How Andrew Cuomo Is Trying to Capitalize on Gay Marriage

Matt Berman
National Journal

As New York city celebrated Pride weekend Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new "I Love NY LGBT" ad campaign aimed at attracting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender tourists to the state. The pitch on the site is simple: "Come and explore why, for LGBT travelers, there is so much to love in New York state." But for Andrew Cuomo, who still reportedly has an eye on the 2016 presidential race, the campaign is not just about extra tourism revenue.

In a press release announcing the campaign, the governor's office is explicit in wanting to get New York a part of the $70 billion in tourism a year spent within the United States by the LGBT community. And, with same-sex marriage legal in the state, Cuomo even gives some ideas of what the state has to offer: "New York has a proud history of welcoming the LGBT community, and whether you're planning a weekend trip or a destination wedding, I encourage all to come explore the Empire State."

The "destination wedding" mention isn't just bluster. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a same-sex marriage in New York has to be recognized by the federal government. And for New York, where the average Manhattan wedding cost $76,678 in 2012, extra weddings can be a big help for the state's businesses.

But the math for the governor doesn't stop with economics. Cuomo hasn't been too shy about a potential run for president in 2016. He has, so far, had a successful run as governor and has pushed hard on issues such as gun-control that play well with a Democratic base. But Cuomo's track-record on marriage equality could be one of his strongest assets in a Democratic primary, especially since he helped spearhead the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York in 2011.

In the Supreme Court's wake, it's easy to see the benefits for Cuomo. In May, Pew found that, for the first time, more than half (51 percent) of Americans favored same-sex marriage. Seventy-two percent believed that legal recognition for same-sex marriage was inevitable. The trend in approval for same-sex marriage is only increasing.

The party breakdown is even more promising for Cuomo: In June, 59 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents supported same-sex marriage, according to Pew, compared with just 29 percent of Republicans. 

So while there are certainly immediate economic benefits in aggressively wooing LGBT tourists—especially the betrothed—reminding national voters that he was two years ahead of the curve on same-sex marriage does a whole lot more good for Cuomo in the long run.