Will gay marriage ban harm Minnesota's "creative class?"

Paul Maccabee
Paul Maccabee owns the Minneapolis-based public relations firm Maccabee Group. He wrote a letter to Gov. Pawlenty on behalf of 50 CEOs and presidents of creative businesses, urging him to oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

The group of 50 presidents and chief executives of Minnesota based advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic design and other multi-media companies sent a letter to Gov. Pawlenty urging him to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment.

Paul Maccabee wrote the letter. He owns the Minneapolis based public relations firm Maccabee Group. Maccabee says banning gay marriage or its legal equivalents in Minnesota's constitution would make it more difficult to attract talented, creative workers to Minnesota.

"As a package, as what Minnesota stands for, to change the state constitution, to go that extra step to ban same sex marriage," Maccabee says "It will have a long term effect on whether our businesses, our creative businesses thrive."

Maccabee says that "creative class" will choose to move to other more tolerant states like California or Massachusetts. Maccabee hopes the letter will sway some lawmakers to think about the possible backlash that a constitutional amendment could cause. Maccabee and others say Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities, is currently a magnet to the creative class.

Richard Florida, a public policy professor at George Mason University, wrote in his book "Flight of the Creative Class" that the Twin Cities metropolitan area has one of the strongest creative economies in the United States. He says the highest-paying jobs migrate to places that have a mix of talent and quality of life. He says tolerance and acceptance are big factors in creating a good quality of life. Florida says other regions should try to emulate the Twin Cities because it ranks high on those categories. He says amending the constitution to ban same sex marriage would ruin the state's recent successes.

"It would be tragic for the state of Minnesota to send a signal to the rest of the country and the world that says we're not as tolerant as we always were," Florida said. "We're not the kind of place that is going to uphold our own standards and principals to make sure people are included. We're going to try to turn back the clock and become a less tolerant and less diverse, a less interesting and a less creative place."

The gay marriage issue has settled down at the Capitol after a committee in the Minnesota Senate defeated the measure. Supporters say they will continue to push for a full Senate vote because they fear the courts could overturn Minnesota's current law banning gay marriage.

"We think that Minnesota is the kind of place that people will want to move to and work in."

Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, is the sponsor of the proposal. She dismisses the arguments that Minnesota's creative economy will suffer if the constitution bans gay marriage and civil unions.

"Minnesota is an inclusive state and we're inclusive because we want everyone to participate in the political process," Bachmann said. "That's the purpose of this constitutional amendment to let everyone participate in the process. No one is being excluded. We want all Minnesotans to vote. What is exclusionary is to change our laws through four people. The votes of four Supreme Court justices. That's exclusionary."

Gov. Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, says the governor will also continue to support efforts to get the measure on the ballot. McClung says Minnesota will keep its competitive edge even if the constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

"We think that Minnesota is the kind of place that people will want to move to and work in," McClung said. "Defining marriage as between a man and a woman, we don't think, would necessarily have any real impact on the ability to attract people to a state that offers so much as Minnesota does."

McClung says passing a ban in Minnesota wouldn't put the state at a disadvantage with the 19 other states that have passed similar marriage bans. But in a global economy, Richard Florida says the best and brightest could decide to live in other more tolerant places like Toronto, London or Sydney.

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