This is the state whose Religious Right put W back in the White House. The state that has recurring debates over the teaching of “intelligent design” (aka, the Book of Genesis) in our science classes. Doh!
We’re also the state in which progressive universities like my own continue to deny benefits to domestic partners of employees, fearful of being bitch slapped by our intolerant legislators.
So imagine my surprise at learning that our local metropolis, Akron, is launching a promotional campaign to attract gay tourists to the city (link expires 7/22). While this campaign would hardly raise an eyebrow in more progressive locales, here in Ohio it’s radical social engineering. And not surprisingly, it’s the lead story in the local newspaper today.
The Akron/Summit County Convention & Visitors Bureau says it’ll meet with gay-friendly businesses and organizations next week to learn what types of incentives it should offer gay and lesbian travelers. Local promoters are taking the campaign seriously, saying the gay travel market is a lucrative one. A study by the Travel Industry Association of America says gay males are big spenders when they hit the road. But they also look for destinations that are hospitable to gays.
Ohio has some work to do on that count, but this move by the Akron CVB is a start.
Even if the city’s primary motivation is money, it took some cajones to launch a pro-gay campaign in a state renowned for its homophobia. So let me offer a big “high five” to the Akron CVB and see if I can’t use this post to cajole our very progressive friends in Cincinnati to raise that rainbow flag along with us. I mean, they do call Cinci the Queen City, right?
Hey, maybe Akron’s campaign for gay tourism is devine intervention. Maybe it signals a reversal of fortune for America’s Heartland. Who knows, maybe next year the Browns will win the Super Bowl.
Besides, Steelers rule!
Update from the Akron Beacon Journal, July 21, 2007:
Jim Mahon, spokesman for the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss attracting GLBT travelers was canceled for lack of interest.
Mahon said his office sent out 600 invitations to people in the gay community and businesses that are owned by gays or are gay friendly. But only 20 people — or 3 percent — said they would attend.