Gay Marriage Is Money in State Pockets

Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

The same-sex marriage debate has been mostly a political, religious, and social debate. Fiscal considerations have not come into the discussion as much — apart from the obvious benefits that are presently withheld from couples unable to marry in many states. But the fact of the matter is, the many cases being tried, appealed, and retried at various court levels are unquestionably expensive legal processes, just in terms of man hours and government time. The argument for family benefits goes both ways. On the one hand, it’s a minor additional cost to offer fair benefits to additional citizens.

On the other hand, tax and healthcare advantages for married couples could eventually lead to greater economic stability, with larger disposable incomes that eventually feed back into the state economy in the form of increased spending. The Williams Institute examines the question of taxes and benefits for same-sex couples in a number of reports. But it also recently released rather more unique economic impact reports for states with fascinating projections. The reports, done state by state, look at what economic boosts individual states would likely see from the sudden spike in marriages and marriage related expenses within state borders.

States looked at included Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, Virginia¬†(particularly salient considering this weeks court decision), Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Delaware, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, and Iowa. Projected expenditures on things like “wedding arrangements and tourism by resident same-sex couples and their guests” could range from $7 million to $181.6 million additional spending.

The state with the most additional economic advantage was shown to be Texas, based on the available estimates from The William Institute; an estimated 23,200 marriages are predicted within three years of legal marriage for same-sex couples. Further, $116.2 million in additional spending is expected that first year, with a total of $181.6 million over the first three years in total, and $14.8 million in sales tax revenue for the state and local wallets. It’s also expected that somewhere between 523 to 1,570 full and part-time jobs would be created by the increase in marriage ceremonies.

Even states with smaller marriage outlooks, like the 14,598 expected in Michigan, would bring about an added $53.2 million, or smaller yet, Delaware’s $7 million additional spending. Delaware has around 2,646 same-sex couples, half of which would be expected to marry within the first three years of a legal change. Part of the reason the number is so low — apart from the state population simply being rather small — is to do with the fact that neighboring states, including Maryland, allow marriages, so some couples will have likely already sought out a marriage ceremony outside their own home state.

This brings up the question of out-of-state visitor spending the law change would bring about. Tennessee, for example, estimates that it would see an additional 87,184 out-of-state guests and an extra $8.5 million within the three years following legal same-sex marriage changes. It estimates this based on what was seen in Massachusetts, and on costs per day estimates when one looks at average food and hotel costs for the state, which add up to about $97 a day, which are in turn quoted based on federal employee reimbursement allowances when business travel is necessary.

Ultimately, this isn’t an argument for same-sex marriage; for one thing, after the initial surge of previously illegal marriages takes place with eager, long-suffering and patient pairs tying the knot all at once, the additional marriages per year and resultant economic advantages are only temporary. Marriages would taper off to only a small number of additional nuptials per year — with related expenses — and the numbers won’t be so impressive anymore. After all, only about 3.5 percent of the adult population of the U.S. identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to a Williams Institute study. That’s around 9 million Americans, at least as of 2011, with the studying showing about 700,000 transgender individuals as well. The same study also adds that 8.2 percent of Americans have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior, and 11 percent say they have “at least some same-sex sexual attraction,” and ultimately the report is likely an imperfect set of data.

So while the number of Americans adding to economic benefits would likely taper and then remain a small statistic, it is still an interesting set of numbers. It’s also just one more bonus that would come along with legalization of same-sex marriage (beyond the obvious benefits of equality under the law and greater social justice across the United States, of course).

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