Williams Institute Study: Marriage Equality Boosts Economy 'by Billions'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday June 1, 2020

Contrary to what anti-LGBTQ extremists liked to claim before marriage equality became the law of the land in 2015, it turns out that men marrying men and women marrying women - which is to say, gay and lesbian people marrying people they love instead of feeling shamed and forced into sham mixed-gender marriages - is good for the institution.

It's also good for the economy, as a new study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law confirms.

The Supreme Court ruling affirming the Constitutional right of same-sex couples to wed legally was handed down five years ago this month. Eleven years earlier, in 2004, the first legal same-sex weddings in American were granted in the state of Massachusetts.

Anti-LGBTQ religious groups and homophobic conservatives claimed that the sky would fall and chaos ensue if people of the same gender were legally allowed to marry. None of that happened. Further claims of the family being destroyed, or the marriage itself being annihilated, also proved baseless.

What did happen was that millions of Americans, finally able to tie the knot, rushed to the altar. As marriage rates soared, the long-proclaimed notion that gays and lesbians were "incapable" of long-term, committed relationships was the thing that ended up being annihilated, especially since same-sex marriages turned out to be just as successful over the long term as those enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

Along the way, the economy around the happy sacrament of marriage blossomed - a very different prediction, in that it actually came true, and also in that pro-marriage groups had foreseen this result.

All these years later, the fact of how marriage equality has bolstered the economy has been reiterated in the new study, which was released last week.

"In June 2015, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell, there were an estimated 242,000 same-sex married couples in the U.S.," the introductory text explains. "The number of married same-sex couples has more than doubled since then. An estimated 513,000 same-sex couples are married as of March 2020."

In addition to the sky not having fallen and heterosexual families having managed to survive the change just fine, cash registers chimed right along with wedding bells.

"Applying the average spent per wedding to our estimate of the number of same-sex couples who have married since June 2015 (293,000), we estimate that direct wedding spending by same-sex couples has generated an economic boost of $3.2 billion nationwide since Obergefell," the study's introductory text went on to say, while indirect spending in the form of guests arriving from out of town to participate in the celebrations of love "generat[ed] a total economic boost of $543.8 million over that period."

Some of that largesse flowed into public coffers and grew the job market:

"Applying the national average sales tax rate to total wedding spending, we estimate that weddings of same-sex couples generated $244.1 million in state and local sales tax revenue in the five years since the Obergefell decision," the text went on to note, while "approximately 45,000 jobs were supported for a full year by same-sex couples' weddings during this period."

The proven success of marriage equality now weighs in favor of marriage rights in places like Costa Rica. The Thompson Reuters Foundation reported that, "According to advocacy group Open For Business, gay marriage in Costa Rica could boost the economy by up to $592 million."

The full study is available here.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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