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Freako(NOM)ics

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COMMENTARY: This summer's news has focused on two hot issues: new concerns about a double-dip recession and Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning California's Proposition 8. In a jarring display of confused facts and logic, the National Organization for Marriage's antigay tour has brought those two issues together.

On the recent Iowa stop of the NOM tour, Concerned Women for America spokesperson Tamara Scott laid the blame for the social cost of "fragmented families" at the feet of allegedly unstable gay couples raising children. "It costs you, the taxpayer, as high as $280 billion a year for fragmented families," she warned the (small) group at the rally. Her argument suggested that one way to help the struggling economy would be to stop the formation of the fragmented gay families that are doing harm to themselves, their children, and U.S. taxpayers by their mere existence. In essence, she's arguing that stopping gay marriage in Iowa could help the economy.

That logic turns the actual relationship between marriage equality and the economy upside down. For one thing, many gay couples want the right to marry because they see marriage as a way to enhance their commitment to each other. So having the right to marry would actually increase the likelihood that same-sex couples would stay together (with or without kids), just as marriage does for different-sex couples. If stability saves taxpayers money, then taxpayers should favor marriage equality.

More to the point, giving gay couples the right to marry would have a direct positive effect on the economy in many ways. More than 20 studies of marriage equality's impact on state and federal budgets have unanimously concluded that those budgets would see a boost. The Congressional Budget Office, budget analysts in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, as well as studies by the Williams Institute, all agree that marriage equality would save states money--which most states desperately need in this economy.

Businesses would also gain from the weddings of same-sex couples. Our research finds that gay and lesbian couples spend thousands of dollars on their weddings, and those celebrations draw people from out-of-state to spend even more. We estimate that Massachusetts businesses got a boost of more than $100 million in the first few years of gay couples' weddings. Most of the beneficiaries are small businesses that are really feeling the economic pinch, including photographers, wedding planners, caterers, bakeries, and hotels. Gay marriage is helping to keep those businesses afloat in Iowa, Washington, D.C.; and New England.

In contrast to the twisted logic presented by NOM, Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Prop. 8 provides an excellent model for bringing facts into the debate about giving same-sex couples the right to marry. That trial demonstrated the economic harms of Prop 8 to gay couples and to state and local governments. Prop 8 cost California businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. Those who care about taxpayers and the health of families will find marriage equality supports both of those goals.

M. V. Lee Badgett is the Research Director of the Williams Institute at UCLA. She is also a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
This article is the opinion of the writer and not The Advocate.

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