We sit down with the immigrant-rights activist, who has written extensively about the fact that he has been living illegally in the U.S. for years.
The mayor of Minneapolis is heading to Chicago in hopes he can convince gay and lesbian couples to think about getting married in his city. Same-sex marriage was recently legalized in Minnesota.
R.T. Rybak is scheduled to appear today in a predominantly gay neighborhood to personally invite couples frustrated by Illinois’ lack of a gay marriage law to get married in Minneapolis. He says that would pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.
“I love Chicago — it’s my kind of town. But it is the second city for equal rights. And since people don’t have the rights they deserve, we’re saying hey, come on up to Minneapolis. We’re happy to marry you, bring your wedding party. And by the way, you’ll fly home or drive home with about 1,100 federal rights that you didn’t have before,” Rybak told Here & Now.
Rybak plans to bring the “Marry Me in Minneapolis” campaign to Colorado and Wisconsin as well.
“We’re starting with Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Denver, and then we’ll reassess,” Rybak said. “You know, Willie Sutton said, ‘Why do I rob banks? It’s where the money is.’ Why do we go to Chicago? It’s where the money is. And right now the people of Illinois are saying they don’t want the money, and we’re happy to take it in a state that believes people should have the rights they deserve.”
Several Chicago and Illinois officials reacted to Rybak’s effort by calling again for state lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti in for Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Marry Me in Minneapolis - that's the name of the new campaign Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak unveiled today in the city of Chicago. Gay marriage is illegal in Illinois, so the marketing plan aims to woo same-sex couples to Minnesota, where they can tie the knot. Joining us on the line from Chicago is Minneapolis Mayor Rybak. Welcome to the show.
MAYOR R.T. RYBAK: I'm happy to be here.
CHAKRABARTI: OK. So you're in Chicago right now, but tell us what exactly are you trying to accomplish there?
RYBAK: You know, I love Chicago. It's my kind of town, but it is the second city for equal rights. And since people don't have the rights they deserve, we're saying, hey, come on up to Minneapolis. We're happy to marry you, bring your wedding party. And by the way, you'll fly home or drive home with about 1,100 federal rights you didn't have before.
CHAKRABARTI: Now, Mayor Rybak, what exactly is the Marry Me in Minneapolis campaign? Are you going to run television ads, billboards? How are you doing the outreach?
RYBAK: Marry Me in Minneapolis starts with a print campaign that drives people to minneapolis.org, where we have a whole section on same-sex marriage in Minneapolis, and you can find all that information. We're going to then look at this over time and see where else we want to ramp it up, how much more media to do in the different markets. We're starting with Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Denver, and then we'll reassess. But you know, Willie Sutton said, why do I rob banks? It's where the money is. Why do we go to Chicago? It's where the money is. And right now the people of Illinois are saying they don't want the money, and we're happy to take it in a state that believes people should have the rights they deserve.
CHAKRABARTI: I'm looking at a report here from the Williams Institute, and they say that if Illinois did legalize same-sex marriage, it could spur as much as $103 million in wedding and tourism spending over the next three years. So is that part of what you're looking to capture for Minneapolis?
RYBAK: Well, if it's true that legalizing marriage would pump about $100 million into the economy here in Chicago, my idea is, look, why don't you give us the first 10 million off of that, and then once you wake up and realize what a competitive disadvantage at, you take the next 90 million. I think that's a good deal between Minneapolis and Chicago. The fact of the matter is, this short term is a huge hospitality upside for Minneapolis and Minnesota, but long term this is going to ripple through the economy in many other ways.
Imagine two entrepreneurs who are in a committed long-term same-sex partnership and they're living in Chicago and they want to start a business. If they started that in Minneapolis and they were protected with all the federal protections, they could file joint tax returns together. They could have veterans' benefits. And then through Minnesota law they could share each other's health benefits. Those are dollars that could go directly into that company they're starting. So ask yourself, where would you start that business? Minnesota, where you've got equal rights, or Illinois, where you don't?
CHAKRABARTI: Have you heard from Mayor Emanuel on this?
RYBAK: We informed Mayor Emanuel, but we intentionally didn't put him in a position of asking us for permission. Mayor Emanuel is a big boy, and he's competitive. And I assume that he's going to, you know, want to compete, and in fact he came back with the governor of Illinois with a press release saying that it's time to step up the push on marriage equity here because clowns like this guy from Minneapolis are going come down to try to take the dollars out of Chicago. And the good news is, is we're starting to do that, and there's plenty of money to go around here. More than anything else, there's equal rights. It's well past time to change the laws.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, R.T. Rybak is the mayor of the city of Minneapolis. Mayor Rybak, thank you so much for your time.
RYBAK: Minneapolis.org. Operators are standing by. Come on and visit us.
CHAKRABARTI: Hey, by the way, listeners in Chicago, we want to know what you think about Minnesota's marketing plan. Let us know at hereandnow.org. Just ahead, Vogue's contributing editor, Andre Leon Talley, joins us to talk Fashion Week, which kicks off today in New York City. Stay with us. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.