The economic impact of same-sex marriage on the US economy

Now this is just damn ducky. A couple of years ago, the Congressional Business Office (CBO) released a report on the impact on the US economy of legalizing same-gender marriages. This wasn’t a question of morality, fair treatment of citizens, biblical imperative, or anything like that. The report is pretty much a straight-up study of how the US economy would be helped or hurt by allowing same-gender marriages (also available in PDF format if you prefer.

The federal government does not recognize “marriages” of same-sex couples either for receipt of federal benefits or for tax purposes. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (Public Law 104-199) provides that the federal government will honor only marriages between one man and one woman. It also stipulates that no state, territory, or possession of the United States or Indian tribe can be required to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in any other jurisdiction.

The potential effects on the federal budget of recognizing same-sex marriages are numerous. Marriage can affect a person’s eligibility for federal benefits such as Social Security. Married couples may incur higher or lower federal tax liabilities than they would as single individuals. In all, the General Accounting Office has counted 1,138 statutory provisions–ranging from the obvious cases just mentioned to the obscure (landowners’ eligibility to negotiate a surface-mine lease with the Secretary of Labor)–in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving “benefits, rights, and privileges.”(1) In some cases, recognizing same-sex marriages would increase outlays and revenues; in other cases, it would have the opposite effect. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that on net, those impacts would improve the budget’s bottom line to a small extent: by less than $1 billion in each of the next 10 years (CBO’s usual estimating period). That result assumes that same-sex marriages are legalized in all 50 states and recognized by the federal government.

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