Nine states and the District of Columbia now recognize marriages between same-sex couples. However, like legal marijuana in some states, these new laws are not recognized by the federal government. If lawmakers overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, however, gay couples would be able to enjoy the same privileges as heterosexual married couples. And it wouldn’t hurt the economy a bit, either.
DOMA denies same-sex marriage
The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was passed by Congress in 1996. The law defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, effectively making the legal union of same-sex couples impossible on a federal level. Later this month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to review DOMA. Should it find the law unfair, the federal government could reverse its view on same-sex marriage, allowing gay couples to enjoy the federal tax breaks that are extended to heterosexual married couples.
Gay couples are not allowed to file their income taxes jointly. They also are not able to pool their incomes as a single household in order to lower their tax rate or to take advantage of some tax credits. As a result, they often pay thousands more every year than their heterosexual counterparts.
Different sex married couples also are able to inherit a deceased partner’s estate, tax free. At this time, a gay person who loses a partner must pay a 35 percent estate tax at a time of enormous grief.
Ousting DOMA windfall for gay couples…
According to Nanette Miller, head of LGBT practice at the accounting firm Marcum LLP, if DOMA is overturned, gay couples would also be compensated for the tax breaks they missed each year since 2009. That, she says, could be a windfall of as much as $10,000 for some couples.
…And for the economy as well
Meanwhile, if DOMA is overturned, it could mean a boost in the nation’s spending, which would help drive the economy forward.
Same-sex marriage has been recognized in New York for over a year now. In that time, the economy of New York City alone has been boosted by around $260 million as a direct result.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier this week:
“Marriage equality has made our City more open, inclusive and free — and it has also helped to create jobs and support our economy.”
Since the same-sex marriage law was enacted, 8,200 wedding licenses have been issued to gay couples in New York City. That amounts to more than 10 percent of all marriage licensed issued in the city during that time. In addition, the city has collected $16 million in taxes from gay married couples. But the biggest boost to the city’s economy, according to CNN, came from weddings and receptions. The average cost of a same-sex wedding, according to wedding site TheKnot.com, is $9,039.
According to a 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office, legal same-sex marriage on a federal level would boost the economy by about $1 billion every year.
Earlier this week, a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law said that the money spent on weddings in Maine, Maryland and Washington — the three states to pass marriage equality laws last week — could add as much as $166 million to those economies in three years.
A win-win for everyone
In a country founded on principles of freedom and acceptance, people should be free to love whomever they love without judgement or exclusion. In the end, the nation will be richer for it, in more ways than one.