May 28, 2014 | by Justin Peligri
Hoping for a business boom in New Hope
New Hope, gay news, Washington Blade

Picturesque New Hope, Pa., has long been a popular destination for gay and lesbian couples. (Photo courtesy Visit New Hope)

There are more than 22,000 LGBT couples living in Pennsylvania, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and many of them have already tied the knot since the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down last week.

“I am happy that many couples that have been together for a long time can finally be legal,” said Kim Haggerty, owner of The Pod Shop Flowers in New Hope, Pa. “It is heartwarming to see.”

Experts predict that last week’s ruling in Whitewood v. Wolf will bode well for local businesses as couples spend their money in Pennsylvania instead of in neighboring states that have been more welcoming in the past.

“I think we will see more weddings,” said Brittany Booz, co-owner of the Golden Pheasant Inn, located about 20 minutes outside of New Hope. “I have some customers on a regular basis that have stated, ‘As soon as we are recognized in the state of Pennsylvania, this is the place that we’d love to have our ceremony at.’ I hope that more people do get married, whether it be at our place or another place.”

Booz said her inn, which hosts about 20 weddings a year, plans to host same-sex weddings in the same way as opposite-sex weddings.

“I don’t think whether it’s a male and a male or a female and a female or a male and a female it should change how you move forward with an event,” she said. “Our philosophy is equality for all.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who just months ago likened gay marriage to incest, said he wouldn’t challenge the court’s ruling striking down his state’s marriage ban.

“People who are looking to move to a state or take a job and they want marriage equality now can look to Pennsylvania and say ‘OK, they’re in the running,’” said Bruce Yelk, who manages the LGBT marketing program at Visit Philly, Philadelphia’s largest travel and tourism site.

His group has rolled out a series of new online advertisements to promote gay tourism for couples looking to get married. “Brotherly or sisterly, love is love,” the ad reads, with the hashtag “visit gay Philly” at the bottom.

“Before [same-sex marriage was legalized] we could have lost talent,” Yelk said. “I know that some people moved from the state to another state where they could get married. It was really hindering us being in the Northeast because every other state had marriage equality. We won’t have those negative impacts now, which is a good thing.”

The number of same-sex weddings expected in the state over the next three years is likely between about 8,000 and 11,000, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank that conducts research on LGBT law and public policy.

Same-sex marriage could generate between $65 and $92.1 million for the state over the next three years, the Williams Institute estimates. Marriage could contribute $4.2 to $5.8 million in sales tax revenue – not to mention the creation of about 1,000 local jobs.

But for New Hope, a region known for its vibrant LGBT community, the economic benefits of gay tourism have been around long before same-sex marriage became a legal institution.

“LGBT tourism in not an unknown commodity,” said Daniel Brooks, founder of New Hope Celebrates, an LGBT tourism agency, noting that many same-sex couples have historically traveled to the New Hope area for honeymoons. “But the focus will now shift because people can get married and honeymoon.”

Brooks, who also owns The Wishing Well Guesthouse, a small inn in New Hope, said he’s looking forward to hosting weddings there, and expects the number of requests to increase. He said that in his experience, same-sex couples looking to get married tend to prefer “small, intimate” events.

“New Hope is perfect for same-sex weddings,” he said. “It’s just a bunch of small places. There are no huge hotels – just bed and breakfasts.”

Haggerty said her flower shop has seen increased business from engaged gay and lesbian couples since neighboring New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage in October 2013.

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