When it comes to economic development, it is not unusual for some chief executives of states to sneak across a border or two to try to poach some jobs. The usual pitch, however, involves tax breaks, available land and a well-trained workforce.
But Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is counting on love to make a difference.
As part of his “I Want to Marry You in Minneapolis” tour, Rybak on Thursday went to a predominantly gay neighborhood in Chicago to remind people that they can visit their nearby neighbor of Minnesota for a while, or at least long enough to marry, because same-sex marriage has been legal since Aug. 1.
Illinois does not allow same-sex marriages, and nor do the other states, Colorado and Wisconsin, that the mayor plans on visiting soon to drum up business.
“Chicago is my kind of town, but it's a second city in human rights, and right now that gives a tremendous competitive advantage to Minneapolis,” Rybak said.
“Commit to marriage. That will give you those more than 1,100 federal rights immediately,” Rybak said, noting the Supreme Court’s action in striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in June. “You can hop on a plane this afternoon, get to Minneapolis and get married, and come home tonight and be eligible for veterans benefits, for all those other benefits, as well.”
Minnesota is one of two Midwest states -- the other is Iowa -- to allow gay marriage, and media reports show that there is a market because some couples from North Dakota and Wisconsin have already made the pilgrimage to the altar.
Rybak argued that some studies show that at least $100 million is up for grabs in the next three years -- money that would flow to hotels, caterers, florists and other businesses, and of course into some state coffers.
Of course fighting for bucks in brawny Chicago might be a little hazardous to the health of some.
“Have you met [Chicago] Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel?” Rybak joked at a news conference on Thursday when asked whether such persuasion was fair. “He would do this to me every day of the week.”
Chicago and the state of Illinois have been trying to deal with a slew of economic pressures and they don’t need the competition, especially as both the mayor and governor support extending marriage rights.
“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,” Emanuel said in a statement.
“Our robust tourism and hospitality industries will thrive most fully when our state hangs out the 'welcome' sign for everybody.”