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In promoting gay-marriage, state and Iowa City shouldn’t over-do it

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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The photo frame at Gay Days read, “Just Married in Iowa City.” The gay-friendly event at Disneyland Resort in California, which hosted approximately 30,000 attendees last week, was the latest in an effort to attract same-sex couples to the state.

Since this spring’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the ban on same-sex marriage, gay couples have poured in. The controversial verdict has also opened the state to a vast world of tourism opportunities for Iowa, opportunities that wouldn’t exist had not the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality.

But while the economic possibilities surrounding the legalization of same-sex marriage may increase state revenue, tourism, and population, the state shouldn’t promote the decision ostentatiously.

This is marriage we’re talking about. Those pushing tourism should place the utmost importance on not turning our state into an attraction or a joke. Iowa shouldn’t be deemed — while obviously not true — a state that legalized same-sex marriage just for the profit-sharing and economic benefits.

Not surprisingly — and admirably — Iowa City has been at the vanguard of marrying gay couples.

Rev. Bill Lovin of Iowa City’s Congregational United Church of Christ has married five couples since the court’s ruling.

Mark Ginsberg, the owner of M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, 110 E. Washington St., has also embraced the decision.

“I’m a business person,” he said. “I look to see how I can break down barriers and bring tourism and business to our city.”

Likewise, UI alumnus Eric Heinkel told the DI, “we aren’t expecting people to pack up their bags and rush to Iowa … but we want them to know people in Iowa are open.”

Heinkel, the convention sales manager for the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, was part of the group that traveled to Gay Days to encourage same-sex couples to tie the knot in Iowa.

And that’s really what is important.

There’s no need to promote Iowa as a Las Vegas-esque tourism destination where gays can marry.

We do need to increase the tolerant image of the state, so those on the coasts realize places like Iowa are not seething tides of ignorance.

The Editorial Board has written extensively in the past on this subject, elucidating our steadfast commitment to marriage equality. We’re thrilled same-sex couples are flocking to Iowa — especially Iowa City. There’s no question that the influx of gay couples into the state is an enormous boon for businesses and pluralistic communities like Iowa City.

But we should be stauncher in our commitment to dignity and equality than the bottom line. Just as the Supreme Court didn’t factor in potential tourism benefits when weighing its monumental decision, Iowa City — and the entire state — shouldn’t singularly focus on attracting same-sex couples’ pocketbooks. Sure, gay couples bring thousands of dollars into the state. But placing an undue emphasis on the monetary advantages of attracting same-sex couples bastardizes the Supreme Court’s historic decision.

Iowa City and the state should be known as the destination for gay couples because of its nondiscriminatory population, not its penchant for attracting cash-infused couples.

If Iowa extravagantly promotes same-sex marriage, it risks creating a sort of show and lowering the legitimacy of the historic ruling. It’s imperative the state and the Iowa City community remain cognizant of the fine line between promotion and excess.


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