CHICAGO: The mayor of one U.S. city sees money in the growing momentum for gay marriage and is hitting the road to encourage couples elsewhere to hold their weddings in his town.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was headed Thursday for a predominantly gay neighborhood in Chicago. He's launching "Marry Me in Minneapolis," a campaign that aims to take advantage of frustrations that Illinois has not approved a same-sex marriage law.
Rybak then plans visits to Colorado and Wisconsin, two more states that haven't approved same-sex marriage.
His message is that residents of the Midwest no longer have to make a long and expensive trip to the coasts to get married, just the six-hour drive to his city.
"I am more than happy to have them come and spend their money in Minneapolis," he said in a telephone interview. Rybak figures the campaign could help his city profit on everything from hotel rooms to flowers to caterers.
The thought of couples and their families spending their money elsewhere upsets Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"Failing to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples is bad for Chicago, bad for Illinois and bad for our local economy and the jobs it creates," he said in a statement. "Our robust tourism and hospitality industries will thrive most fully when our state hangs out the 'welcome' sign for everybody."
One study by the Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA's law school, concluded that if Illinois does extend marriage to same-sex couples, half of the state's estimated 23,000 same-sex couples will get married within three years. And that, the study found, would put more than $100 million into the state and local economy.
The Williams Institute also found that 60 percent of same-sex couples are traveling out of their home states to get married, at least in the three states that track those statistics.
In some instances, the percentages are even higher. Doug Johnstone, the town clerk of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a town popular with gay tourists, said more than 80 percent of the 362 marriage licenses issued to gays so far this year have been to out-of-state couples.