Tourism Agencies Tell California Gays: "Iowa Welcomes You"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Iowa reps head to Gay Days at Disneyland to remind couples that same-sex marriage is legal in the Hawkeye State.

    Iowa tourist officials have targeted the annual gay weekend at Disneyland to market the Hawkeye state for gay and lesbian weddings, which are legal there but illegal in California.

    "We want people to know that if the California Legislature is unwilling to take the step to give gay couples the right to marry, then please consider coming to Iowa where we will gladly welcome you with open arms," Joe Jennison, executive director of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, told the Orange County Register.

    Iowa tourism officials -- some gay, some not -- set up a booth this weekend at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, where an impromptu annual gathering of gay and lesbians couples is enjoying the Disneyland Resorts. People are invited to sample wedding cake and pose for photos inside a frame that reads: "Just Married ... in Iowa City."

    Jennison is manning the booth, and told the Orange County Register he is originally from Iowa but lived in California for 13 years before moving back to his home state in 2003. Representing the Iowa City-Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, he said hotels and wedding-photography firms -- and some churches -- are eager to cater to the gay community.

    "I've always found Iowans to be open," Heinkel told the newspaper. "It's kind of surprising that it (gay marriage) is such a big deal here."

    Iowa is one of four states nationwide that allow gay marriages, after its Supreme Court made the decision earlier this year.

    Representatives for three of the state's regional visitors bureaus flew out for the three-day Gay Days, where 30,000 participants have rolled into town to attend Disneyland. Gay Days is neither sponsored nor discouraged by Disney.

    The Iowa representatives are taking free photos and supplying tuxedo jackets and bridal veils. They are also handing out brochures touting Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Coralville, among other cities.

    They told the Orange County Register they know they won't likely book any weddings this weekend or persuade anybody to hop on a plane to Iowa immediately. Still, plenty of couples were taking them up on the offer of cake and a photo, though not all were immediately persuaded that Iowa was right for them.

    "But it's not out of the question," Valerie Gonzales, 31, of West Covina told the Orange County Register. "California is supposed to be so progressive, but it looks like Iowa is more (progressive) than us."