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Chamber OKs ad in gay magazine

In an emotion-packed meeting that included some shouting, the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce agreed Monday to help fund a $3,000 ad in a popular gay magazine that, in effect, promotes the city as a same-sex marriage destination.

The city’s Downtown Association also agreed to spend $1,000 to place the ad in The Advocate, the nation’s oldest gay publication, in the biweekly’s August 12 edition. The remaining $1,000 will come from Nevada County Pride, a social group for gays and lesbians.

The marketing campaign coincides with the recent California Supreme Court decision that legalizes same-sex marriages throughout the state, a widely debated issue. Legal same-sex marriages began after 5 p.m. Monday, though the court decision is being challenged by an initiative on the November ballot.



Same-sex marriages begin at 8 a.m. this morning at the Rood Center.

“We welcome you to be married in our small town,” said a draft of the ad that was circulating at the chamber meeting. It listed tourism contact information for Nevada City.




Besides coinciding with the same-sex marriage court ruling, the chamber’s decision comes as Nevada City is hurting from a prolonged economic slump, just like other cities.

“It could be a boomlet when the city is hurting,” said John Paul, the marketing chair for the Downtown Association and co-owner of Nevada City-based Spiral Studios.

Paul, who helped spearhead the idea, added that he would be getting married under the new court decision.

Some sobering business statistics were presented at the public meeting, including a summary that 10 Nevada City businesses were up for sale and seven were considering relocating or going to relocate, according to Jim McConnaughay, chairman of the Downtown Association.

“I look at this as a niche marketing opportunity,” McConnaughay said.

The state’s wedding and tourism businesses could receive an increase of $683.6 million in spending, 2,200 jobs and $64 million in tax revenue during the next three years by same-sex couples, according to a UCLA study released last week.

The chamber voted 8-3 to approve the $1,000 expenditure during the meeting at City Hall. The board previously had opposed the plan by an 8-5 margin in an informal poll of board members last week.

Holding a petition, proponents of the ad campaign showed up at Monday night’s meeting and asked the chamber’s board to revisit the decision.

“These are the demands we as LGBT citizens of Nevada County and their friends voice forcefully to the Chamber of Commerce:

“Have a public discussion open to the community and vote to support the proposed marketing campaign,” it read in part. (LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual people).

Though it approved the plan, the chamber’s board conceded its full membership might not be aware of the proposal that was being discussed.

While embracing the idea, some board members raised practical issues of concern.

One of them was depleting the chamber’s marketing budget for the year with the $1,000 expenditure, according to Lisa White, a vice president of Citizens Bank, who voted against the plan.

The idea of promoting all marriages, not just same-sex marriages, was voiced by Madelyn Helling, who also voted against the plan.

Though the ad does not refer to “same-sex” marriages, it is being published in a gay-oriented publication.

The Los Angeles-based The Advocate was first published in 1967. Its circulation is more than 150,000.

It also has a Web site that refers to itself as “the award-winning LGBT Web site.”

County taxpayers also help to fund the chamber’s budget, and people hold widely divergent views on same-sex marriages, observed board president Jeff Ackerman. He voted to approve the expenditure, but the president’s vote only counts in a tiebreaker.

Though the Downtown Association voted to approve the $1,000 expenditure, its vote also was not unanimous.

“The majority of people wouldn’t blink an eye in our town,” said Paul.

At one point the meeting became contentious.

“This is a political issue and not the mission” of a chamber or downtown association, said Toad Hall book shop owner Gary Stollery. “It cranks me.”

Then a man shouted out from the crowd, “that’s a homophobic remark.”

To contact Editor Jeff Pelline, e-mail jpelline@theunion.com or call 477-4235.


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