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

(Continued)

Red Wing also said that the goal is to have this opportunity in every state.

"In a couple of years if you live in Birmingham, Alabama, you're going to get married there," she said.

A 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage in the state, making it the third in the nation to take the step. In May, Minnesota became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to approve same-sex unions. The others are: Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.

States that have legalized same-sex marriage have seen an economic boost from those celebrations, including Iowa. According to a report from the Williams Institute, a LGBT-focused think tank at the University of California, about $12 million was spent on gay weddings and related tourism in Iowa during the first year it was available. An estimated $4.6 million of that was generated by out-of-state couples.

Of the 1,302 same-sex weddings in Iowa in 2011 — the most recent year with data available — 955 were couples that reside outside the state, according to state data.

Some Minnesota destinations want in on the action. Tourism websites for Minneapolis and St. Paul both offer information on same-sex marriage and the St. Paul team recently traveled to Milwaukee's Pridefest to promote the city.

"We're Midwesterners, it's all friendly competition," said Adam Johnson, vice president of marketing for Visit St Paul.

There is less of a visible public push coming from Iowa tourism groups. No gay marriage information is available on the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau site, though CEO Greg Edwards said they'd consider making such a change. Edwards said they had looked at putting marketing dollars into promoting gay marriage in the city, but their research suggested it wasn't going to be a big enough draw to devote significant resources.

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