Marriage Equality

Moderated by Rick Badie

We’ve debated the merits of same-sex marriage to no end. What about the potential economic impact of marriage equality? In our lead column, an economics professor offers a perspective based on a study of wedding expenses and related economic factors as compiled by the Williams Institute of UCLA. The other column questions the concept of same-sex marriage as “the new normal.”

Same-sex marriage will fuel economy

By M.V. Lee Badgett

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that states must allow same-sex couples to marry, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion focused on dignity and equality. While the value of dignity for same-sex couples is priceless, the economic value of legal equality is easier to imagine and calculate. But it’s not just same-sex couples who will benefit from access to the practical rights and benefits of marriage. The ripple effects of marriage equality will spread outward to businesses and the larger economy in Georgia.

First comes love, then the weddings. Walking down the aisle can be an expensive trip, as anyone who’s done it recently knows. Parents might not be as willing to chip in for their gay or lesbian kid’s wedding, though, and some of these couples might have already had a big celebration of their relationships. At UCLA’s Williams Institute, our estimates of new wedding spending assume that same-sex couples will spend about $5,800, or just a quarter of the typical wedding of almost $23,000 in Georgia in 2012. We also add the spending from out-of-state guests, a tourism benefit to the state.

Next we estimate how many couples will marry. The U.S. Census Bureau reports more than 21,000 same-sex couples live together in Georgia and most of them have waited patiently for the right to marry in front of family and friends in their home state. Judging from other states’ experiences, about half of those couples will marry in the next three years. Putting these pieces together, almost 11,000 couples will likely marry and spend a total of approximately $79 million in Georgia over the next few years.

Who wins?

Same-sex couples and their children get the stability and security that come with marriage, including benefits from employers, lower taxes, and social security benefits. Small businesses like bakers, caterers, restaurants, florists, hotels, wedding planners and other parts of the wedding industry gain from this surge of pent-up demand. They’ll also need to hire new employees to meet that demand.

Companies that employ people in same-sex couples will also gain. Some of the nation’s largest companies told the Supreme Court they wanted nationwide marriage equality so that they could recruit and retain the best employees. They complained that the patchwork of marriage laws across the country added to their administrative costs and made it hard to transfer employees with same-sex spouses to states that wouldn’t recognize those marriages.

Georgia’s state budget will also gain when more people can marry, reducing expenditures and raising revenues. We count on family members to take care of each other through sickness, health, and unemployment. Our public assistance programs build in that expectation. So when same-sex couples can marry, they’re less likely to need, or to qualify for, cash assistance, for example. As a bonus, new wedding spending will pour sales tax revenue into state and local government coffers — more than $5 million by our estimates.

Same-sex couples will no longer have to pay the unfair taxes, legal fees and other charges caused by marriage bans, spending that could add up to nearly $500,000 over a long relationship. Now same-sex couples can use that money for other family expenses, like health insurance premiums, retirement savings, a house downpayment, or kids’ college expenses. Greater access to health insurance and less social stigma will mean better physical and mental health for the people in same-sex couples. These investments in health, education, and homes pay long-term dividends to economies and societies, not just to the individuals who make them.

New jobs and more money in the pockets of small business people in Georgia are clearly only the tip of the iceberg economically. Economists and other scholars are increasingly recognizing the importance of equality and inclusion for strengthening economies. As same-sex couples plan their weddings, Georgians can look forward to a long-term equality dividend.

M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor who directs the Center for Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is a distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute of UCLA.

Not good that Heather has two daddies

By Jane M. Orient

The destruction of the American family is more likely a cause than a consequence of the gay-rights movement. But what began with easy divorce and widespread cohabitation may be brought to total meltdown with same-sex marriage and the idea that gender is “fluid.”

Government schools have already been indoctrinating children in the “new normal” with books like “Heather Has Two Mommies”.

Radical cultural revolution hides behind corruption of the language. The word “parent,” for example, didn’t used to require the adjective “biological.” In biology, each of the two parents contributes half of their offspring’s DNA. It was the parental surrogates that needed an adjective, such as “adoptive” or “foster.”

Biologically, two mothers is an absurdity. But having no daddy in the home is tragically common. And in 2012, 40.7 percent of all American births, and 72.2 percent of births to non-Hispanic blacks, occurred out of wedlock.

One purpose of matrimony is to establish paternity, although even with illegitimacy and divorce, the identity of the baby’s father is usually known and recorded.

But with modern fertility treatments, especially in the context of same-sex liaisons, the baby’s daddy may be an anonymous sperm donor, picked from a catalog. And the child may never even know who her mother is.

What happens now that “love has won”? Boys with same-sex attractions can contemplate courtship, a hearts-and-flowers wedding ceremony and a family. The child’s birth certificate might have entries for “parent 1” and “parent 2” instead of “mother” and “father.”

But somewhere there’s a woman who carried and nourished Heather for nine months. Very likely Heather is her child, but perhaps not in the days of egg “donations” to help pay bills. Except for medical personnel, the woman was alone when the seed was planted. There was no husband or father to share the excitement of the baby’s first movements. It is unlikely that “parent 1” or “parent 2” sat with her as she labored. And then the baby was gone. The mother or surrogate collected a paycheck, but she’ll never see the dance recital or get a card on Mother’s Day. Where is the love for her?

And where is the maternal love she might have given the baby? And the love from the doting maternal grandparents and aunts and uncles and the love the child might have given to them? Daddy 2 may give her a juice box when she is sad, like in the Broadway show Spelling Bee, but is that the same as the tie mothers and fathers have to their own flesh and blood?

Half of the child’s ancestry is obliterated, and many of her siblings and half-siblings will be unknown. She may have only one known blood tie, to one member of a same-sex couple. Beyond that, she is an atomized element in the Matrix. Her mother or father was a vendor, and she is a commodity.

It’s a big problem for educators pretending that nothing has really changed. The Bible of course must be removed from the curriculum and even the library. There’s far too much begetting in there and the question of who begets whom is treated as supremely important. And what to do with world literature from the beginning of recorded history, where characters are men or women, who have a mother and a father and complicated family relations spanning generations? What of the names, like the Scandinavian Kristin Lavransdatter (daughter of Lavran) or the Hebrew “ben” for “son of,” or Russian middle names like Ivanovich for a son or Glebovna for a daughter, derived from the father’s first name?

It’s a brave new world, where children are given a Social Security number rather than a patronymic at birth. “Mother” might even become an obscenity, as in Aldous Huxley’s novel. And love? Will that be what everybody has to feel for Orwell’s Big Brother?

Jane M. Orient is executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.


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