A group of Phoenix residents is using a recent report on gay marriage as part of a campaign to legalize the practice. The report, released by the Williams Institute, indicated that Arizona could earn up to $62 million in three years if it allows same-sex marriage.
Some of the measure’s more well-known backers are Tom Simplot, a former Phoenix councilman, and Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Both were in attendance at a recent gathering for the Marriage Opportunity Project, an October event in Washington D.C. that will convene a number of national leaders for discussions about marriage equality. The two politicians have been outspoken in their desire to see Arizona legalize same-sex marriage. Simplot was the first openly homosexual person elected to the capital city’s council. Similarly, Sinema was the first openly bisexual member of Congress to be elected.
Debates about gay marriage typically revolve around the issues of family dynamics and religion, as a large percentage of the Christian community believes that the Bible prohibits same-sex unions. However, the Williams Institute report steers the conversation away from sociological subjects and instead introduces the facts and figures of economics.
The report, which was released last month, claimed that Arizona could earn approximately $62 million by legalizing same-sex marriage. The report comes to this conclusion by first determining the number of homosexual couples in the state, reported as 15,187, according to the 2010 census. Based on the trends in other states, the Institute estimated that half of those couples would wed within three years if same-sex marriage is legalized, and concluded that the increased spending on wedding preparations and tourism would net the state $62 million, with approximately $40 million coming in the first year. The uptick in wedding celebrations would also create over 500 full-time and part-time jobs.
Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod rejected the report’s findings as mere economic speculation. Herrod instead pointed to the “time-tested definition of marriage” as the best choice for both her home state and society as a whole. Six years ago, the advocacy group lobbied in favor of an Arizona Constitutional amendment that restricted the recognition of unions to only those between one woman and one man. Arizonans voted to approve the measure, which was known as Proposition 102.
M.V. Lee Badgett, a UCLA law professor and one of the co-authors of the Williams Institute report, has been studying the issue of same-sex marriage for years. Her most recent book, published by NYU Press in 2009, examines the societal repercussions of the legalization of same-sex marriage by comparing American and European experiences with marriage equality.
In a 2013 article published ahead of the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage in California, Badgett stated that spending on wedding ceremonies by same-sex couples across the country could generate at least $1.5 billion. She also noted big business’s support for gay marriage, and pointed out that many major corporations, including Apple, Google, Nike, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Viacom, Verizon, and Disney, all signed amicus briefs related to the Supreme Court’s arguments on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Badgett argued that the legalization of same-sex marriages will help society on an individual level as well as a corporate one. She asserted that it is more likely for people in homosexual relationships to be uninsured, and backed the statement up with a New York Times article in which the reporters calculated that people in same-sex couples could lose as much as $500,000 over the course of their lifetimes because they cannot marry and therefore are ineligible for employers’ spousal healthcare insurance policies. The professor continued by pointing out that if they wind up getting care that they cannot afford or avoid receiving preventive medical attention, the costs of doing so could affect all of society.
The Arizona report claiming that the state could earn $62 million by legalizing same-sex marriage shows that the issue has ramifications on a state-by-state basis as well as a national one. These effects are not limited to Arizona however, as the Williams Institute has done similar analyses on all fifty states.
By Yitzchak Besser