Do Gay Rights Affect Tourism?

  • July 12, 2012
  • By Ben Wieder

Arizona's latest move to rescind same-sex health benefits for state employees has some worried that it will hurt the state's tourism industry.

Edwin Leslie, a member of the Arizona Tourism Advisory Council, stepped down Tuesday (July 10) to protest the state's attempt to get approval from the U.S. Supreme Court for the benefits change, which was denied by lower federal courts. In a letter to Governor Jan Brewer, who appointed him, Leslie wrote that the governor's actions “are contrary to those needed to ensure the success of the Tourism industry in Arizona.”

Arizona is one of 19 states that offer benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. In its filing with the Supreme Court, Attorney General Tom Horne wrote that rescinding the benefit for state employees “furthers the State's interest in promoting marriage.”

Michael McFall, publisher of the Arizona Pride Guide, a tourism publication aimed at the gay community, told The Arizona Republic he estimates gay travelers bring in $122 million a year in tourism revenue. The national economic impact of gay and lesbian travelers is estimated by Community Marketing, Inc., a San Francisco-based marketing company that focuses on the gay and lesbian market, at more than $65 billion each year.

Policies affecting gay rights have an impact on tourism, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. The association's president, John Tanzella, cited the recent example of New York, which legalized gay marriage last year.

“New York City is actively marketing for domestic and international gay couples to visit, get married and honeymoon,” Tanzella said in a statement. “The city predicts it will generate $310 (million) over the next three years in incremental revenues.”

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