The tide of acceptance continues to grow with 37 states recognizing gay marriage, and a recent survey shows that 60 percent of Americans are in favor of marriage equality. Unfortunately, the minds and efforts of the most conservative influencers in our country are continually working against progress and one can only imagine what will happen to the rights of so many should a Republican candidate win the seat of the highest office in our country. The thought is both frightening and shameful.
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When I started Olivia Travel in 1990, it was with the goal and dedication to charter entire cruise ships and resort vacations for lesbians. Those were the days when the LGBT community was afraid to travel and show affection with their companion and partner. Only one cruise line offered to charter our groups while others were concerned about the backlash they might suffer if they made a business decision to partner with a LGBT travel organization.
Is there equal treatment of LGBT tourists and employees within the travel industry today? No, but progress is happening. As an example, acceptance in travel destinations such as the Caribbean, which in the past has typically not been very open to LGBT travelers, is showing much greater awareness and acceptance to same-sex visitors. Is it the substantial economic benefit these ports benefit from LGBT charters that has brought on a more open attitude or has it simply been a gradual change brought on by consistent visits over the past 20+ years? Whatever the reason; we see it and appreciate the evolution.
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Here's how marriage rights impact tourism and eventually lead to the acceptance of LGBT people everywhere: More weddings means more honeymoons and that brings on more travel, which in itself creates a conscious change in the world. Why? Because the more visible LGBT people are both nationally and abroad, the greater acceptance there is of seeing same-sex couples, and for the couples, the more comfortable the travel destination is with their visit, the more likely the couple is to share their experience with others. It really is such a cyclical benefit for everyone.
With the recent passing of religious freedom bills in Indiana and other states, we are left to realize how much work still needs to be done. So many Americans are waiting to see if the Supreme Courts' decision will continue a movement of forward momentum or reverse the progress that has already been made.
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It is time...actually its well past the time for the United States Supreme Court to put an end to this form of bigotry. Call me an optimist, but I truly believe they will make the right decision for equality for all.
Commentary by Judy Dlugacz, president and founder of Olivia Travel, a tour company that charters resorts and cruises for lesbians. Prior to that, she founded Olivia Records, an independent record company specializing in women artists. She will also be the grand marshal of the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade. Follow Olivia Travel on Twitter @OliviaTravel.