Progress such as the U.S. military beginning training forces last February on the new law that allows gay people to serve openly and recently Washington governor coming out in favor of gay marriage in that state, makes it reasonable to raise our expectations of the bigots hiding behind self-righteous masks. And the timing for this understanding is particularly relevant.
The main subject most people are interested in these days is surviving the recession, getting good jobs and rebuilding savings and retirement accounts, so let's phrase in economic terms how gay rights are good for the nation. Gay people are talented, intelligent, good citizens. They vote, they take part in social activism, they pay taxes, they have strong careers, and they have family values. I define those values as loving the family life. Some even adopt children. They help stabilize the nation with their contributions to build vibrant communities in the arts, sciences, education, military and virtually all areas that help make this a great nation.
It is difficult to place a dollar amount on the contributions that gay people make to our country. However, there are some economic indicators that point the way. And while discriminating against gay people certainly hurts, them it hurts us as a society even more. For example, take gay marriage. Economic indicators, such as the 2007 study "Love Counts: The Economic Benefits of Marriage Equality for New York," led to a 2009 new analysis by the New York City comptroller's office which concluded that the state's economy would gain up to $210 million by this year, 2012, if same-sex marriage became legal. We know now, of course, it became legal in New York about seven months ago.
A 2009 UCLA study by Professors Brad Sears and M.V. Badgett of the Williams Institute showed that the over 12,000 same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts since 2004 have brought more than "$111 million into the state's economy." The same study also projected that spending "by resident same-sex couples on their weddings, and by out-of-state couples on tourism and their weddings, will boost California's economy by over $683.6 million in direct spending over the next three years."
My first question is why is this anybody's business other than that of the couple in love? Studies show that married couples live longer, are happier and enjoy a more stable life than single people. Also that the quality of life that results from marriage, or just from couples in love, translates into better job performance, increased self esteem with which to strive for higher career goals and a supportive environment for financial prudence to save up and buy a home, invest wisely and spend comfortably.
The moral issue in my mind is whether there is truth between the couple. "Do you love one another for better or for worse?" The sanctity of marriage is based on this same truthfulness. With studies showing heterosexual extramarital affairs ranging anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent among husbands and about the same varying range for wives, its become sadly irrelevant to talk about the sanctity of marriage in any terms other than how much couples are committed to each other. It seems to be overlooked that gay marriages take work just as heterosexual ones do. Gay marriages can end in divorce just as heterosexual ones can.
It can be a lonely world out there. If two people are fortunate enough to fall in love, then that is among the greatest blessings in life. Putting your heart on the line to become married and stay married has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It has to do with personal values, which are things each of us figures out for ourselves. Heterosexuality is not a virtue on its own -- after all, plenty of heterosexuals are terrible at relationships. Being able to experience true love though, is virtuous.
If we're really serious about getting out of this economic mess, we'd quit wasting time on the bigotry directed at gay people. Let them live up to their full potential just as heterosexuals are encouraged to do. If the current economic calamity consumes you as it does many of us, then recognize we need gay people to have the same financial benefits of marriage as other marriages have. Gay people are constructive, productive and vital to our nation's well being. Too many Americans are suffering under economic hardships and we have too much work to do together to get our country back in shape. Gay people are as important to our efforts as straight people are.