The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 5, 2013

Minn. mayor bids for Ill. gay couples' weddings

CHICAGO (AP) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was headed Thursday for a predominantly gay neighborhood in Chicago hoping to persuade same-sex couples to come north to his state to get married — and spend lots of money on weddings while there.

Rybak is launching "Marry Me in Minneapolis," a campaign that aims to take advantage of frustrations among gays that Illinois has not approved a same-sex marriage law. After Chicago, Rybak plans visits to Colorado and Wisconsin, two more states that haven't OK'd same-sex marriage.

Rybak's message is that Chicagoans no longer have to make a long and expensive trip to the coasts to get married, just the six-hour drive to his city. Many Midwestern gay couples have exchanged vows in Iowa — the only state bordering Illinois that allows same-sex weddings — but Rybak hopes to bring some of that business home with him.

"I love Chicago and love to come spend money there, but if people there don't get the rights they deserve, I am more than happy to have them come and spend their money in Minneapolis," he said in a telephone interview before the trip.

Rybak figures the campaign, if successful, could help Minneapolis profit on everything from hotel rooms to flowers to caterers. He said he expects the effort to bring in at least tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some Illinois same-sex couples say they are open to the idea, particularly if lawmakers again fail to approve a marriage law soon. Advocates say they fell just a few votes short of getting a proposal passed in the Legislature last spring and hope to push for it again this fall, but its odds are unknown.

"If we can reinforce for our son that we are a family and have something that recognizes that we are a family, we might take the mayor up on his offer," said Aana Vigen, a college professor in Chicago.

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