THE BLOG

"I Do" vs. "I Don't"

07/25/2011 04:22 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

"We are making history for our sistahs," is how one lesbian couple put it when they joined over 800 other same-sex couples in getting married on July 24th, the first day it was legal do so in New York. But the state actually stands to make much, much more -- a cool $391 million more -- as the 'NYC I DO' campaign is forecast to attract tens of thousands of visitors within the next three years who will either be getting married or will be attending weddings. It's clear that the State of New York now knows that legalizing gay marriage is not only important on a human level, but also on an economic one.

The same cannot be said, however, for its sister state, New Jersey. For even as New York is being touted as the 'I DO' state, New Jersey is determined to remain the 'I DON'T' state because, as Governor Chris Christie put it during his June 26th interview on Meet The Press, "I am not a fan of same-sex marriage."

Although Governor Christie may not be gay marriage's biggest fan, he is clearly a fan of big business, and has been working tirelessly to improve his state's economy by not only trying to keep businesses here, but also by attempting to attract businesses from other states. And herein lies the conundrum.

In February, the Governor traveled to Chicago to encourage Illinois-based businesses to relocate to New Jersey by promoting increased profits through the promise of lower business taxes. "Both New Jersey and Illinois are providing business leaders with certainty," Christie said, according to the Star-Ledger. "In New Jersey you can be certain taxes are going down over the next three years, and in Illinois you can be certain they are going up." But rather than focusing on whether taxes going 'up' or 'down' in other states, perhaps Mr. Christie should remain in his own home state and focus on whether some of New Jersey business' most qualified employees are staying 'in' rather than coming 'out'. For LGBT employees who do not feel comfortable coming out in their workplace, the effects can be profound on the bottom-line success of corporations.

According to the Center for Work-Life Policy's recent study, 'The Power Of Out,' there is a significant loss to a business's profits when it fails to create a workplace supportive of their LGBT employees. Although this labor pool is a highly desirable one for businesses because they are shown to be highly ambitious (71%), are committed and willing to go the extra miles for their employers (88%), and are more highly educated (48% have graduate degrees versus 40% of their straight counterparts), close to 50% of this study's respondents reported being closeted at work. And this can has huge negative consequences for business owners.

LGBT employees who are not out report significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers, 40% reported that they are less likely to trust their employer than those who are out, and 73% report they are more likely to leave their companies within the next three years because they feel isolated.

How can legalizing same-sex marriage help? While it's true that an increasing number of organizations are providing programs to make them more hospitable to their LGBT workforce, the impact of legalizing same-sex marriage far outreaches any LGBT programs a company can provide. In a recent article published by the American Psychological Association entitled, 'Psychology's Case for same-sex marriage,' the article's author, Ilan Meyer, Ph.D., asserts that being granted full equality will lessen stigma, ease stress and bring marriage's mental health benefits to all. "The experience of living with stigma, always being vigilant and constantly needing to conceal your "authentic self" from disapproval and even violence exacerbates the pressures that everyone feels in daily life," Dr. Meyer says, "The impact of not being able to express who you are has very dangerous health effects."

Polls also show that a majority of U.S. citizens support same sex marriage. In fact, for the first time since Gallup began tracking this issue, a majority of Americans (53%) believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by the law as valid, providing the same rights as traditional marriages.

So even if Mr. Christie pays no mind to how the majority of our country feels, he pays a lot of mind to what Fortune 500 CEOs believe, having brought them together in February for an Economic Summit to have a frank dialogue on how business can grow and create jobs in today's economy, as well as the opportunities and impediments to business investment and job growth in New Jersey. Well, Mr. Christie, to be frank, a major opportunity exists if you would only look across the river, and do the same as your state's closest "sistah."

Lori Sokol, Ph.D. is Founder and Publisher of Work Life Matters magazine. She can be reached at lsokol@worklifematters.info

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