Tim Gunn and the American Civil Liberties Union are trying to make it work for same-sex couples who can’t get married at home.
Gunn, the host of fashionable television shows “Project Runway” and “Under the Gunn,” was tapped to be the spokesman for the ACLU’s “My Big Gay (Il)legal Wedding” contest, which will give $5,000 to five same-sex couples who live in states where their union isn’t legal.
“These states need a makeover,” a cartoon version of Gunn chided in the contest’s promotional video.
“Of course as soon as I heard about it I thought, ‘Well who wouldn’t want to join up and be part of this?’ And I didn’t have a moment of hesitation,” the fashion great told Whispers.[READ: When Tim Gunn Comes to Washington, People Run]
So far, more than 35,000 votes have been cast to help 107 couples get married. Participants were asked to tell their love stories and share a creative way they could be carried across the border, into a state where same-sex marriage is legal. The top online vote-getters win.
“The ACLU is looking for five couples to travel by elephant, sky-dive or even hot air balloon across snow, forests and deserts to where it is legal to marry,” Gunn explained in the video.
One couple suggested taking a horse-drawn carriage, while another wished to get married on the pedestrian bridge between Nebraska and Iowa. Other ideas included having Lady Gaga officiate, and one couple wouldn’t say much except that their dream wedding would involve first-class plane tickets and lots of glitter.
The contest is being used as a way to showcase bigger legal questions.
“I see this contest as a way to highlight the crazy patchwork of protections that exist all across the country, where in some states you can get married and in other states you can’t,” said James Esseks, the director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. “And when you travel from place to place you kind of go from married to unmarried, married to unmarried in a way that seems really ridiculous.”
As an example, Esseks mentioned a current case the ACLU is attached to involving a lesbian couple who live in Northern Virginia. Wed in D.C., and with one spouse working in D.C., the couple’s marriage isn’t recognized when they’re home at night.
“When she’s at work during the day, she’s a married woman with a daughter, and on her commute on the way home to Northern Virginia, in the eyes of the commonwealth, she becomes a single mother,” Esseks said. “That’s not the reality of her life – she didn’t decide to become a single mother.”
Aside from custody issues, Esseks noted that simply filing taxes – federally as a couple and in-state as single people – is a huge process.
Turning to the contest, Esseks said he wasn’t sure what the legality of an airplane wedding would be, as one set of contestants suggested. However, a straight couple, Esseks said, would never have to worry.
“They wouldn’t have to stop and think, ‘Gee which state are we over when we get married?'” Esseks noted. “Whereas a same-sex couple would say, ‘Hmm, are we over Illinois yet? We can’t do it yet, we’re still over Ohio,'”[ALSO: Is She Running? Tim Gunn Thinks Hillary Clinton’s Fashion Choices Say Yes]
Overall, Gunn, who’s worked with the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Maryland and The Trevor Project in the past, is optimistic.
“You know how slowly plodding change can be and I, quite frankly, think we’re doing pretty well,” Gunn said.
The contest, which is ongoing until Feb. 16, will just continue the push.
“It’s just so preposterous,” Gunn said. “Marriage equality should exist in every state.”