PORTLAND, Maine -- Extending marriage rights to same-sex couples offers significant economic benefits to Maine businesses and the state of Maine, according to a new report issued today by the Williams Institute School of Law at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
The report clearly demonstrates that in addition to the legal and emotional protections that marriage provides for families, the state of Maine itself could realize as much as $60 million in economic gains in the three years following enactment of marriage equality. The report also estimates that as many as 1,000 new jobs could be created from this increased economic activity. The report also calculates that the direct spending on weddings and tourism will generate $3.1 million in local and state tax revenues. In addition, the weddings of both in-state and out-of-state couples will generate $539,193 in marriage license fees.
"All loving, committed couples in Maine need and deserve the rights and protections of civil marriage," says Betsy Smith, Executive Director of EqualityMaine, the state's major GLBT advocacy organization. "At the same time, it's important to take note of the economic benefits that can flow to Maine businesses and the state by ending discrimination against gay and lesbian families."
The Williams Institute report shows that ending marriage discrimination would increase spending in Maine for the wedding industry, and also would increase tourism. Maine is an appealing tourism destination, and in addition to Maine couples holding weddings here, Maine would attract couples from other states, like New York, to come here for their weddings.
"In these difficult economic times, Maine families are suffering," says Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "This report shows that when we end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, we will also help get Maine's economy working again."
Massachusetts, which ended marriage discrimination against same-sex couples five years ago, has seen these economic benefits. Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Massachusetts-based legal organization that won marriage equality in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has seen proof of this.
"Massachusetts had more than 9,000 couples marry in the first three years of including same-sex couples in the state's civil marriage laws," says Swislow. "Not only do we have a lot of happy families who feel more secure because they are able to legally marry, we also have a flourishing wedding industry that brings money to businesses throughout the state."
The Williams Institute bases its research on the number of self-identified gay and lesbian couples under the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for Maine—4,644. This estimate is considered conservative in light of U.S. Census estimates that there are 52,801 gay and lesbian individuals living in Maine. The Williams Institute estimates are also conservative in their estimates of average wedding and tourism costs--$3,143 for out-of-state couples and a wedding cost of $4,641 for in-state couples. The numbers do not include tourism costs associated with family and friends of the couples.
"In the end, it is clear that extending civil marriage to same sex couples is not only the right thing to do, but offers many advantages to individuals, businesses and the state as a whole," Smith concludes.
Click here to read the full report.
Read the Opposing Views debate, Should Same-Sex Marriage be Legal?