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Archive for October, 2011

from Bloomberg Businessweek, published October 20, 2011.

When the New York Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage on June 24, Michael Watts rushed to celebrate at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, birthplace of the gay rights movement. The next morning, after a more sober assessment of the news, he bought advertisements in three gay publications for his catering business. “Congratulations New York! It’s time to start planning,” read the ads for Cocktail Caterers, the company Watts founded in 2005 with his domestic partner. Since then the company has received 50 inquiries about feeding nuptial guests, up from three in all of 2010. “People are realizing, ‘Hello, there’s a market in this,’ ” says Watts.

As thousands of gay couples have lined up to exchange vows in New York, they’ve been courted by florists, caterers, event planners, and other businesses trying to capitalize on the new market of same-sex brides and grooms. Even the Manhattan Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses, has started selling wine stoppers and coffee mugs adorned with two grooms or two brides in its gift shop. “There are no rules” with same-sex ceremonies, says David Beahm, who plans high-end parties, including the nuptials of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2000. “Most grandmothers haven’t been to a gay wedding.”

New York may reap $310 million over the next three years from license fees, taxes, and tourism related to same-sex weddings, according to a May report by four New York state senators. Morgan Stanley (MS) Chairman John Mack, Goldman Sachs (GS) Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, and other Wall Street executives argue that legalization was necessary for the state to remain an economic leader. As other places “extend marriage rights regardless of sexual orientation, it will become increasingly difficult to recruit the best talent if New York cannot offer the same benefits and protections,” the business leaders wrote in an open letter in April urging legalization of same-sex unions.

Joe Rizzo, who has owned Langdon Florist in Lower Manhattan for 28 years, predicts he’ll provide flowers for about 125 weddings this year, up from the 100 or so he expected before the change in the law. Gay couples have snapped up rainbow-colored arrangements for the occasions, some of dyed roses, others a mélange of blossoms that span the spectrum from red gingers to yellow mums to purple gillyflower. The arrangements “hit it right on the nose … as far as expressing gay pride,” says Rizzo.

The bottom line: Legalized gay marriage could add $100 million a year to New York’s economy. Small businesses will get much of that windfall.

Read the full article from Bloomberg Businesweek.

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from The Star Tribune, published October 15, 2011.

Minnesotans will be voting in the fall of 2012 on whether to ban marriage for same-sex couples in our state Constitution. This issue should not have been thrust upon us. But now that it has been, we have an opportunity to transform a shameful referendum on the lives and legal protections of our fellow citizens into a historic victory for families and respect for human dignity. I will be voting “no” — against the amendment — and I urge my friends and all Minnesota voters to do the same.

First of all, I oppose this marriage amendment as a Minnesotan. I have worked most of my 85 years to make this state a place where anyone who works hard and obeys the law can succeed. Individual merit does not depend on a person’s race, religion, sex, or the gender of the person he or she loves and raises a family with. We Minnesotans have the chance to pass on a legacy worthy of our history. It is time we declare definitively that gay men and lesbians are a treasured part of our community. We can do that by voting “no” on the marriage amendment.

I am a lifelong Republican; the roots of my political life go back to 1940, when I was in the ninth grade at St. Cloud Junior High School. At a mock convention, I nominated Wendell Willkie for president against FDR. I have been a delegate to Republican conventions, from county conventions to the national convention. I was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1964 against Eugene McCarthy — and for governor in 1982 against Rudy Perpich. I lost both of those elections, but I’ve never lost my desire for a strong national defense, a limit to spending, less government regulation, and the promotion of individual liberty.

Personal moral values and religious beliefs are appropriately taught in families and houses of worship. But in a free society we must allow others to live according to the dictates of their own consciences. There is nothing in my Republican value system that supports marriage bans in our Constitution, so I also oppose this amendment as a lifelong Republican.

I oppose the amendment as a businessperson. A key to fostering a strong economic climate is attracting and retaining the best talent. Period. Gay men and lesbians are among the most talented people out there. Needless and hurtful laws like the proposed marriage amendment drive them away. They also drive away innovative people of any sexual orientation who simply want to live in a place that respects and celebrates the diversity of life.

As a married man, I oppose this marriage amendment. My first marriage of almost 40 years ended with my wife’s death from lung cancer. I am now married to the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Kathleen Blatz. Marriage is deeply important to me. I have lived long enough and have been married long enough to know that it is fulfilling, but not easy. Many things can undermine a marriage. But my happiness has never depended on depriving others of their happiness. My marriage has never needed the exclusion of others from marriage. I am not threatened by seeing others find love and celebrate it.

Finally, I have to add that I oppose this marriage amendment as a father and grandfather. One of my sons is gay, as is one of my grandchildren. I love them dearly. I want them to find love and peace in their lives, to have someone they can count on, and to be protected by the law. Far from defending families, this marriage amendment is an attack on my family. It is an attack on thousands of families across this state. I won’t sit by and just let it happen.

Wheelock Whitney is a member of the Steering Committee of Minnesotans United for all Families.

Read the full article from The Star Tribune.

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from The New York Times, published October 12, 2011.

ALBANY — As the State Legislature this year debated the legalization of same-sex marriage, a group of wealthy financiers who support both gay rights and Republican causes offered a reassurance to Republican lawmakers: Stand with us now, and we will stand with you later.

This week, the four Republican state senators who provided the decisive votes to pass the marriage bill are to get a big financial boost from those donors, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. A fund-raiser planned for Thursday night in Manhattan is expected to raise about $1.25 million to help finance their re-election bids next year.

The senators have come under heavy criticism from conservatives since they cast their votes in June. A national group that opposes same-sex marriage has purchased billboards in each of their districts, vowing to unseat the lawmakers, and the senators have been eagerly raising money in an effort to defend themselves against possible challengers.

The emergence of the wealthy donors proved critical to same-sex marriage advocates as they tried to persuade sympathetic Republicans that they would not be left in the political wilderness if they diverged from party leaders and voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage supporters pointed to Thursday’s event as evidence that they would stand by the four Republicans. The fund-raiser’s hosts include Mr. Bloomberg; the philanthropist and gay rights activist Tim Gill; and several top-tier Republican donors, including the hedge fund managers Paul E. Singer and Daniel S. Loeb.

Read the full article from The New York Times.

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