Gay Marriage 'Tourism': How Big an Economic Boost Will It Be for States?

The summer's Supreme Court decisions unleashed pent-up demand for gay marriages, and a handful of states reaped an economic benefit. The effect is not huge, but neither is it insignificant.
September 25, 2013

When Minnesota enacted a same-sex marriage law this summer, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak saw an economic opportunity.

Earlier this month, he flew to Illinois – where legislators had recently failed to pass a same-sex marriage bill – to launch “Marry Me In Minneapolis.” Mayor Rybak invited same-sex couples from Chicago to wed (and spend a few dollars) in his city.

The ad campaign might not promise sweeping changes for the city's finances, but it could help. Demand for same-sex marriage ceremonies has grown since the United States Supreme Court in June struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, according to experts and businesses.

Now, some states and cities are moving in to take advantage.

“You’re going to see an exponential increase [in same-sex marriages] as people understand” the impact of the DOMA decision, says Charlie Rounds, managing partner of Brand g Vacations, a Minneapolis gay tour operator.

Currently, the District of Columbia and 13 states permit same sex marriages, and with few other states likely to shift position in the immediate future, the gay-marriage map appears set for the moment. That clarifies the options for gay couples wanting to marry.

California and New York are huge draws for gay weddings, says LoAnn Halden, spokeswoman for the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. For California, that is the direct result of a second Supreme Court decision in June, which struck down Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned gay marriage.

During the next three years, gay weddings in California will generate $492 million, according to an analysis by the Williams Institute, a think tank on gay issues at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.


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