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The Strip Sense

[Strip Sense]

Nevada’s gay duh

Leaving millions on the table in the name of—ready for it?—morality

Next week, when Californians start allowing same-sex couples to legally marry as a result of a recent state Supreme Court ruling, the Golden State will reap a massive financial bonanza that should go a long way through the summer toward softening the harshest impacts of an ongoing recession and record fuel prices.

Over the border in Nevada, the folks running those little gambling joints along Las Vegas Boulevard will meanwhile be crying in their red-state beers. Because of the utter hypocrisy, stupidity and basic mean-spiritedness of the Silver State’s electorate, Las Vegas will miss out on untold millions of dollars in tourism spending that could’ve been for being on the forefront of the coming gay-marriage tsunami. If there’s anything casino bosses despise, it’s leaving money on the table.

This column is not about the morality of same-sex marriage. Of course, I know well from personal experience that two men or two women can love one another as honorably or dishonorably as any man and woman. The notion that any couple’s relationship has a bearing on the validity and strength of anyone else’s lives is so idiotic on its face that it doesn’t even deserve a serious response.

Nor ought it be necessary to note that for 70 percent of the voters in a state that has done more historically to undermine the sanctity of marriage than any other locale in human history to believe they have a moral imperative to protect children from having two moms but not prostitution and bare asses on taxi cabooses is so laughable that I urge you to stop reading now if you don’t see why. I don’t want such morons in my audience.

Yet, voters here in two successive elections did just that, the rigamarole required to alter the Nevada Constitution. For the first time, the document had discrimination added to it.

No, this column is about the cost that that irresponsible and bigoted decision has wrought on the state.

“We estimate that over the next three years, the California decision will generate $700 million in spending on weddings, so obviously Nevada is missing out on a piece of that pie,” said Gary Gates of the University of California School of Law, who studies the demographics of American gays. “We estimate that this will add more than $50 million in taxes to the state’s coffers and create more than 2,000 jobs. The unique position in Nevada is that Vegas is clearly known for weddings. That’s an easy fit.”

Or it would’ve been. What’s revolutionary about California is that while same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2003, non-residents can’t partake. In California, any two adults can do it. Whether they will be recognized as legally wed back home, though, is the next generation of marriage-law headaches for state and federal courts to discern.

The folks at MGM Mirage and Harrah’s, the two Vegas conglomerates that have set the pace on the Strip for aggressive pursuit of the gay dollar, realize the jackpot Nevada is missing out on. I mean, I don’t recall back when that referendum was pending seeing the casino industry blanketing the TV airwaves with ads explaining why banning marriage equality was against the citizenry’s fiscal self-interests, but certainly in subsequent years they’ve stepped up with substantial tourism advertising in the gay media, sponsorships of gay events and domestic-partnership health benefits for their employees.

These companies now spar for bragging rights as to who is considered more pro-gay by gay travel media and activist organizations. Today, with its swerve toward fine dining, top-end shopping and Cher-Elton-Bette-Broadway-Cirque entertainment, Vegas is the second most popular gay travel destination in America. Such a concept would have been ridiculous just a decade ago.

“I don’t think there’s any question [legal gay marriage] would be a substantial tourist draw,” MGM Mirage VP Alan Feldman says. “Unfortunately, the political reality is that voters voted three-to-one against it. I will say that in looking at what’s happening in California and seeing the tide moving in another direction, it would be a nice thing to see that sea change start taking effect in other states, including Nevada.”

Sadly, by the time the damage by Nevada voters is undone, Gates says, pent-up demand among gays across the nation will be all but spent, and there’ll be little novelty factor to it. Not to mention, it’ll take many years for the Nevada Constitution to be reverted unless the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution requires states to honor one another’s marriage contracts. That would essentially legalize gay marriage nationwide.

What’s a tourist mecca to do, then? Well, for one thing, you can expect the players in Nevada to push hard for a share of California’s same-sex honeymoon market. “I, for one, can’t imagine anything better than getting married in San Francisco and having a honeymoon in Las Vegas,” Feldman enthuses.

So what about Miles and me? An exuberant friend in San Diego is now badgering us to come to California and get hitched. Everybody’s doing it, y’know.

We won’t. There’s no point if it doesn’t add anything to our legal status in the state where we reside. To do so would be merely symbolic, and we already did the symbolic thing 15 months ago at the Palms. We refuse, as we often must tell people, to be marriage tourists.

My pal Rex was unrelenting: “Let’s meet in Baker, California, and you can do it! Then when the U.S. Supremes force the states to recognize marriages from elsewhere, you’ll already be married!” Say it with us: Ew. We already had one wedding in Vegas, and that was only because we live here. What, we need to get even tackier and have another one in the shadow of the world’s tallest thermometer?

We can wait until it means something. And then, surely, there are nicer places to hold a wedding reception in the state of California than the Mad Greek.

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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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