Making a commitment: Cincinnati woman is in the business of uniting couples, gay or not

CINCINNATI - Even before the tide of public opinion about marriage equality began to turn, Gay Glasscott of Tri-State Unique Ceremonies was providing same-sex couples with a way to celebrate and seal their commitment.

“I believe every couple--two men, two women or a man and a woman--should have the ceremony they had envisioned and dreamed about and it should be individualized to fit their values, personalities, philosophies, life goals, etcetera,” she said.

A number of polls indicate about 54 to 56 percent of Americans favor laws allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry.

Ohio is grappling with the issue, with a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of six couples and Judge Timothy Black’s ruling that Ohio recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. Black stayed his own ruling while the state appeals, saying he wanted to avoid "premature celebration and confusion" in case his ruling is overturned.

Meanwhile, Glasscott’s work continues. By her own count, she has provided close to 150 couples with personalized ceremonies in the past five years. She said about one-third of the ceremonies involved gay and lesbian couples. She offers her services at both professional venues and private homes, but seldom churches.

“The couples who contact me are spiritual, not necessarily religious, so they are not interested in their ceremony being held in a church,” Glasscott said. However, she does make sure to incorporate some religion into the ceremony to accommodate any family beliefs and traditions.

Committing to a new career

Glasscott spend most of her professional life a teacher and a guidance counselor. After retiring in 2007, she started to think about how to write the next chapter of her life and what path would be most fulfilling to follow. The turning point was the marriage of one of her daughters later that year; that’s where Glasscott had her first encounter with a professional celebrant. She knew she’d found her calling.

“My daughter's ceremony was the most personal, engaging, memorable, and joyful ceremony I had ever attended, mainly, because it was all about the couple,” she said. “I had attended too many ceremonies through the years, where the officiant, minister (or) rabbi simply repeated the same old words, plugging in two new names.”

Glasscott wanted to offer couples something more than just the average reading; she wanted to make each experience truly unique. Soon after her daughter’s ceremony, she contacted the Celebrant Institute and Foundation in New Jersey and got started on her. Next she became an inter-faith, ordained minister.

Have clients, will travel

Glasscott said she doesn’t really advertise. Instead, the majority of her clients filter in through other connections or through word-of-mouth.

One such couple is Erin and Emily Conley (pictured below with Glascott as celebrant). Emily, a 32-year-old Cincinnati native, is the Director of Business Development at 23andMe.com and trained as a neuroscientist. Erin, 38, is an interior designer and runs her own firm, Erin Elizabeth Interiors .

The pair met five years ago at a friend’s dinner party in San Francisco. Three years later, the romance had blossomed into a committed relationship. Erin proposed to Emily through a trail of handwritten notes, and a diamond ring. With a ceremony to plan in Mill Valley, Calif., the couple called on Glasscott.

“Gay was actually my guidance counselor starting in second grade all through middle and high school,” Emily Conley said. “I knew as soon as Erin proposed that I wanted Gay to be the one to do the ceremony.”

While the Conleys have sweet memories of their ceremony, they feel that joy is somewhat shadowed by the marriage inequality that still exists.

“I'm very happy to see Ohio making progress on same sex marriage,” Emily Conley said. “However, I don't think this (Ohio) ruling goes far enough,” she said. “Marriage is a fundamental human right and same-sex marriage should be allowed in all 50 states. It’s frustrating that Ohioans have to go elsewhere to get married in order to have marriage protections in their home state. This creates a loophole and, while it provides valuable benefits, the emotional impact of it is to say, ‘as a gay person, you still aren't equal, at least not in Ohio.’”

Although the Emily and Erin Conley planned their wedding at a time and place (California) that allowed it to be legally recognized, they said they have faced inequality in their relationship through issues with taxes and health insurance.

Glasscott's promise

Glasscott said that she typically does not have to deal with legality issues as most couples coming to her are already aware of state laws and limitations. She said these couples are simply seeking a beautiful and personalized ceremony.

Until the day comes when laws no longer blur the lines of what constitutes a marriage versus a commitment ceremony,

Glasscott said she will continue her practice, encouraging couples to have faith.

She added that while she is thrilled with the recent ruling in Ohio, she agrees that it is still not enough and waits eagerly for the day when gay and lesbian can unite legally.

She said that she has even informed all of her same-sex couples in Ohio that when that day comes, she will perform their legal ceremonies free of charge.

(Photos courtesy of Tri-State Unique Ceremonies)

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