Thu April 3, 2014

Could Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Be A Boon For Colorado's Economy?

Extending marriage to same-sex couples in Colorado could add an estimated $50 million in spending to the state and local economy and $3.7 million in tax revenue according to a study. Currently, Colorado bans same-sex marriage, offering civil unions in their stead.

The Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the UCLA School of Law, studied 2010 U.S. Census data for the number of gay and lesbian couples living in Colorado finding 12,424 couples had been counted.

They estimate if same-sex marriage is legalized in the state, 50 percent of those couples would chose to marry in the first three years, meaning same-sex wedding revenue would flow into state coffers. 

“We’ve already known that marriage would give committed couples here in Colorado the opportunity to make a lifetime promise to each other and protect their families the same way everyone else does,” said Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBT advocacy group. “Now we know that marriage equality would also benefit our economy and contribute to the state’s bottom line.”

The study concludes that Colorado’s wedding business would increase with legal same-sex marriage by $40 million, with around $10 million being generated in tourist dollars by out-of-town wedding guests.

According to the 2012 Wedding Report, $969 million was spent on different-sex marriages in Colorado with the average cost of a wedding totaling $26,053. 

Fran and Anna Simon of Denver exchange vows during the state's first legal civil union performed in Denver in 2013.
Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC

Christy Mallory with the Williams Institute said based on studies in other states where same-sex marriage is legal, LGBT couples are typically spending less on their weddings than their straight counterparts.

“We’ve reduced that number in our estimate for same-sex couples only because we’ve seen them spend a little bit less on their weddings,” Mallory said. “That may be a result of them deciding to do it quicker once it’s legalized, or maybe a result of less family spending due to discrimination or that kind of thing.”

The study expects that same-sex couples in Colorado would spend roughly $6,500 on their weddings, a quarter of the amount spent by different-sex couples.

Massachusetts was used as a basis for the Colorado study, since it was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Since then, Mallory said other studies have been conducted in states where the practice is now legal, with similar results.

One Colorado’s Dave Montez says the study shows legalizing same-sex marriage in Colorado could attract more companies to the state.

“With the freedom to marry being realized in more and more states across the country, these places now have caring, committed, loving gay and lesbian couples who are getting married and who are working for these companies,” Montez said. “If a company is going to move to Colorado, all of those couples who are married in those states would be unmarried the minute they come to Colorado. And that’s not a good place for a state to be that’s looking to attract new business.”

Montez says the LGBT community is exploring multiple options to bring equal marriage to Colorado, including lawsuits or pursuing a statewide vote to repeal the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.