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[The Strip Sense]

When it comes to gay marriage, Nevada is a few states too late

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People hold signs thanking Governor Andrew Cuomo at the annual Heritage of Pride March, one of the world’s oldest and largest gay pride parades, Sunday June 26, 2011, in New York. The parade became a victory celebration after New York’s historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday.
Photo: Diane Bondareff | AP

Like most gay Americans not on the happy streets of Greenwich Village on Friday as the New York Senate deliberated whether to make my home state the largest and coolest state to recognize same-sex marriages, I sat with one eye glued to cable news coverage and the other avidly scanning the web. And amid that hullabaloo, an email arrived from Nevada’s foremost conservative activist, Chuck Muth.

He, too, was paying attention and took the unfolding historic moment to call on his Silver State minions—those who sign his anti-tax pledges and cower when he unleashes his ire—to embrace marriage equality because “it’s inevitable. It can and will be delayed, but not stopped. And eventually, it will be as acceptable as black/white marriages.”

It was at once a reality check and a warning against being on the wrong side of history. It wasn’t the first time Muth or other principled conservatives—those who follow their credo all the way to the belief that government should stay out of personal as well as economic lives—had made such remarks, but his timing heightened the message.

To sweeten the pot, Muth added this: “As an economy based almost solely on tourism and entertainment, Nevada—and especially Las Vegas —should accept reality, embrace the inevitable, repeal the state’s ban on gay marriage and scarf up on the tourism bonanza that would result rather than suck hind teat behind the likes of Hawaii and New York.”

Sorry, Charlie. If this state is to legalize marriage equality, it will have to do it not because there’s big money to be made but because—gasp!—it’s just and moral to do so.

Vegas’ shot at this “bonanza” was probably long gone before New York approved marriage equality on Friday, but it became even more obvious as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately commenced a tourism campaign to capitalize on his state’s place at the cultural vanguard. Meanwhile, next month Vegas swears in a mayor opposed to same-sex marriage, making our City Hall hostile to gay rights for the first time in at least 20 years. The gays notice such things, y’know.

Many, including my partner, believe I’m wrong, that a pot of gold awaits at the end of this rainbow no matter when it happens. “You don’t think that the gays won’t flock here to do the Vegas wedding the way everyone else does?” Miles asked. “The trashy ones want to walk in Britney’s footsteps, the fancy ones will do the Wynn.”

Oh, sure, Vegas will enjoy a proportionate share of the nuptial industry from tacky and tony gays same as we get from tacky and tony straights. But that’s no “bonanza;” it’s the same piece of action we’d get from any population.

What about pent-up demand that could translate into economic stimulus? That demand is already being sated by New York, Massachusetts and four other states where gay marriage is legal. It would take at least until 2015 for Nevada to undo its constitutional prohibition against the gays; by then, this won’t be a novelty anymore.

When marriage was new, gays would go absolutely anywhere (even Iowa!) for the thrill of it, despite its remaining legally insignificant from whence they came. We’re no longer so easy to placate; we demand now that it be legal everywhere, so we can move from, say, Nevada to Michigan, and still be married when we get there. We’re also a trendy and fiercely loyal bunch who reward early adapters, not opportunistic stragglers.

The U.S. Supreme Court may, within the next couple of years, resolve this and declare discrimination unconstitutional. But if Nevada is either forced by federal court fiat to recognize marriage or somehow actively chooses to be perhaps the 15th state on the bandwagon, gays won’t go to out of their way to give business to those who weren’t there when they needed them. Well, unless they’re truly nuts about Elvis, and I hope that’s a relatively small population.

No, Nevada already blew this one. And not in a good way.

Follow Steve on Twitter at TheStripPodcast or head to VegasHappensHere.com for his blog and weekly celeb-interview podcast, The Strip. E-mail him at SteveFriess@aol.com.
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Steve Friess

Steve Friess is a freelance journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work has appeared in the New York Times, ...

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