VT and MA Now Compete for Gay Wedding Business; CT Next?
Now that a racist 1913 law that had been used against gay families has been repealed in Massachusetts, will more gay and lesbian couples head to the Bay State to tie the knot?
Since the advent four years ago of marriage equality in MA, word has been spreading: same-sex weddings are big business, and states that allow marriage equality stand to reap the benefits not only of local residents wishing to head to the altar, but also out-of-state couples willing to travel in order to claim their right to family.
Those who are willing literally to go the distance and cross state lines in order to wed their life partners bring even more cash into the state economy than local gay families celebrating their weddings, because many of the tourist businesses also benefit.
As reported here at EDGE, a recent report from The Williams Institute suggests that states allowing marriage equality are not only standing up for the civil rights of their citizens, but exhibiting sound business sense as well: California, which recently became the second state in the U.S. to provide marriage equality to its gay and lesbian families, could rake in as much as $64 million over the next three years, assuming that an anti-gay ballot initiative to re-write the state constitution and strip gay families of their right to marry fails at the ballot box this Nov.
And if New Jersey, thought by some to be likely to become the third state offering equality to gay and lesbian families, should open the door to marriage also, it could enjoy a take of $19 million.
A separate report from the Congressional Budget Office projected that if all states in the Union were to provide their gay and lesbian families with marriage rights, the national profit on same-sex weddings would ring the (cash register) bells to the tune of a billion dollars per year.
All of which is starting to sink in, given these cash-strapped times.
Until recently, the only thing stopping gay and lesbian families from other states from making a trip over state lines and marrying in MA was a state law from 1913 that had originally been written to uphold anti-miscegenation laws in other locales.
The 1913 law said that no one whose marriage would be illegal in their home state would be allowed to marry in MA.
After marriage equality became a legal reality in America for the first time in 2004 in MA, the state’s then-governor Mitt Romney, already attempting to court a conservative base with an eye to the 2008 election, cited the 1913 law as a means of preventing gay and lesbian families from other states from entering MA, marrying, and then presenting a legal challenge to their home states’ governments.
The legality of such a scenario was in doubt already, thanks to a 1996 law, the federal "Defense of Marriage Act," which, rather than defend family rights for gay Americans, singles them out for exclusion from legal family recognition.
Now that current MA governor Deval Patrick has signed a bill to strike that antiquated and racist law from the books, out-of-state couples will be free to travel to the Bay State to tie the knot, and MA will reap the financial benefits. But will other states feel the sting of lost profits?
A story posted at the Web site for NBC affiliate WPTZ looked at the issue from a Vermont perspective, investigating whether VT--the first state to offer limited recognition of gay families by passing a civil unions law in 2000, under then-governor Howard Dean--would see tourist dollars flow away from the state. After all, why settle for a civil union when couples can go for true (if limited to state level) marriage?
The WPTZ article cited a VT bed and breakfast, Grunberg Haus, as an example; when the civil unions law took effect, that establishment immediately gained business, and over the years same-sex couples (and their guests) coming to the state to celebrate their civil union has remained a significant part of the business’ revenue stream.
Jeff Connor, who with his wife owns and operates Grunberg Haus, expressed the opinion that the repeal of the racist law from 1913 would not lead to a big drop in business.
VT, said Connor, remains "a magical place to have a wedding," regardless of the gender of the persons involved.