Legalizing gay marriage in Virginia could create hundreds of jobs and generate up to $60 million in spending over three years as same-sex couples spend thousands on their nuptials and out-of-town guests come to celebrate with them, according to a study by a UCLA think tank.
In February, a federal judge in Norfolk struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages. The decision has been stayed while it is appealed, and a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Richmond on May 13. Lawyers for both sides expect the issue to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, either in the Virginia case or one like it from another state.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates that between 5,487 and 7,122 same-sex Virginia couples would get married within three years of a change in law. That's based on 2010 Census figures showing Virginia has 14,243 same-sex couples and past experiences with Massachusetts after gay marriage was legalized there. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia have state laws or court decisions that allow same-sex couples to marry.
The report also estimates that Virginia has already likely lost tens of millions of dollars in spending and more than $1 million in tax revenue as same-sex couples decided to marry in Washington, D.C. and other states where it's been legalized.
"This report clearly shows that allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in Virginia is not only the right thing to do, but would also have a positive impact on our economy,'' James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said in a statement Tuesday.
"The ban is not only hurting loving lesbian and gay couples in Virginia - it is also hurting our economy. This report shows that all Virginians would benefit from marriage equality.''
The report estimates that same-sex couples in Virginia would spend about $7,000 per wedding, which is significantly less than the $28,000 spent on the typical wedding in Virginia. The report says the estimated price tag is lower, in part, because same-sex couples receive less support from their parents. Based on Massachusetts' experience, the report estimates that each same-sex wedding would include 16 out-of-state guests.
The report says the increased spending on wedding arrangements and tourism would create between 459 and 595 jobs within three years. It also says spending on same-sex weddings would likely generate up to $3.2 million in state and local tax revenue.
The report does not include estimates for the financial impact of out-of-state couples coming to wed in the state, but it notes that there would likely be a boost.