By Robert Drago
A year ago today, the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage, and according to the Washington Post, the number of marriages soared from 3,100 in the year prior to 6,600 in the year since. According to a court representative, the number of marriages usually varies by less than 100 from one year to the next, suggesting the increase was mainly due to same-sex couples (the District does not track the gender of marriage partners). In fact, it is likely that the difference of 3,500 additional marriages understates the marriages of same-sex partners, because the national marriage rate has been falling, undoubtedly due to the economic insecurity experienced by millions of Americans in the last few years.
Although you might not know it from media coverage of national politics, the District is a shockingly poor city. A recent IWPR publication reported that the rate of poverty among all black women and girls in the District is 26 percent, and the rate for single mothers is 37 percent. This is a city that needs some help.
Gay marriage can be a boon to the local economy. Assuming that in 2010, same-sex marriages in DC cost the same as the national average of $24,000, then gay marriage generated $84 million dollars of additional consumer spending last year.
The Williams Institute has documented the economic benefits of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Colorado and elsewhere. These analyses suggest reasons why the $84 million figure might be overstated (e.g., purchasing wedding attire or holding wedding receptions outside of the District), but far more reasons why it would be understated – particularly given the high cost of living in Washington DC, and additional spending when wedding guests come in from out of town and stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop.
It might be a coincidence that over a similar time period, Washington, DC saw a net increase of 22,000 new jobs, and was one of only two states to enjoy a decline in the unemployment rate of two percent or more. Then again, maybe gay marriage created some desperately-needed jobs in the District.