New York City Plans Campaign to Woo Gay Weddings

NYC Plans ‘I Do’ Campaign to Woo Gay Weddings
Joe Bednar, right, and Phil Mason look on during the Gay Pride parade on June 26, 2011 in New York City. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to unveil a campaign to sell the most populous U.S. city as a gay-wedding destination after thousands marched to celebrate the state’s legalization of such marriages.

The “NYC I Do” campaign “will create millions of dollars in additional economic impact to the city’s $31 billion tourism industry,” Kimberly Spell, a spokeswoman for NYC & Company, the city’s marketing office, said yesterday in an e-mail. Bloomberg will unveil more details in coming days, she said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law June 24 to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Republican-controlled state Senate approved it. Passage came about a month after a group of Democratic state senators issued a report finding New York stood to reap $391 million from areas including economic activity and tax revenue within three years.

With rainbow flags waving and throbbing dance music blaring, as many as 6,000 marchers in Manhattan’s annual Gay Pride parade celebrated yesterday. Once the law takes effect July 24, New York will become the sixth and most populous state to legalize same-sex marriage and more than double the number of Americans living in such states to 35 million.

Cuomo led elected officials at the parade, including Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the body’s first openly gay leader. The parade kicked off shortly after noon, with members of the City Cruisers, a gay motorcycle club, leading the way.

Feathers and Glitter

The parade stretched almost two miles (3.2 kilometers) from midtown to Greenwich Village and past the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 police raid spawned the gay-rights movement. Participants were dressed in everything from feathers and glitter to almost nothing at all, and held signs reading “Thank You Governor Cuomo.” About 2 million people watched, up from the typical 1.5 million, said Britton Hogge, media director for Heritage of Pride, the event’s organizer.

Just before the parade began, Cuomo told reporters, “New York has sent a message to this nation, loud and clear. It’s time for marriage equality.”

Cuomo in 2016

For Cuomo, a 53-year-old Democrat, passage of the marriage law capped six months of successes that included an on-time budget closing a $10 billion deficit; pension and health-payment concessions from state employees in return for saving 9,800 jobs; a property-tax cap for homeowners outside New York City; and a rewritten ethics code that will force greater disclosure of officials’ income. The wins have spurred talk of a 2016 presidential candidacy, which he dismissed for now.

“I’m not going to engage in this conversation,” he said in an interview with New York Post reporter Fred Dicker on Albany’s talk-radio station, 1300 AM. “I’m not going to engage or fuel the speculation. I’ve got a very important job to do. We just started doing it.”

Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as does the District of Columbia, according to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which advocates equal rights for gay, bisexual and transgender people. New York and Maryland recognize such marriages from other jurisdictions. New York, the nation’s third most-populous state, has 19.4 million residents.

‘Tremendous Momentum’

“New York’s vote is going to give tremendous momentum to the movement to end marriage discrimination at the state and federal level,” said Evan Wolfson, president of New York City-based Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group. “It’s a shift in the calculus and in the political spectrum.”

In a May report, the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four state senators led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx and Westchester, built upon a city comptroller’s study to predict more than 21,000 gay and lesbian couples living in New York would get married within the first three years of marriage equality.

The report predicted about 3,300 couples from surrounding states without such laws would choose to marry in New York, and that almost 42,000 other out-of-state gay and lesbian couples would go there for a “destination wedding.”

Equal Benefits

Most major New York City employers already offer equal benefits to couples in domestic partnerships, making it unlikely the law will cause “significant” cost boosts, said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, comprising more than 100 chief executives based in the city.

University of California, Los Angeles’s Williams Institute, a research center on public policy and sexual orientation, reported this month that 42,000 couples raising 14,000 children would be affected by the change in New York’s law.

The benefit to Massachusetts’ economy was worth more than $100 million over five years after legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the institute.

In 2006, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage in New York, leaving the issue to the Legislature.

Suzanne Goldberg, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, said an amendment to New York’s constitution banning gay marriage was “extremely unlikely.”

“Some of the interesting legal issues will be outside New York,” she said, including the extent to which rights granted to New Yorkers will be recognized under federal law and in states that don’t permit same-sex marriage.

‘Not a Fan’

In neighboring New Jersey, prospects for gay marriage are dimmer. Republican Governor Chris Christie said he wouldn’t sign a bill legalizing it. The state Senate rejected a gay marriage bill backed by then-Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, in January 2010.

“In our state, we’re going to continue to pursue civil unions,” Christie, 48, a first-term Republican, said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “I am not a fan of same-sex marriage. It’s not something that I support.”

Republican Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, who’s planning to seek the party’s presidential nomination, said yesterday on Fox News that she backs a U.S. constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

New York’s mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.

(Corrects New York & Company to NYC & Company in second paragraph of story originally published June 27.)
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