From Sunday's Seattle Times
Legalizing same-sex marriage could generate $88 million in additional wedding and tourism spending in Washington, a study finds.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would generate as much as $88 million in additional wedding and tourism spending in Washington, according to a study by UCLA Law School's Williams Institute.
The institute, which studies issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, based its estimate on census data, economic-impact figures and the experiences of other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, most notably Massachusetts.
The same-sex marriage bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate is expected to win House approval within days and be signed quickly by Gov. Chris Gregoire, though opponents hope to challenge it in a statewide referendum in the fall.
According to the 2010 Census, there are just over 19,000 same-sex couples in Washington. Assuming half of them choose to marry within three years of legalization — the rate in Massachusetts after same-sex marriage became law there in 2004 — that would mean about 9,500 marriages that otherwise wouldn't take place.
(Washington now has about 40,000 marriages a year, according to federal data.)
Weddings are big business, as anyone who's paid for one lately knows all too well: The average spent on a wedding in Washington was $25,414 in 2010, according to industry-research website theweddingreport.com.
Even if, as the institute estimates, same-sex couples spend only a quarter as much on their Big Day as heterosexual couples, that's still more than $6,350 per wedding.
Do the math and it works out to $60.4 million in direct spending over three years.
But few couples get married by themselves. A Massachusetts study found that same-sex couples had an average 16 out-of-town guests at their ceremonies.
Assuming that holds true here, that means more than 152,000 extra visitors.
A state Commerce Department study last year found that visitors to our fair state spend an average $185 per day on transportation, lodging, food and Pike Place Market tchotchkes. So add another $28.1 million, for a total impact of $88.5 million.
The institute notes that this estimate doesn't consider any gains from out-of-state couples who might travel here to get married, and it assumes that wedding expenses would come from couples' savings (or credit cards) rather than being diverted from other spending.
Also, more than 7,500 same-sex couples already have registered as domestic partners in Washington; those folks may simply convert their partnerships into marriages and forgo the flowers, prime rib and '80s cover band.
Dropping them leaves a low-end estimate of just under 2,000 full-blown ceremonies, and cuts the total impact to $18.5 million.
Either way, based on Massachusetts' experience, most of the impact would be felt quickly: The study estimates that nearly two-thirds of the three-year total of weddings would occur in the first year after legalization.
All that, of course, would be a boon to florists, caterers and the rest of the wedding-industrial complex — not to mention the state and local governments, which would share close to $8 million (in the high-end scenario) in additional sales taxes and hotel/motel taxes.
In terms of the overall state economy, however, the impact would be tiny.
More than $100 billion in taxable sales occur in Washington each year, and last year the state alone collected $7.2 billion in sales and use taxes.
— Drew DeSilver, email@example.com
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