A major new report published in the March issue of Milwaukee Magazine reveals that Wisconsin, which practices marriage discrimination, is losing out on up to $43 million in LGBT wedding-related spending -- much of which is going instead to the neighboring marriage-equality states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.
Reporter Abby Callard notes that since the federal government now recognizes all legal same-sex marriages regardless of the couple's current state of residence, Wisconsin couples have an additional incentive to leave the state to get married. "Can Wisconsin afford to not legalize same-sex marriage?", Callard asks.
The numbers suggest that the answer is no.
"[There are] 9,179 same-sex Wisconsin couples who potentially would tie the knot if the state were to legalize same-sex marriage. Borrowing the research methodology from the Williams Institute at University of California at Los Angeles (see: "Behind the Math of Marriage Equality"), an analysis by Milwaukee Magazine estimates that 4,681 of those couples would get married in Wisconsin in the first three years. That would generate an additional $27.9 million in wedding spending, more than $13.5 million in out-of-town guest spending and more than $2.2 million in added tax revenue, for a total of $43.6 million.
"In Milwaukee County specifically, an estimated 1,272 same-sex couples would get married in the first three years, adding an estimated $6.7 million in wedding spending alone to the economy, according to the analysis. In the city proper, 910 same-sex couples would get married in the first three years, adding an estimated $4.9 million in wedding spending to the city's economy."
$43.6 million is a hefty chunk of change. And much like GOP Governor Scott Walker's disastrous high-speed rail debacle, other states are lining up to cash in on Wisconsin's reactionary stupidity.
Callard writes that R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis and an ordained minister, unveiled a marketing campaign called "I Want to Marry You in Minneapolis" at an event in Milwaukee last September. The initiative highlighted Minnesota's new marriage equality law and invited LGBT couples in non-equality jurisdictions to travel to Minnesota to tie the knot. After debuting it in Milwaukee, Rybak took his message to Madison, Chicago, and Denver as well.
"Minnesota has a tremendous economic advantage" with marriage equality, Rybak said. "Nothing would make me happier than losing that. In the meantime, we're happy to take their money."
My husband and I, both lifelong Wisconsin residents, left the state and its discriminatory laws and traveled all the way to Toronto, Canada to get married in 2006. Dozens of our friends have done the same thing, in Canada as well as in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Iowa, and now Minnesota. And many more, including the two of us, eventually left the state altogether rather than continue living in a place that so stubbornly insists on treating us as second-class citizens.
Here's hoping that Wisconsin, either through the courts or the long-shot legislative route, rights this wrong in the near future. The longer the state waits to do so, the further behind it falls -- in both dollars and cents and good old-fashioned human capital.
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris for Milwaukee Magazine.
Image created by Richard Hawkins; shared via Facebook.