SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Just a few hours after state lawmakers approved same-sex marriage in Illinois, Chicago wedding planner Lindsay Parrott started getting her first inquiries for summer weddings.
“I got an email at 11 p.m.,” she said. “Everybody is really excited to be able to do this.”
From the wedding industry to tourism, Illinois businesses are gearing up for June 1, the first day that same-sex marriage licenses can be issued under legislation approved by lawmakers on Tuesday. While legislators in favor and the state’s top elected officials have touted gay marriage as a matter of equality and civil rights, businesses hope the start of weddings will be a nice boost to the state’s economy too. But that start date — which falls on a Sunday — also is causing some logistical problems for the state’s county clerks who’ll be issuing marriage licenses.
Illinois is set to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage when Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill, which the Chicago Democrat said Wednesday he’ll do with a festive celebration this month. The measure says that starting June 1, all Illinois couples can go about the usual way of getting married: Head to the county clerk’s office, get a license and then have it officiated a day later by the government or religious official.
However, businesses and tourism officials say it means that Illinois can expand a niche business too. They cite a 2013 study by UCLA’s The Williams Institute that says allowing same-sex couples to marry in Illinois would generate up to $103 million in new spending in the first three years.
The Illinois Office of Tourism beefed up its website Wednesday to promote gay-friendly spots in Illinois. State travel director Jen Hoelzle said the site will soon include a list of places to get married once the bill is signed. The Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, which already promotes Chicago’s gay-friendly neighborhoods and events such as the city’s massive Pride Parade, expects more hotel and restaurant business.