The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 23, 2013

Midwest competition for gay wedding tourism?

States that have legalized same-sex marriage have seen an economic boost

DES MOINES, Iowa — During four years as the only Midwestern state to offer same-sex marriage, Iowa has seen thousands of couples travel to the heartland for wedding celebrations that pumped millions of dollars into the state economy.

But Iowa will get some competition in the cake and champagne industry when a Minnesota law legalizing gay marriage goes into effect on Aug. 1. Some Minnesota officials are already rolling out the red carpet for gay couples in other states.

"Weddings are a good business. That's an exciting part of it," St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said. "We're really seeing this as an opportunity to not only do right by the community, but the economic (benefit as well)."

Coleman, a Democrat, added, "It could be a friendly competition between Minnesota and Iowa but we're confident St. Paul will do well."

Just how this shift will impact the Iowa wedding industry is hard to predict. Although the states are similar in many ways, Minneapolis-St. Paul is a metro area that nearly equals Iowa's total population, and the Twin Cities airport offers more frequent and often cheaper flights than Iowa airports. There also is a surge in enthusiasm following Minnesota's change in law.

Those factors might prove attractive to an out-of-state couple looking for a place to wed. Still, Iowa gay rights advocates said there is support in the state for gay couples and that travel to Iowa would continue.

"We're so pleased that Minnesota now has marriage. I think that in terms of revenue, in terms of the number of couples, that's not going to change that much," said Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, the state's largest gay advocacy group. "I think people make choices based on lots of things. It seems like everybody has some connection to Iowa. I don't think it's going to affect us."

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