Same sex marriage could help boost the economy

Same sex marriage

Some say same sex marriage, if legalized, would help the economy. Image: David Jackmanson/Flickr/CC BY

President Obama made history Wednesday afternoon when he announced that his attitude on same-sex marriage had “evolved” into support. While the legalization of gay marriage is the domain of the individual states at this time, should it be adopted nationally it could, according to some experts, do much to boost the sluggishly recovering economy.

Potential gains by state

According to M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, making same-sex marriage a legal institution would add a substantial bump to the national economy. According to reports prepared by the Institute, New Jersey could add an estimated $48 million to $119 million to its economy over a three-year period. Another report estimated Vermont could gain an additional $30.6 million over the same time period.

Boost to wedding industry

A vast part of those economic gains, says the Williams Institute, would come as a boost to the wedding industry. A 2004 article in Forbes estimated that a national acceptance of gay marriage would add $16.8 billion to the nuptials business. With inflation, that figure would be higher today.

The expanding wedding industry would also create many jobs as it grows, said Badgett.

Divorce increases

As the number of weddings increase, in time, so will the number of divorces. Like marriage, divorce is a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry in the U.S.

Tax revenue

According to Badgett, gay couples could pump more money into the national coffers over the long term by filing joint tax returns. The so-called “marriage penalty” would apply to same-sex couples as much as it does to traditional male-female marriages. The “penalty” occurs when some jointly filing couples are pushed into a higher tax bracket by their combined incomes, forcing them to pay taxes at a higher rate than they would if filing separately.

A report co-authored by Badgett estimated that same-sex couples subjected to the “marriage penalty” would increase federal tax income by $300 million to $1.3 billion annually.

Cost of same-sex marriage

There would also be a cost to federally legalizing same-sex marriage. When the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the federal legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman — was being debated in 1996, supporter Senator Robert Byrd argued that gay marriage would increase the cost of Medicare and Medicare benefits.

Richard Elbing, a professor of economics at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., said that legalizing same-sex marriage federally would also result in larger payouts for Social Security spousal and survivor benefits.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would also increase the cost employers have to pay to provide health benefits, according to Smart Money.

Deconstructing DOMA

The president has given same-sex marriage his endorsement. However, making it a legal reality nationwide is still a long way off. As long as the 1996 DOMA legislation stands, nothing can be done. That will be a tough battle, given the Republican-controlled Congress that would have to approve the dismantling of the law.

Concerned consumers should contact their state representative and speak their minds.


Smart Money
About: Economics
Washington Post

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