When Federal Judge Crabb ruled Wisconsin’s marriage equality ban unconstitutional she did the state a great favor. Not only did she affirm the right of all of Wisconsin’s citizens to marry who they love, she also paved the way to help strengthen our state’s economy.
The decision from Crabb should be heralded for what it is doing to show that all people are to be considered equal in our great state. The decision not only will allow couples to express their love and have the state legally recognize that, but the decision will allow couples to make a significant contribution to the LGBT and allied business community in our state.
Think about it. When a straight couple gets married, they spend tens of thousands of dollars on their special day. From a florist, to a caterer, to a DJ to rock the night away, couples are spending money to express their love. And now, the LGBT community will be able to do the same.
At the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, we are incredibly excited about the economic impact that this decision will have for our members and for our state economy as a whole.
In a short-term sense, the benefits are clear. Weddings are very expensive, and an influx of marriages means a great deal of spending is happening all at once, and better yet it’s happening locally.
A study done last year by the Williams Institute at UCLA predicted that marriage equality in Illinois would generate $54 to $103 million in new spending in the state over the first three years that marriage is allowed.
The providers of wedding flowers, food, music and venues are all local, and likely are small businesses. Whereas our neighboring state used to benefit from Wisconsin same-sex couples traveling across the border to get married, now Wisconsin businesses reap the rewards of these nuptials, and the state keeps the sales tax revenues as well.
The same Williams Institute study also found that in Illinois, marriage equality would likely “add $8.5 million in tax revenue to state and local coffers, with an estimated $5.4 million occurring in the first year.” While the exact numbers in Wisconsin are unclear, it is clear that same-sex marriage will bring a welcome boost to our state economy and tax rolls for years to come.
The immediate benefits of marriage equality provide millions of dollars of stimulus to local businesses, but the short-term benefits do not even begin to tell the whole story. These new marriages create families in Wisconsin that will have a lasting, observable impact on our economy.
These long-term benefits go far beyond bouquets and cakes. Same-sex couples will employ lawyers, financial planners and Realtors to get their families started and secure their futures.
Not only that, but marriage equality helps Wisconsin recruit and retain diverse talent. People want to move to and live in a place that is welcoming and accepting of who they are. In today’s global economy, potential employees could go anywhere they wanted. If we want to keep the best and brightest here in our state, showing our inclusivity through marriage equality is one way to do that. Because of the federal decision, we don’t need to worry about people leaving Wisconsin and heading to Illinois or Minnesota where they can be respected in their entirety. This in and of itself is a key component of how we grow our business community. Having the best and brightest want to move here and work here is how we make sure our businesses thrive.
Although Crabb has now halted the marriages temporarily, we know that in the near future marriage equality will continue in Wisconsin. As Wisconsin’s LGBT families continue to grow and prosper, so too will our state economy. We look forward to seeing Wisconsin’s social progress translate into a positive force for our economy and local businesses, and consequently giving our state the best of both worlds.
Jason Rae is executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.