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May 17, 2014

Study: Indiana could cash in on same-sex weddings

First year could generate $25M from wedding expenses, guest spending and sales taxes

BLOOMINGTON — Allowing same-sex couples to marry in Indiana could be a big boost to the state economy, according to a new study from the Williams Institute.

The institute, which is part of the UCLA School of Law, conducts research regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and public policy.

The three authors of the study — public policy fellow E. G. Fitzgerald, senior counsel Christy Mallory and research director M.V. Lee Badgett — concluded that the state could cash in on $39.1 million during the first three years of same-sex marriage being legal from wedding expenses, guest spending and sales taxes. The first year itself is expected to generate $25 million.

“This study confirms that all [Hoosiers] benefit from marriage for same-sex couples, not just the LGBT community,” Badgett said in a news release.

To determine the overall economic impact, the study first determined the number of same-sex couples living in the state to estimate the number that would marry within the next three years. According to the 2010 Census, 11,074 same-sex couples live in Indiana.

Then, researchers compared the number of couples that tied the knot in other states that allowed same-sex marriage to estimate of the number of those who would get married here. For example, more than 50 percent of same-sex couples in Massachusetts married during the initial three-year period. That trend was seen in other states as well, so the estimated number of weddings is at 5,537 for the first three years in Indiana.

Existing married couples were not excluded from this estimate. However, same-sex couples likely to travel to Indiana from other states to marry also were not included, which researchers believe would balance existing married couples. In Washington state, for example, 17 percent of marriages performed in the first year same-sex couples could wed were out-of-state couples (a figure fueled by Washington being one of a small number of states allowing such marriages).

Then, there’s wedding costs. In 2012, according to The Wedding Report, an average wedding carried a price tag of $22,306 in Indiana. However, same-sex couples are estimated to spend only about one-fourth of what heterosexual couples pay for wedding arrangements. Using that calculation, same-sex couples would spend an average of $5,577 on their weddings in Indiana, and with 5,537 ceremonies predicted, the direct impact of wedding spending would be about $30.9 million.

Out-of-state guests bring in another chunk of the total economic impact. Averaging 16 out-of-state guests per wedding, and each guest spending roughly $93 per day, out-of-state guests were predicted to bring in $8.2 million to Indiana over three years of attending same-sex weddings.

More customer spending in an industry also leads to more jobs. With the extra revenue expected from same-sex weddings, an estimated 750 jobs were projected to be created.

The Indiana Legislature considered the same-sex marriage issue during the session this year. House Joint Resolution 3 would have added a measure to the Indiana Constitution prohibiting couples of the same gender from getting married in the state, and would have banned civil unions and possibly prevented employers from providing benefits to same-sex couples.

In 2011, the Legislature passed the measure easily. This year, the House removed the second sentence from the amendment, which was criticized for potentially stripping benefits from same-sex couples. The altered version passed both chambers, but because the language differed from the amendment passed in 2011, the process essentially started over.

Indiana law requires proposed constitutional amendments to pass the Indiana General Assembly twice, with a general election occurring between the two votes. The earliest the ban could be passed and appear as a referendum for voters is 2016.

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