What Would an Expanded Marriage Economy Look Like?

Michael Teague  |

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against California’s proposition 8 that bands same-sex marriage, and on Wednesday it considered arguments regarding 1996’s Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by Bill Clinton) that restricts the legal definition of matrimony to one man and one woman, thereby denying federal benefits to same-sex couples.

This debate over whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry has many sides to it.  But like so many sensitive social issues, the nuances are often overshadowed by the culture-war template that pits secular liberal against religious conservative.

With the U.S. economy still in a reluctant semi-recovery phase, still partially traumatized by the Great Recession and all the uncertainty that event has left in its wake, and with consumer confidence in particular always in question, it is hard to see how one could argue with the significant increases in spending that always seem to accompany the legalization of same-sex marriage.  For instance, one year after legalization, it was reported that New York City alone saw a $259 million economic impact.

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has done some extensive studies on the economics of same-sex marriage.  In January of 2012, they released a report on what on what the numbers would look like in Washington State (where same-sex marriage was subsequently legalized in December).

Spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by same-sex couples and their out-of-state guests would add $88 million to the economy over the first three years, and $57 million in the first year alone.  At the time of the report, Washington State had 7,518 same-sex couples registered as domestic partners.  If all of these got married without celebrations, there would still be an increase of $1.6 million in tax revenues for licensing fees.

The report did not take into account out of state couples that could travel to Washington in order to get legally married.

Nor could it take into account the same-sex couples who have already spent money on ceremonies, irrespective of whether or not these were legalized with a piece of paper from the state.  Considered from this perspective, who’s to tell how much same-sex marriage has already contributed to the economies in Washington State and elsewhere?

In any event, the following companies could stand to benefit if this week’s Supreme Court hearings go in favor of marriage equality:

Wedding planning: XO Group Inc. (XOXO) – Formerly known as “The Knot Inc.”, XO group is “a lifestage media and technology company connecting engaged couples, newlyweds, and first-time parents with the community, products, and inspiration they need to navigate the most intense years of their lives.”  They have a market cap of $265.22 million, with shares trading at just over $10 a share.

Jewelers: Tiffany & Co. (TIF) – By market cap, $8.67 billion and shares trading at $68.36, Tiffany & Co. is the second largest Jeweler in the U.S.  A boost in engagement ring sales could never hurt.

Hotels, Hospitality and Travel: Any of the hotel chains like Marriott International (MAR), or Hyatt Hotels (H), as well as the services used to book travel like Expedia (EXPE)and Kayak (KYAK), not to mention airlines like Jet Blue (JBLU)Southwest (LUV), and Delta (DAL), to name just a few.

Of course, marriage, despite the beauty of the vows or the sexual orientation of the couple, can always end badly, or at least not as well as expected, and there’s an industry for this too.  There are no publicly traded divorce companies, but there is an informal sort of “divorce industry”, that includes, of course, lawyers, dating websites, and all the rest of it.  With marriage equality must also come divorce equality, after all.

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