ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Towns and cities in New Mexico are expecting a jump in tourism from same-sex couples who now can get marriage licenses in the state following a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling this month.
Officials are planning a media blitz and gay and lesbian wedding expos in hopes of selling New Mexico as a wedding destination for couples who live in neighbouring states.
"There are 38 million people who live in states that touch New Mexico, and there are tens of thousands of same-sex couples in those states," said Brad Malone, chairman of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce and innkeeper of La Posada de Taos in Taos. "Some of them are going to be coming to New Mexico to get married, and we expect 2014 to be a banner year."
From hotels to private chapels, businesses have begun offering packages to couples who want to make the state their wedding destination.
The New Mexico Supreme Court this month ruled it unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses.
New Mexico joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage either through legislation, court rulings or voter referendums in a national trend that has dramatically shifted in just a few years.
That means New Mexico will have to battle other states to gain the attention of same-sex couples who can't marry in their home state.
But Malone said he believed New Mexico could sell itself as an inexpensive alternative to places like Hawaii or Massachusetts. He said six couples already have booked rooms at his hotel for planned weddings in 2014. "And those are the ones who like to plan way ahead," he said.
Malone said the town will run advertisements in major media markets to let same-sex couples know New Mexico now allows them to get married.
"We have a lot of gay- and lesbian-friendly bed and breakfasts so, yeah, I think there are business opportunities," said Kelley Tredwin, owner of the Taos-based Bee's Knees Development & Communications.
Next month, Santa Fe's Marriott Courtyard will host the state's first "LGBT Wedding Expo" targeting gay and lesbian couples making plans to tie the knot. The expo will feature 35 vendors selling food, photo packages and flowers.
Meanwhile, Hotel Albuquerque has planned a similar expo for May.
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