LOS ANGELES – The Walt Disney Co. has changed its policy to allow same-sex couples to participate in a popular Fairy Tale Wedding program it runs mainly at its two U.S. resorts and cruise line, a Disney spokesman said on Thursday.
Disney previously allowed gay couples to organize their own weddings or commitment ceremonies at rented meeting rooms at the resorts, but had barred them from purchasing its Fairy Tale Wedding package and holding the event at locations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World set aside specifically for weddings.
"We are updating our Fairy Tale Wedding guidelines to include commitment ceremonies," Disney Parks and Resorts spokesman Donn Walker said. "This is consistent with our policy of creating a welcoming, respectful and inclusive environment for all of our guests."
Walker said the change was prompted by "an inquiry from a guest that asked about this service."
Disney had allowed gay couples to take part in its vow renewals program but excluded them from buying wedding packages by requiring a valid marriage license from California or Florida, which do not permit or recognize gay marriages.
Last month, gay Web site AfterElton.com criticized Disney for not allowing same-sex couples to participate in the Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons program.
Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding packages start at $8,000 and include a wedding planner, the ceremony, food and beverages, flowers and table decorations.
The Lavish Wedding Option also includes a ride to the ceremony in the Cinderella coach, costumed trumpeters heralding the couple's arrival, and attendance by Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters dressed in formal attire.
Disney has come under fire from religious conservatives, including the Southern Baptist Convention, who have accused the company of promoting a gay agenda.
The groups, which lifted an eight-year boycott of Disney in 2005, had criticized the company for such corporate policies as giving health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, allowing "Gay Day" celebrations at its theme parks and airing a prime-time television show on its ABC network featuring openly gay comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
"We are not in the business of making judgments about the lifestyle of our guests. We are in the hospitality business and our parks and resorts are open to everyone," Walker said.