Weddings are big business, and the mayor of Minneapolis is targeting a lucrative new market, asking gay couples from across the Midwest to take advantage of Minnesota's month-old same-sex marriage law and hold nuptials in his city.
In an ad campaign he's calling "I Want to Marry You in Minneapolis," Mayor R.T. Rybak also is highlighting the U.S. government's declaration just last week that such legally married couples will get federal benefits regardless of where they live, which followed the Supreme Court's decision in June striking down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
A longtime advocate for legal gay marriage, Rybak on Thursday needled elected officials in Illinois, and plans to take his campaign also to Milwaukee, Madison, Wis., and Denver.
"Commit to marriage. That will give you those more than 1,100 federal rights immediately," Rybak said Thursday, speaking in Chicago. "You can hop on a plane this afternoon, go to Minneapolis and get married, and come home tonight and be eligible for veterans benefits, for all those other benefits, as well."
Rybak performed dozens of same-sex marriages in the hours after Minnesota legalized gay marriages on Aug. 1. He told a gathering in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood Thursday: "Chicago is my kind of town, but it's a second city in human rights, and right now that gives a tremendous competitive advantage to Minneapolis. ... I can't wait for Illinois to take that competitive advantage away, but until then we're more than happy to welcome your dollars and your people to the city of Minneapolis."
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Minnesota's neighbor to the south, Iowa, is the only other state not on the East or West coasts. Five others, including Illinois, recognize civil unions, but a same-sex marriage effort this year failed to pass in the state.
A study by the Williams Institute in March said Illinois could see $103 million annually in new spending if it were to allow same-sex marriages, and as much as $8.5 million in taxes.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Rybak also made a pitch for gay couples to consider relocating to the Minneapolis.
"Ask yourself a question: If you were in a same-sex relationship and you wanted to start a business, would you rather start it in Chicago, where you are on your own, or come to Minneapolis where you can get married and that will give you rights to be on your partner's health insurance; so you can put that money into starting your business?"
Rybak's message could bolster efforts of Illinois' gay marriage proponents, who are smarting after legislation passed in the Senate was not called to the floor of the House due to lack of support last June.
Minnesota Public Radio reports that the the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association is co-sponsoring the campaign and offering free wedding planning services.