This has been an incredibly eventful week in LGBT/civil rights news . Topping it off comes a pair of provocative articles in the New York Times and Washington Post about New York City’s aggressive push for LGBT tourist dollars.
The $1.9M marketing campaign is called (what else?) Rainbow Pilgrimage, and it “will highlight New York’s reputation as a gay-friendly destination and tout a visit to the city as a ‘rite of passage.’” What makes this campaign so delish? It launches just months after the New York legislature blew its opportunity to become the first in the country to vote same-sex marriage into law, thereby turning away potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in same-sex marriage-related revenue.
Seriously. Do not misunderestimate the wedding industry.
This past June, after the Massachusetts legislature repealed a 1913 law that prevented out-of-state, same-sex couples from coming to the Bay State to get married, a study from the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy predicted that the state’s economy would grow $111 million over three years. That very conservative estimate in based on the premise that 32,200 same-sex couples from across the country would come to Massachusetts and that each couple would spend around $4,000 on wedding and tourism expenses. By contrast, a wedding industry research group that is also quoted in the report calculates $29,264 as the average price of a wedding ceremony in the United States over the next three years, which brings the number up another $700 million or so. However you slice it, we’re talking about a LOT of revenue.
It could have been New York’s. This past winter, prospects for marriage equality in the state were looking bright after local elections handed Democrats the majority in both houses for the first time in several decades. But Malcolm Smith settled disputes with conservatives in his party over his stepping into State Senate Majority Leader position by promising not to bring up gay marriage for a vote. Smith got his wish. And so did the conservatives. But all hopes for LGBT marriage equality were dashed. (New York state courts have already made it clear that they’re not going to be the ones to make same-sex marriage law. Meanwhile, according to today’ New York Daily News, Governor Paterson is urging the state senate to put gay nuptials up to a vote.)
Now it’s spring of 2009, Wall Street is hemorrhaging, and New York City officials are desperate to reduce a projected $4 billion budget deficit.
So New York, which has blown its chance to be a wedding destination for LGBT people, is trawling for queer dollars with a campaign whose centerpiece will be — wait for it — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village that launched the modern LGBT movement. Quick refresher: Those riots started one night in June 1969 after the patrons of the Stonewall Bar fought back against a police raid by throwing bottles and garbage, then locking the raiding officers in the bar and setting it on fire. They’d had it with being physically and sexually assaulted en route to the police station, then losing their jobs when their pictures appeared in the papers (see also, opening shots of “Milk”). They’d had it with second-class citizenship. And they’d had it with being mistreated by the very people who were supposed to be in charge of law and order.
Using Stonewall as the Rainbow Pilgrimage’s calling card for a city that won’t extend marriage equality to its LGBT citizens nearly four decades later because its officials are using our rights as chips in some grandiose political poker game is either a sick joke or a very bad case of irony deficiency.
You have to hope that the LGBT people that New York officials are trying to lure to the Big Apple and away from much states that haven’t been afraid to enact marriage equality like Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and Vermont haven’t read their history.
All I can say is holy schaudenfraude, Batman. And regards to your lovely partner, Robin, from my wife and me.