Huffpost Business

Gay Marriage Could Give The Economy A Much-Needed Boost

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David Peters, right, and Luke Whited, a gay couple who are joined in a civil union in Illinois, pose for the camera prior to being interviewed about Obama's statement of support of gay marriage on Wednesday
David Peters, right, and Luke Whited, a gay couple who are joined in a civil union in Illinois, pose for the camera prior to being interviewed about Obama's statement of support of gay marriage on Wednesday

If President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage does convince more states to follow suit with full-fledged legislation, it could free up a lot of cash along the way.

That's because gay marriage would be a shot in the arm to the economy, writes Matt Yglesias at Slate. "Weddings are expensive," Yglesias writes, "so a sudden change in the legal framework would be a shock to economy-wide aggregate spending as a whole bunch of long-standing committed same sex couples rushed to celebrate with friends and family."

As HuffPost's Mark Gongloff points out, gay marriage is also deficit-friendly: No government spending, just a whole bunch of people getting married.

All those legally sanctioned gay weddings would theoretically mean gay couples would spend more money getting married. And, bonus: Gay couples would also save money if same-sex marriage is legalized at the federal level. As HuffPost's Catherine New reported earlier this year, married same-sex couples must file two sets of income tax returns in order to comply with various state and federal laws, making the process more expensive. That inability to file a joint federal tax return also means married gay couples with large enough income disparities would be ineligible for certain tax breaks and deductions.

Some financial planners who specialize in gay finances are celebrating Obama's Wednesday announcement, New wrote on Wednesday. The symbolic gesture could spell the end for the Defense of Marriage Act, which presents tax and retirement obstacles for gay couples, and a missed opportunity for the planners that advise them, New writes.

Gay couples entering retirement may also lose out on Social Security benefits. If a spouse in an opposite-sex married couple passes away, the living spouse can choose whether to keep receiving his or her own Social Security benefits or inherit the benefits due to the deceased, which can be higher. That same choice is not currently extended by the federal government to gay couples, according to financial planners with expertise in serving same-sex couples.

Add it all up, and a couple's lifetime extra cost of being gay could run as high as $467,562, according to a 2009 analysis from Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber in The New York Times. Bernard and Lieber created a "hypothetical gay couple" with two kids and assumed one would stay home for five years as a caretaker. They looked at a variety of expenses that are often higher for gay couples, including having a child and estate taxes. The NYT also considered the types of benefits, such as Social Security and pensions, that don't accrue to non-married couples.

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