The Trickle-Up Economics of Gay Marriage

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 08:03 AM

Gay Marriage (Getty Images)

Last month, New York State passed the Marriage Equality Act and became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage. And starting this Sunday, July 24, gay partners can marry, with an estimated 66,524 couples expected to wed in New York over the next three years. This historic event will have impact beyond the issue of civil rights: Gay couples will see a variety of financial changes, too. If trickle-down economics is about the impact of economic policy on the individual, then this is the trickle-up economics of gay marriage–how a decision two people make willchange insurance, taxes, businesses, state revenues, and economic policy.

Weddings are already a $165 billion industry nationwide. If same-sex marriage were legalized nationwide, Forbes estimates that the wedding industry would bring in an extra $9.5 billion per year. For now, as same-sex couples across the country spend money to wed in New York over the next three years, they'll give tourism and jobs a bump along the way, to the tune of $391 million.

If you live in New York State, here are a few things to look out for. Non-New-Yorkers, you may come across the same issues if you're lucky enough to live in a state with marriage equality:

Partners get benefits… but only if you marry. Gay and straight couples who have domestic partner health insurance, pay attention to your policies. Some companies, including IBM, Corning, and Raytheon, will require that domestic partners marry in order to receive benefits for their partner. But don’t panic: When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, most companies continued offering domestic partner benefits. Hopefully New York will follow suit, but check with your employer to find out.

Tax time may mean trouble. Depending on which state you live in, filing state income taxes jointly may change how much you owe. For example, in New York, most couples will owe more than they did when they filed as single—the so-called "marriage penalty." But in Massachusetts, state taxes are a flat rate, so it doesn't matter if you file single or jointly. For all marriage equality states, tax preparation fees—and annoying extra paperwork—rise for married gay couples, since they still must file federal tax returns separately. For more info, go to irs.gov.

Something to look forward to: legalized marriage nationwide. States legalizing same-sex marriage certainly help further the cause, but federal recognition would save couples confusion and crippling costs. President Obama has stated that his views on marriage are "evolving," and that "gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country." Here's hoping the New York state of mind will spread.

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Comments [1]

Jason from Missouri

I wish you would post more of the numbers you mentioned on the air today... $80+ million in "Marriage Penalties" for NY, etc. It would give more awareness of what impact it could have on state economies.

Jul. 19 2011 04:43 PM

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