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Explore Minnesota TV Commercial Goes Gay for the First Time

Minneapolis's Pride parade gets bubbly in 2013

Minneapolis's Pride parade gets bubbly in 2013

Prince isn't the only thing purple about Minnesota. Save for the occasional BB gun-wielding homophobe, the Twin Cities has a reputation for being a gay-friendly place. Same-sex marriage is legal, Minneapolis was once dubbed the "gayest city in America," and our Pride parade is arguably Minnesota's greatest get-together.

Now a new ad from Minnesota's tourism arm is subtly putting out more inclusive vibes. For the first time, one of Explore Minnesota's TV commercials prominently features a gay couple.

See also: Are the Twin Cities Not That Gay?

Studly husbands (uggos still aren't allowed on TV) Ben Meents and Chet Ritchie appear to be having a gay old time, touring breweries, attending Rock the Garden, zip-lining, and, oh hey, driving a tank. Basically, they're doing things any couple way cooler than you would on vacation.

"We're just wanting to show off how inclusive we are and our state is," Explore Minnesota spokeswoman Alyssa Ebel says.

Upping the feel-good factor, the couple's crazy smart 13-year-old daughter, Emma, penned an op-ed piece in LGBT magazine the Advocate, detailing a convo she had with Gov. Mark Dayton about the ad and LGBT issues.

"Well, Minnesota is just a reflection of the world," Dayton tells the kid. "I think it is really important for us to show that regular families -- whether gay families or heterosexual families -- represent Minnesota. We want to send a clear message to everyone, which we have done over and over again, that Minnesota is one of the friendliest states to the LGBT community and as a state we will protect everybody."

It's as warm and fuzzy as a bear's chest hair.

While it's a Minnesota first, the LGBT community is increasingly marketed to in the travel industry. John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, says companies are doing so to better reflect the diversity of their employees and to crack a significant market segment.

"You're seeing large corporations reaching out to LGBT travelers like you wouldn't have seen 10 years ago," says Tanzella. "The likes of Hilton, Delta, Hyatt for example, reaching out like what the state of Minnesota did."

We might not be New York City or San Francisco -- the country's top two destinations for both gay men and lesbians, according to a 2014 survey. But Minnesota tourism is a $13 billion industry and Tanzella says Minneapolis is a "destination for gay tourism." So he's not surprised that the ad came from Minnesota.

The new ad is only one piece of its sweeping #OnlyinMN campaign and Ebel says diversity is a focus across the board. Other ads feature families, African Americans, and Asians.

"All destination marketing organizations are recognizing the great potential for increasing revenue," she says. "With any sort of audience, there's an opportunity every which way."

Chalk it up to money and progress.

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