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Marrying With

Marrying With


How the buying power of gays may win the marriage fight.

When the people of springfield, the fictional hometown of The Simpsons, agreed to legalize same-sex marriage, it wasn't out of a sense of justice or equality. Instead, they realized it was an easy way to make a quick buck. As Mayor Quimby quipped, "We shall legalize gay money -- I mean gay marriage."

Most of us can sing the moral arguments for marriage equality in our sleep. We've talked about it over dinner with friends. We've discussed it at work. Though the argument for equality may have won over many of our straight allies, it's the legislators and business leaders who still need convincing. And appealing to their heartstrings has yielded minimal returns at best.

It's time to focus the argument on a place on which politicians and business leaders are all too often fixated -- our pocketbooks. We need to show definitively that marriage equality is sound economic policy.

Weddings and honeymoons represent a $120 billion industry that's growing every year. The average wedding costs more than $19,000, big money for its host city or town. When San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February 2004, approximately 4,000 couples came calling. While 90% of the licenses went to California residents, nonresident couples came from 45 other states and eight countries. That's thousands of new tourists overnight. And they all needed lodging and food and places to buy bouquets and boutonnieres and bags of rice. Small businesses were happy. Big businesses were happy. And at least some politicians were happy -- a healthy economy represents a surefire reelection platform.

Unfortunately, the courts put the brakes on San Francisco's gay marriages. And even though the California state legislature has twice passed bills extending marriage to same-sex couples, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed both pieces of legislation. So the people (and businesses) of California must now wait for the state's supreme court to decide the matter in ongoing lawsuits testing the constitutionality of the state's heterosexist marriage laws.

But why wait for justice? Those who can afford it should travel to places that fully recognize our relationships and get married already!

It's true that nonresident marriages will not be recognized in our home states (thank you, Defense of Marriage Act), but we can still send a powerful message. Just as we often use our dollars to support gay-friendly companies like Subaru and Disney, it's time we wed with our wallets. Take your wedding banquets to Boston or Vancouver, Canada. Honeymoon in Amsterdam or Cape Town, South Africa. If you can afford a destination wedding, have your ceremony in the few places that fully recognize same-sex marriage -- Massachusetts, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, or Spain. By supporting communities that support us, we show other regions still hostile to marriage equality just how much they are missing out.

When Maryland's supreme court ruled in September 2007 that same-sex couples were not guaranteed the right to marry in that state's constitution, Maryland lost out on a $3.2 million annual windfall, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank dedicated to sexual orientation law and public policy. Think about it: All that money spent on same-sex cake toppers, bridesmaid dresses, formfitting tuxes, and DJs spinning Donna Summer would produce a $3.2 million net gain in tax revenue that could help Maryland build new schools, improve health care, and expand public transit.

Maryland isn't alone. New York City comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. estimates his city's economy would gain $142 million in the first three years after implementation of same-sex marriage legislation.

Let's take our millions up the coast to Massachusetts or across the border to Canada. Because only when state legislatures realize how much money they're losing will they help us gain the equality we're seeking.

The benefits of marriage equality extend far beyond the big day. According to the Boston Business Journal, Massachusetts has seen an influx of highly skilled LGBT professionals since the state's first same-sex marriages in 2004.

Yes, mayors and legislators should support marriage equality because it's the right thing to do. But for those who aren't there yet, we must expand our argument beyond what is right to what is lucrative. If we wed with our wallets now, it won't be long before businesses and politicians wake up to the economic benefits of equality. Then the real America will start to agree with Mayor Quimby and recognize that now is the time to legalize gay money--I mean gay marriage.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Brian Richardson