The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 5, 2013

Minn. mayor bids for Ill. gay couples' weddings

(Continued)

The thought of couples and their families hopping in the car and spending their money elsewhere upsets Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spends considerable time trying to generate revenue for the city.

"Failing to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples is bad for Chicago, bad for Illinois and bad for our local economy and the jobs it creates," he said in a statement. "Our robust tourism and hospitality industries will thrive most fully when our state hangs out the 'welcome' sign for everybody."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who's overseeing a state grappling with a $100 billion public pension shortfall and billions of dollars in unpaid bills to state service providers, said failure to pass a same-sex marriage law not only "costs people their rights, but also has an economic cost."

If Minneapolis' offer attracts even a fraction of the state's gay couples, it could mean millions of tourism dollars. One study by the Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA's law school, concluded that if Illinois does extend marriage to same-sex couples, half of the state's approximate 23,000 same-sex couples will get married within three years. And that, the study found, would pump more than $100 million into the state and local economy.

The Williams Institute also found that 60 percent of same-sex couples are traveling out of their home states to get married, at least in the three states that track those statistics.

In some instances, the percentages are even higher. Doug Johnstone, the town clerk of Provincetown, Ma., a Cape Cod town popular with gay tourists, said that more than 80 percent of the 362 marriage licenses issued to gays so far this year have been to out-of-state couples.

A push to pass gay marriage through the Illinois Legislature came up short last spring. Supporters have reinforced their campaign to get it approved and vow to bring the issue back as early as this fall.

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