Marriage Equality

It doesn’t really take much to be supportive of the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. It’s just, well, the right thing to do.

There’s a host of reasons why we should support it, even if you’re like me and have no proverbial horse in this race. Straight or gay, why should I care about the genders of two complete strangers who want to get married? And if we’re talking about relatively close acquaintances or friends, why wouldn’t I want them to be happy?

There’s also a lot of snarky reasons to allow the gay community to get married. It’ll crash the servers of Conservapedia and Rapture Ready. It’ll make Sarah Palin’s head explode. It’ll make Glenn Beck cry.

Wait a second. Almost everything makes Glenn Beck cry.

One thing I’ve honestly found myself wondering, though, is why no one has attempted to make the case against gay marriage in pure economic terms. The closest I’ve ever heard is the one that argues that it somehow “cheapens” straight marriage or that it’s a counterfeit to the real marriage that can happen between a man and a woman. They have yet to explain how it might cheapen straight marriage and I don’t really understand what makes my marriage (to a woman) any different from the marriages of any of my gay friends and acquaintances. I’d almost argue that their relationships are stronger than my own, but I digress.

I have to assume that any adverse economic impact that could come from gay marriage is either minimal or pales in comparison to the positive. (Nothing we do when it comes to money is truly impact-neutral, so….)

There’s real documentable positive impact in places that already allow for it. Any church that sanctifies same-sex relationships is seeing somewhat of an economic boom if not from membership increases, then at least from gay couples who want to be recognized by a faith-based community. And any tourist destination that markets itself as gay-friendly is also reaping the rewards of their marketing campaign, even if it’s just for the purposes of a honeymoon.

I’ve long thought that the only real potential negative impact from gay marriage — and I do have to underscore the word “potential” because I don’t know what I don’t know — would come in the form of insurance premiums. If the actuaries perform their pricing calculations based upon an expectation that a certain percentage of the client base will remain unmarried for the duration of the policy, does it alter the pricing calculation when a percentage of the population that heretofore wasn’t allowed to marry, suddenly is? I’m guessing that it probably does, although that doesn’t make it a given that either:

1. it will result in higher premiums across the board, or

2. if it does result in higher premiums, that the increase would have any substantive consequence

There is an interesting adverse consequence, though, to not allowing gays to marry. As more states begin to recognize gay marriages legally, we are starting to see the harm being done by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which essentially holds that state recognition neither carries over to other states nor is recognizable on a federal level.

Therefore, in any industry (finance, insurance, healthcare) that actually cares about marital status, it becomes an administrative nightmare to maintain rules on a federal level, which differ wildly from state rules. It could make for unnecessary system builds, complicated manual procedures, and a lot of potential lawsuits. And for what? The religiously motivated fears of a group of people who seriously don’t understand what they’re expressing opposition to?

That’s one of the beauties of separation of church and state. If a religion doesn’t want to bless a marriage, they’re under no obligation to do so. We even see that today in the Catholic Church, which doesn’t recognize divorce. So if a divorced person wants to marry someone of the opposite sex, the church won’t do it. The state will still be willing to recognize it (provided of course, the divorce is legal). Why should gay marriage be any different?