NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The symbol of gay pride is a rainbow but if the Southern Decadence festival that draws to a close on this Labor Day proves anything it is that the ubiquitous "pride flag" could easily be the color of money.
Not that money is everything. It doesn't overshadow the political bully pulpit from which a president, in his second inaugural address, equates the 1969 Stonewall rebellion with other civil rights milestones; or five little words from a pope: "Who am I to judge."
But for years, the loosely organized conglomeration of music and street parties centered around the bawdy gay bar scene at St. Ann and Bourbon Street has been — whether by design or not — making the case that gay commerce is a very big deal.
Promoters of the celebration estimate that, in years when the weather cooperates, the economic impact on the city far exceeds $100 million. Promoters and police were expecting more than 125,000 participants this year.
Many of those people are visitors, filling hotel rooms at a traditionally slow time for tourism in a city dependent on travelers.
People who make a living in the tourism industry know this.
And, so, the U.S. Supreme Court's June decisions striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act while upholding the right of gays to marry in California didn't just advance the cause of marriage equality. It inspired a new element to the gay travel market: the promotion same-sex honeymoons.
The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the separate Greater New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation each are promoting honeymoon trip giveaways on social media. NOTMC is spending an estimated $200,000 in gay travel marketing on gay travel websites.
Southern Decadence, meanwhile, gets a mention on the decidedly mainstream sites of the two New Orleans tourist promotion agencies, where it is sometimes referred to as the "gay Mardi Gras."
While Decadence is welcomed by city officials, its popularity, obviously, its appeal isn't universal. It still draws street preachers raging against homosexuality. And, even in the gay community, it has its critics, says John Hill, a longtime Louisiana journalist, a gay activist and past chairman of the Forum for Equality.