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Same-Sex Weddings Face Potential Legal Issues

By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 13, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With Delaware now the 11th state to legalize gay marriage, same-sex weddings are going to become more and more common.

But while same-sex marriage might be legal in these states and in Washington, D.C., there are still several thorny legal issues facing gay couples planning a rosy wedding.

For example, a florist in Washington state recently refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious beliefs. The florist is now being sued over alleged discrimination by both the ACLU and the state attorney general's office, Reuters reports.

But potential discrimination isn't the only legal issue facing gay couples who want to tie the knot. Here are three legal problems same-sex couples may have to deal with:

For those young same-sex couples who decided not to run away gay-"Romeo and Juliet" style and still want to tie the knot, there may be some complications if either partner is under 18.

Each state has its own age of consent laws for marriage, and most of them provide that a minor who is at least 16 years old can obtain a marriage license with the consent of a parent in writing.

For example, Rhode Island parents who disagree with their 16- and 17-year-old children getting married can still put the kibosh on the wedding by not giving their consent.

2. Church Wedding?

Many churches have opened their doors for same-sex nuptials, but even more have remained resolute in only allowing heterosexual marriages.

All states that have allowed gay marriage have been clear that religious institutions cannot be forced by law to marry same-sex individuals.

So if you have your heart set on a wedding in your neighborhood place of worship, you might want to check with the pastor or bishop first.

3. Florists, Bakers, and Caterers, Oh My!

All camp aside, these integral players in most wedding ceremonies and receptions may become your worst enemies if they decide not to work with you because you're gay.

All states that have passed gay marriage laws, like Washington state, have public accommodation laws which prohibit private businesses that are open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation. This includes wedding caterers and florists.

However, like the Washington florist who's being sued, some business owners are still fighting public accommodation laws based on either religious or free speech grounds. To avoid the hassle, you may want to choose only gay-friendly wedding contractors who won't spit in your hors d'oevres.

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