Republican party chairman Michael Steele has said that allowing marriage equality for gays and lesbians will be an expensive proposition for businesses.
“Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,” Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. “So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”
Republicans like Steele are never ones to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Two new studies have shown that marriage equality in Massachusetts has been a boon to business:
A new survey of married same-sex couples shows that the typical gay or lesbian couple spent $7,400 on their weddings in Massachusetts, with one in ten couples spending more than $20,000. The study’s analysis of state data on hotel occupancy tax payments confirms the boost from out-of-state guests at these weddings.
“Florists, caterers, hotels, bakers, restaurants, and many other businesses have gotten a share of the $111 million spent on the 12,000-plus weddings of same-sex couples,” notes economist M. V. Lee Badgett, a study co-author and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Allowing gay couples to marry won’t end the recession, but their spending still helps in tough times for businesses.”
In addition, marriage equality has helped Massachusetts attract younger, highly educated people to the state – which in turn, helps the state’s economy overall:
“Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that same-sex couples in the ‘creative class’ were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before,” notes Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA’s Williams Institute and the author of one study. “The timing of this movement to Massachusetts suggests that those couples were flocking to the first state to allow them to marry.”
Marriage equality is not just the right thing to do because it increases fairness for a group facing discrimination – but it improves the economies of states where it has been approved. It’s really a win-win – unless you’re Michael Steele, who has once again been defeated by just the facts.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.