We Have Passed the Economic Tipping Point in Achieving Marriage Equality

A number of experts in law and state politics have written to emphasize the enormous slog that lies ahead for proponents of marriage equality.  As a lawyer who knows a bit about politics I share their concerns.  But employing my economics “hat” I wish to offer this encouragement – we have passed the tipping point in economics that ensures eventual success in securing marriage equality throughout the United States.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have reached the decision to allow full marriage equality for same-sex couples.  As the chart I prepared shows, those jurisdictions represent nearly 38% of the total U.S. population and over 43% of total GDP.  Marriage equality is now a normal aspect of life for an enormous share of our total U.S. population.

The demographic trends that favor the future expansion of marriage equality are well-known, but I write to emphasize the role that economics will play in brining marriage equality even to the states that most vociferously oppose equality.  Economics and demographics both play a major role in shaping destiny, and they will combine to push in the direction of marriage equality.  For all the talk about small businesses, the high-paying jobs that even Texas covets are disproportionately in big business and the elite professions.  The elite professionals already locate overwhelmingly in states that provide marriage equality.  They will be ever more unwilling to locate in what will become the minority of states that deny marriage equality.  They will be the first to refuse to hold their conferences in states that deny marriage equality and the professionals’ conferences represent critical funding to a wide range of businesses, particularly in states that continue to deny marriage equality and have major convention cities such as Miami, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, New Orleans, Richmond, Charlotte, Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Charleston.  Older readers will recall that the economic pressures put on Arizona when it refused to honor Dr. Martin Luther King with a holiday were a major factor in causing the state to abandon that act of callousness.

It is the big businesses and the firms that make their money from conferences that will add the muscle to the professionals and drive the spread of marriage equality in the states that are most opposed to equality.  Large firms will have increasing difficulty convincing their employees to relocate to states that discriminate against gays.  They will soon be forced by their employees and managers to become vigorous opponents of discrimination if they continue to have plants and offices in states that deny equality.  There will be many cruel acts, e.g., denying married and unmarried same-sex couples the ability to be together in hospices that will produce recurrent scandals that force CEOs to take a stand.  The combination of cruelty, being considered bigots by most Americans, and harming business will combine to make the policy of denying marriage equality politically toxic.  As gays continue to come out even more Americans will support equality.  It will be a long slog, but not interminable.  We have passed the tipping point.

Marriage Equality Has Passed the Tipping Point

                                 Population (2012, in ‘000)              GDP (2012 real, in ‘000)

California                                38,041                                               1,751,002

Connecticut                               3,590                                                 197,202

Delaware                                      917                                                 56,110

District of Columbia                    632                                                 92,106

Hawaii                                       1,392                                                 61,877

Illinois                                     12,875                                                 594,201

Iowa                                          3,074                                                 129,799

Maine                                         1,329                                                45,986

Massachusetts                           6,646                                                353,717

Maryland                                   5,885                                                274,930

Minnesota                                  5,379                                                252,971

New Hampshire                         1,321                                                56,735

New Jersey                                 8,865                                               438,173

New York                                 19,570                                            1,038,541

Rhode Island                               1,050                                               43,774

Vermont                                        626                                                23,912

Washington                                 6,897                                               325,165

Total (Equality States)           118,089                                            5,736,201

Total (U.S.)                             313,914                                          13,430,576

Equality States (% U.S.)         37.6%                                                 43%

*Sources for state GDP data; **population data.

This piece is cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives with permission.