriage for the LGBTQ minority in America; however recent years also mark the passage of significant anti-gay legislation in certain states, and of course ongoing heated dialogue about the validity of marriage as a legitimate civil rights issue. More than that, the LGBTQ community continues to be a minority targeted rigorously by conservative groups that aim to disallow gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans the rights and responsibilities of marriage, the joy of adoption and family rights and other protections inherent to other citizens under the law.
This means that the resources of RainbowWeddingNetwork.com continue to be vital. By choosing to invest its annual purchasing power of over $600 billion with companies that are screened and actively stand up for Gay Equality, the LGBTQ minority can effect a strong economic impact in states all across the country. With an advertiser base of well over 5000 businesses, RainbowWeddingNetwork.com provides immediate access to such companies for LGBTQ couples, our advocates and allies. By supporting one another actively and with focus, we will ensure that Equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans becomes that much more attainable.
Furthermore, by providing a degree of legitimization for LGBTQ couples and families through social networking, articles and by producing LGBTQ Wedding Expos in states all across the nation, RainbowWeddingNetwork provides the means for a public presence concerning the issues of same-gender marriage and family rights. This is key to the infrastructure of support for gay and lesbian couples, as well as for the businesses and allies that stand up for non-discrimination. It also serves to bring a strong sense of public recognition to the realities of same-gender relationships and the realities of life in America for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered citizens. This ‘softer’ side of the work of RainbowWeddingNetwork.com is no less valid and of no less import with regard to the ultimate enactment of Equal Rights for the LGBTQ minority in America, and therefore remains a vital facet of the company’s ongoing mission.