Photo credit: Patch.com
Mayor Rybak--who is also vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and a passionate advocate for marriage equality--kicked off his campaign in Chicago earlier this month (via KMSP TV):
"I hope the day comes very soon that all Illinoisans can marry the person that they love, and I strongly encourage the Legislature and Governor Quinn to pass marriage equality as soon as possible -- but until that day comes, I'm here to steal your business," Rybak said.But, same-sex couples traveling to Minneapolis to get married? Really? Yes, really! See my commentary below the fold.
"This is very much about money," Rybak conceded while speaking in Chicago. "In my mind, it's also about equal rights. I can't imagine that in a city that has neighborhoods like this that were built by members of the LGBT community, they wouldn't have equal rights -- but hey, if they don't, we'd love you in Minneapolis."
Just how gay friendly is Minneapolis? In its somewhat quixotic ranking of America's gayest cities, The Advocate rated the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul as the nation's 10th gayest city in 2013, calling it a "Midwestern gay Mecca." (They are actually two different cities, of course, but The Advocate counted them as a single city, referring to them as "more than just roommates" and "full domestic partners.") This was down from its 2011 ranking as the #1 gayest city in the nation. With so many gays and lesbians marrying here these days (over 1600 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in Minnesota as of September 2, according to a survey conducted by the AP), I imagine it will move up in the rankings next year.
Thanks to the anti-gay-marriage referendum on the November, 2012 ballot (which, ironically, played a major role in making marriage equality a reality in Minnesota, as noted in this Time Magazine article) we have a pretty good idea how the people of Minneapolis feel about marriage equality. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State, 76% of city residents who cast ballots last fall voted against the gay marriage ban--three out of every four voters. (For comparison, about 68% of St. Paul's voters rejected the gay marriage ban, and statewide, about 51% of voters rejected it. Distressingly close, but enough to win.)
President Obama, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Congressman Keith Elllison (who sang a song and preached from his gospel of left-wing activism in celebration of marriage equality) each received over 80% of the city's votes last fall. The city’s 5 state senators and 10 state representatives are all Democrats who voted in favor of marriage equality. Senator Al Franken (who bought flowers for the couples who were wed in Minneapolis City Hall in the first hours after gay marriage became legal in Minnesota) and Governor Mark Dayton, who are both running for reelection next year, are also marriage equality supporters, as is each of the City Council's 13 members.
Of course, being a gay-friendly city isn't just about electing politicians who support full equality for LGBT people. Residents have to back up their votes with their actions. Well, this is what people in Minneapolis do to anti-gay graffiti. Initially, there were some vandals who thought that gays should die, but there were subsequent vandals who think gays are awesome.
As the Daily Show's Jason Jones points out in this NSFW 2011 video clip Minneapolis is the New Gay, gay culture in Minneapolis is pretty well woven into mainstream culture, an observation I made a few weeks ago. As I was admiring the sunset over one of the city's many lakes (see the entirely gratuitous photo below), I saw an awkward-looking young couple--dressed slightly more formally than either was comfortable with--tentatively holding hands as they strolled around the lake. They looked like college freshmen or sophomores, perhaps on their second or third date. I remembered a similarly awkward stroll I took with a would-be boyfriend around that same lake 25 years ago. One difference, though. The couple I saw that evening was made up of two young men. They were awkward and cute and enjoying an utterly normal ritual of young adulthood.
P.S. St. Paul is nice too!
Edit 1: Replaced confusing photo.
Edit 2: Changed some wording per feedback from commenters.