The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

September 5, 2013

What's behind the Minneapolis gay marriage pitch?

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Paging San Francisco and Boston: Minneapolis wants a piece of your turf.

The Midwestern city's mayor is making a pitch to become the gay marriage destination for the middle of the country, urging couples to come to the City of Lakes to tie the knot. Mayor R. T. Rybak is urging Chicago couples to come north to exchange vows, and soon, will go to Colorado and Wisconsin to spread his message.

But will it work? And why is he launching this campaign now?

Q: What is Minneapolis's mayor trying to do?

A: Rybak is dangling Minnesota's recently enacted gay marriage law to gay couples in nearby states including Illinois that don't allow same-sex weddings, hoping they travel to Minnesota for a marriage license since it's closer than the other, mostly coastal states where it's allowed. The ad campaign, dubbed "I Want to Marry You in Minneapolis," will run in publications in Chicago as well as Milwaukee, Madison and Denver.

Rybak is an appropriate messenger: the longtime supporter of gay marriage performed 46 same-sex weddings in the hours after it became legal in Minnesota on Aug. 1, and later presided over the wedding of the city's police chief and her wife.

Q: How much money could this actually bring the state?

A: Potentially millions in tourism dollars. It's still one of only two Midwestern states to allow gay marriage (Iowa is the other), and Rybak and Minnesota tourism officials are trying to turn the Land of 10,000 Lakes into a major draw for gay couples throughout the region. That means money in the pockets of Minnesota hotels, florists, caterers, photographers and other wedding vendors. Rybak is also hoping that some visitors are taken with Minnesota's fabled high quality of life that they start thinking about a permanent move.

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