Most supporters of same-sex marriage are likely to adamantly defend it as a matter of ethics and civil rights. However, recent data from New York City officials has just added a stronger argument to the fold. New York’s year old marriage equality legislation has fostered an influx of marriages that, in turn, opened the floodgates for strong economic activity.
In the clash between politics, religion and ‘American-family-values,’ it may make more cents for marriage equality advocates to focus on an economic case for same-sex marriage. If supporters of same-sex marriage refocus the debate to one that highlights the economics of marriage, no matter the sex of the bride or groom, then there is a stronger likelihood that other states will follow New York. While it may not feel as satisfying as reforming individuals’ moral outlook and pathos for same-sex marriages, it is certainly more winnable and logical of an approach.
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg successfully jockeyed for Governor Andrew Cuomo to legalize same-sex marriages last July, anywhere from 7,200 to 8,200 gay couples have wedded in the City — that’s roughly 10% of all marriages in the five boroughs. The marriages have brokered in 200,000 out-of-towners, $259 million in economic activity and $16 million in taxes. Ironically, former president Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 partially because supporters of the bill argued that federally legalizing gay marriages would cost taxpayers more money to provide benefits — tax breaks, certain provisions in Medicare, Social Security survivor benefits, etc.—to same-sex couples. But that stance is far from a holistic economic analysis.
For starters, the average wedding is priced at about $25,631. That, of course, is a lot higher for big cities like NYC. With roughly 646,464 unmarried gay couples in the United States, the potential dividends are huge.
Secondly, same-sex couples are more likely to have two working adults in the household than traditional families. Thus, the married couples combined income can boost them into a higher income tax bracket. Additionally, if both adults are making a comparably high income, the marriage penalty tax (which is applied to married couples that file their taxes jointly) can generate more revenue than taxing two adults individually.
Another grim reality of marriage in America is divorce. America has a divorce rate of 3.4 per 1000 couples. If you ever asked anyone who’s been through the divorce process, it can wound up costing more than getting married. Whether it is a same-sex or traditional married couples, both are American, both pay the same price.
Money talks now; empathy develops over time. Americans who perceive gay marriage as a deviant from the traditional family portrait and even as an infringement upon their values are entitled to feel as such. Just as their argument may revolve around persuading the public to recognize their cause as being in the moral right, marriage equality advocates who often use the same exact approach are merely inviting themselves to a stalemate. The “my morals are better than yours” argument is hardly effective. On the contrary, a strong economic case for either argument is a swifter route to an agreement — albeit an uncompassionate or grudging agreement.