New Research and Studies Show Marriage Equality a Boost to State Budgets

Recent studies are increasingly supportive of the idea that marriage equality will have not only moral and psychological impacts on the people involved, but could also bring economic prosperity to their states in the long term.

Findings by the UCLA’s Williams Institute at the School of Law this month predict that marriage equality in Rhode Island would positively affect the state budget by $1.2 million over the first three years following its legalization. The estimates are based on various factors such as increased revenue from state marriage license fees, income, and sales taxes. Resident same-sex couples in Rhode Island would spend nearly $4 million on wedding expenses, and out-of-state visitors would generate an additional $1.35 million in spending and accommodations. Rhode Island is currently one of only two New England states that do not have marriage equality, but a bill is pending in the House and its judiciary committee held a high-profile hearing just last week.

A little over a year ago, the Williams Institute also predicted that marriage equality would positively impact New Jersey’s state budget by over $200 million, creating 1,400 jobs and generating over $15 million in new revenues for state and local governments. It suggested that marriage would improve Washington D.C.’s budget by more than $52.2 million over three years, and in Vermont, a boost of over $30.6 million and the creation of approximately 700 new jobs.

California’s unique situation has also allowed input into economic implications of marriage equality. In the short span of time that marriage was legalized for gay and lesbian couples in the state, journalists reported that many businesses enjoyed bigger sales. But after the threat and passage of Proposition 8, businesses struggled, and California’s former perception as a gay-friendly city decreased, which could potentially lead to a decline in tourism. At the time, one study estimated that “legalizing same-sex ceremonies in the state would result in about $63.8 million in government tax and fee revenue over three years.”

Finally, in 2004, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that full marriage equality in all 50 states and on the federal level would produce a profit of nearly $1 billion each year.

In addition to predictive studies, precise figures have been calculated in some cases to determine the economic impact of marriage after legislation was put into effect. A Williams Institute study in May 2009 examined what it called “the business boost” in Massachusetts, demonstrating that in total, marriage equality in the state contributed to a conservative estimate of $111 million to the state economy over four and a half years while 12,167 gay and lesbian couples got married. The Washington Post reported that when New York began to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, there was especially high economic prosperity in Massachusetts due to increasing numbers of New Yorkers who married there.

Marriage equality would likely present opportunities for economic growth to smaller, local businesses such as florists and bridal consultants, and couples are likely to spend more than they would otherwise. “It seems psychologically and socially easier to justify having a lavish, expensive affair for something called a ‘wedding’ than for something called a ‘commitment ceremony,’” suggests Cathering Rampell of the New York Times. In another article, she further suggests that the recent struggling economy has changed the way “we think about the regulation of other social issues,” including marriage.

GLAAD applauds media for exploring the pragmatic benefits of marriage equality and highlighting these studies. We will continue to ensure fair and informative conversations about the status of marriage equality around the country.

GLAAD’s National News Intern Danny Heffernan also contributed to this report.

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