Gay Marriages Would Give State An Economic Boost
By M.V. Lee Badgett
March 10, 2012
FANCY clothes, emotional rituals and the presence of loved ones all show that weddings are an important day in the life of couples.
Their significance, personally and culturally, is also reflected in another prominent aspect of weddings – spending on the ceremony, reception and other related events.
When same-sex couples are allowed to marry and to celebrate their commitment in that same special way, their weddings also generate a boost to the economy.
If same-sex couples could marry all over Australia, those benefits would be spread out. But should Tasmania become the “first mover” in allowing same- sex couples to marry, it will capture a larger share of that extra economic activity, as much as $96 million.
In a report I co-authored with a fellow researcher at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, and which I presented to Premier Lara Giddings last month, we looked at the potential economic impact of opening marriage to same-sex couples in Tasmania.
For the first time outside the US, we used a method that the Williams Institute developed to estimate the economic impact of marriage equality in US states such as Massachusetts, New York and California.
First, we looked at the economic activity generated by Tasmanian same-sex couples marrying.
We multiplied the percentage of local same-sex couples who were likely to marry (based on a national University of Queensland study) by the number of Australia’s same-sex couples who lived in Tasmania (based on figures from the Australian census).
Multiplying that number by an average wedding spend of just over $9000 gives a figure of $2.8 million.
But the bigger economic benefit will come from spending by non- resident same-sex couples on their weddings.
Taking into account national surveys that asked same-sex couples if they would marry in Tasmania if it were the only place in Australia where they could wed, we found that up to $93 million may be spent by mainland couples on their Tasmanian weddings.
Combining the resident and non-resident couples suggests that Tasmania would see a boost of $96 million if it were the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Our estimates are very conservative, and are based on low-end estimates.
We also attribute to same-sex couples a much smaller average wedding spend than the average for heterosexual partners.
Same-sex couples may receive less financial support from their parents and other family members to cover wedding costs, resulting in overall reduced spending.
Just as importantly, we do not take into account spending on tourism associated with weddings. Given that Tasmania is an attractive tourist destination with well-established tourism infrastructure, wedding- associated tourism will be significant.
In short, the actual benefit to the Tasmanian economy of allowing same-sex couples to marry could well be much higher.
But even as a lower-end figure, $96 million is still significant, especially because it will mostly benefit the small business sector, which is critical to the health of the Tasmanian economy.
Of course, the economic benefits of allowing same-sex couples to marry are not the only reason to allow same-sex marriages.
In my research into the impact of marriage equality in the Netherlands and Massachusetts, I found that same-sex partners and their families benefited from a policy of allowing same-sex marriage.
Partners feel marriage increases their commitment and their sense of responsibility, strengthens their relationships and leads to greater acceptance in their families and communities. Couples also report that their children have enhanced feelings of security.
Although it’s not the only reason to allow same-sex marriage, the positive economic impact of marriage equality is an important part of the debate. It gives everyone – gay or straight, married or single – a stake in the passage of this reform.