By Jamie Rubenstein
The same sex marriage business is indeed on a roll in Minnesota with more than 1,400 couples tying the knot since August. But the results are still pending regarding the local campaign to “import” the lucrative wedding trade to the Gopher State.
The mayor of Minneapolis, R. T. Rybak, backed by the Meet Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association, ventured out earlier this month to Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison to lure same-sex couples to his state. He’s now considering a possible trip to Denver as well.
“We’re not sure about the budget but it is something we’re looking at,” said a spokesman for the Meet Minneapolis convention agency that helped finance the mayor’s travels and paid for “I Want You to Marry in Minneapolis” ads that appeared in LGBT and alternative publications in all three Midwest cities.
Officials with the mayor’s office and the convention bureau maintained it is still too early to gauge results, but there have been a number of out-of-state couples who have committed to weddings this fall in the area following the August 1 lifting of the same-sex marriage ban.
The Minneapolis officials maintain they were stunned by the initial response with 63 couples getting married in Minneapolis that first day, leading them to go on their recruiting tour of states where same-sex marriages are not recognized.
During his Wisconsin foray, Rybak reportedly ribbed Governor Scott Walker for not seeing the economic benefits of allowing same-sex marriage. Rybak pointed out that wedding ceremonies benefit local hotels, caterers, florists and bakers.
“You know, Governor Walker has made a habit of traveling to other states and saying that government should cut regulations so that people have the full liberties they have and business can soar,” Rybak said. “Well, I think Governor Walker should cut the federal red tape that prevents people from having equal rights to marry…and that would help a whole lot of small businesses put money into the local economy.
“If Governor Walker wants to give that advice to Minnesota, I give it right back to Governor Walker. Cut the red tape, give liberty and let small business soar.”
In neighboring Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau said it “was aware” of Rybak’s trips but was a bit skeptical if such a project might be repeated by Iowa business groups since same-sex marriages were made legal three years ago.
“I applaud what they are doing but I’m not sure we are a destination city for same-sex couples, though we have outstanding wedding facilities,” Greg Edwards, president/CEO of the bureau, told 429Magazine.
The Meet Minneapolis association has a separate LGBT spot on its website providing vendor lists and wedding advice.