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