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Say It with a Hallmark Card-Or Not

Gay Girl/Straight World Takes on Same-Sex Hallmark Cards, and the Santa Barbara County Stores That Don’t Sell Them


I really love weddings. Most people wouldn’t peg me as a sappy romantic, but get me around a wedding dress, ring store, or flower shop, and it’s another story.

Imagine my bliss, then, when the California State Supreme Court on May 15, 2008, extended the right of marriage to those of us in same-sex relationships. My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters flocked to courthouses across the state to get hitched. Despite the threat of Proposition 8-which, if it passes in November, will overturn the court’s ruling-folks are still going to the chapel in droves, including the recently betrothed Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.

Gay Girl/Straight World

Although not one of the 19 guests at that particular shindig, I did head up to San Francisco at the end of June to attend another wedding. Crying, photo ops, and eating cake were all on the menu, but when it came time to give the grooms a gift, I was left wanting for a card to wrap it all up. I struggled at various retailers in town, searching for a card that didn’t clearly denote the spouses as male and female. Coming up empty-handed, I went with some generic “congratulations on sharing your new life together” message that seemed forced, particularly since the grooms in question had been together for 14 years, including a commitment celebration in 1999 and a civil union ceremony in 2002.

If the wedding were happening now, though, I would have an ally in Hallmark, which recently announced a line of cards for matrimony-inclined same-sex couples. A brilliant, if gravely overdue, marketing move aimed at the pocketbooks of gay couples and the friends and family members who love them, Hallmark simply is capitalizing on what many companies realized with the Supreme Court’s decision-gay people want to get married, and that means there’s a lot of money to be made.

Even though gay people’s money is as green as everyone else’s, many Hallmark stores-some of which are corporately owned, though most are privately owned-are refusing to sell the same-sex wedding cards. Frankly, I found this surprising, if not stupid. Why wouldn’t a storeowner want to cash in on a group of people who, let’s be honest, exhibit some extravagant spending habits (I’m thinking of the propensity to plunk down $10 for a watered-down cosmo)? But I couldn’t call myself shocked; after all, in the search for a place to host an after-party for S.B.’s Gay Pride Festival, the event’s organizers were turned down by a certain downtown nightclub that claimed it didn’t want “that type of crowd” at its establishment (I won’t name names, but you know who you are). Plus, almost immediately after news of the cards hit the streets, American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization, encouraged its members to write Hallmark to complain about the new merchandise.

I decided to call a few of the area’s Hallmark stores, sure that I would find enthusiastic store managers ready to tap into a previously overlooked population. Not quite.

My first call was to the Hallmark store in Carpinteria. The female manager I spoke to, who would not give her name, said she wouldn’t sell the cards because she’s against same-sex marriage and doesn’t “think her customers would appreciate it.” Explaining that the cards “don’t appeal to me,” she asked-after saying that same-sex couples can buy any of the cards she currently carries-“Why would they want to have their own, separate cards?” I was then told curtly that the conversation was over and was promptly hung up on. My subsequent phone calls to a handful of other Hallmark stores yielded similar results, minus the, um, professional courtesy. Despite noting the likely low sales of such cards due to their locations, two Hallmark storeowners (one from a branch in Santa Maria and another from Solvang) said they might sell such cards if supplied with them.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that now I’ll be very, very selective about what Hallmark stores I choose to patronize. Carpinteria’s Hallmark lady said her customers wouldn’t appreciate the same-sex wedding cards. Well, here’s one customer who would appreciate them. Too bad she’s already lost my business.

Penny Patterson writes an online column about gay life in Santa Barbara called Gay Girl/Straight World. See independent.com/gaygirl for more.

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