The Economic Benefits of Marriage Equality
From Ireland to New Zealand, same-sex marriage has been formally recognised in various countries throughout the world. However, Australia has still yet to resolve the marriage equality debate. Although a highly political topic, from an economic perspective marriage equality is expected to bring positive benefits, ranging from increased spending in the Australian economy, increased labour productivity to improvements in social and mental health.
The expenditure on weddings from the introduction of marriage equality legislation would result in a boom to the Australian economy. One could look at other countries as a testimony to this. For example, the economic dividends from same-sex weddings resulted in a boost of $111 million over five years in the economy of the American state of Massachusetts alone . Based on assumptions that half of same-sex couples wish to get married and half of those couples would choose to get married within twelve months of marriage equality legislation, ANZ calculated that expenditure on weddings alone could add at least $500 million to the economy at $51,000 per wedding on average . A wide range of expenses are involved in a wedding; catering, decorators, dress and suit shops, photographers, wdedding receptions, wedding planners and florists, just to name a few. Same-sex couples will be a new source of demand for businesses and this will benefit a wide range of industries. State governments will also receive a new source of revenue with more marriage licence fees and the conduction of secular wedding ceremonies .
The introduction of marriage equality in Australia would also provide local businesses with revenue that would have otherwise been spent overseas. Currently, Australians who are in a same-sex relationship often go to other countries to get married. Allowing for same-sex marriage in Australia would decrease the number of Australians travelling overseas for marriage purposes, therefore reinvesting funds into industries at home. It would also allow foreign same-sex couples to travel to Australia to get married, further boosting the economy. For example, nearly 6000 couples travelled to New Zealand to get married . Taking into consideration flow-on effects, such as expenditure from international wedding guests and honeymooning expenses, it can be seen that marriage equality would provide significant economic stimulus. Australian tourism would benefit from its international recognition as a more tolerant and progressive country.
Australian businesses will also benefit from marriage equality through increased productivity, higher talent attraction and decreased chance of consumer backlash. Marriage equality would act as a step forward for overcoming irrational social discrimination against LGBTI+, which according to studies by UBS economist, Paul Donovan, acts as an inhibitor to increased labour productivity and labour potential . As such, Australia would be a more attractive destination for top talents and businesses in support of marriage equality. According to the Australia Marriage Equality organisation, at least 1251 corporations are in support of marriage equality . Supporting marriage equality can also help businesses avoid boycotts. For example, Coopers Brewery experienced a boycott this year from pubs and customers due to backlash from its beer being featured in the Bible Society’s video, which implicitly made light of the marriage equality debate .
Australia’s economic potential would also be indirectly increased by the improved social and welfare outcomes of marriage equality. In Australia, the LGBTI+ community currently are twice as likely to have a high level or very high level of psychological distress compared to the rest of the population as a result of experiencing of prejudice, fears about ‘coming out’ and internalised homophobia . The right to same-sex marriage would reduce the sense of social exclusion by same-sex couples and improve mental and physical health by reducing stress . In the Netherlands for example, Badgett found that 72% of married Dutch same-sex couples felt a greater commitment to their spouses and at least 60% feel more accepted by the family and community after same-sex marriage. 93% of gay parents also say their children are happier having married parents, in contrast to de-facto couples .
While marriage equality legislation remains to be enacted in Australia, the majority of Australians support these changes and the pressure for change will remain . Whatever happens, it is clear that marriage equality could bring more happiness to more people in our economy.
 Badgett, L. (n.d.). Marriage equality: the international experience (pp. 1-2). Australian Marriage Equality.
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 Badgett, L., & Smith, J. (2012). The Economic Impact of Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples in Australia (pp. 1-5). Los Angeles: The Williams Institute.
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 Cockburn, P. (2017). Coopers Brewery distances itself from Bible Society’s same-sex marriage video, faces backlash. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-14/coopers-brewery-not-involved-gay-marriage-video/8351894
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