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Gay Marriage: Revenue Boon for States?

  • Dec 21, 2012 | Gail Cole

While it is doubtful that states approve gay marriage in order to collect more taxes, those that do will likely see a significant bump in revenue as a result. The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA notes that of the 646,464 same-sex couples in the United States, "only about 50,000" have married. It estimates that "extending marriage to same-sex couples in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State will generate over $166 million in wedding spending in the first three years."

Gay marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership is now legal or recognized in sixteen states and the District of Columbia. Same-sex marriage was approved by popular vote in Maryland, Washington State and Maine last November. It is legal in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Civil unions or domestic partnerships are recognized in California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Although same-sex partnerships are not legal in the remaining states, some people think the tide is turning in favor of gay marriage. Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who once stridently opposed same-sex marriage, recently acknowledged that homosexuality "is in every family. It is in every community." He said that "the reality is going to be that in a number of American states -- and it will be more after 2014 -- gay relationships will be legal, period."

Last summer, a headline in CNN Money announced, "Gay marriage boosts NYC's economy by $259 million in first year." The article went on to report that the economic lift was a result of "marriage license fees, local celebrations and wedding-related purchases… ." That's easy to see, since more than 8,200 same-sex marriage licenses were issued during the course of one year. CNN referenced a national survey of gay and straight newlyweds in noting that "[s]ame-sex couples spent an average $9,039 on their weddings, while 31% spent $10,000 or more… ." That money is spent on lodging, wedding announcements, wedding favors, rings, and all the other usual wedding accoutrements and accessories. Those spendings generate sales tax revenues.

That additional spending "will be good for business, boost state and local tax revenues, and create new jobs…" according to Lee Badget, Williams Institute Research Director. These estimates do not include same-sex couples who are already married or registered as domestic partners, since such "couples may already have had a wedding or may spend less if they have already registered."

On December 6, gay couples in Washington lined up to be among the first to legally marry in the state. Gay couples are planning to do the same on December 29 in Maine, if city offices are open for them (December 29 is a Saturday, but some city halls may open to mark the occasion). Gay marriage becomes legal in Maryland on January 1, 2013.

photo credit: firemedic58 via photopin cc

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.