KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa record store owner is hoping to use his business space for same-sex marriages, a move that could prove competitive with nearby Illinois.
An altar with a cross and large Bible are inside the store belonging to Matt Hunt, of Keokuk in southeast Iowa, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The record store never took off and is now being liquidated. He said he wishes he would have acted sooner on the chapel.
Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009. Now with Illinois becoming the 16th overall state to legalize it, Hunt said there’s urgency to have the chapel.
Just as there’s an economic boom to a state legalizing same-sex marriage, there could be a cut in business if a neighboring state gets in on the action.
An economic impact study by the Williams Institute said of the estimated 2,099 same-sex couples who married in Iowa in the first year that it was legal, 59 percent were from out of state. Most came from Illinois and Missouri.
Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said more tourism dollars may not materialize as additional states legalize gay marriage.
“There’s a lot of competition for those people now,” Badgett said. “And Hawaii has kind of upped the ante. Who wouldn’t want to get married and honeymoon in Hawaii?”
However, there may still be room for sharing in the Midwest. There are tourism and wedding dollars to be spent from people in Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and other states surrounding Iowa, Minnesota, and now Illinois.
Badgett told the newspaper that states with same-sex marriage can also count on a large percentage of weddings to be from their own residents.
Hunt, a pastor at St. Paul United Church of Christ, said he’s advertising his new chapel by charging $235 for his services and use of the space.
“I want to create a safe space, to make church relevant,” he said of his unusual setting. “Maybe that’s all they want. It’s a way for me to reach out.”