Opinion
Join The Times' book club. This month's selection: "Cadillac Desert"
Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

Stop cheapening the gay-marriage debate with talk of the financial up sides

Rights are rights. Whether recognizing those rights helps or harms the economy is irrelevant
Why do foes worry about whether same-sex couples make good parents, while addicts have full marriage rights?

Just about every time a state debates same-sex marriage, a report emerges giving a multimillion-dollar figure to how much the state’s economy would be boosted by all those weddings. Gay-marriage supporters then tout the studies as another good reason to support recognition of such unions.

Most recently, this happened in Texas. UCLA’s Williams Institute reports that gay marriage would bring close to $182 million in wedding business to the state over the first three years.  And Equality Texas, one of the organizations fighting for marriage rights, took the bait.

"Allowing gay couples to marry here would give an economic boost to caterers, florists, event venues, and others who make a living through wedding planning," Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, said according to the Dallas Observer.

But these kinds of figures are actually a very bad argument for same-sex marriage rights. Economic benefits and costs are not relevant to discussions of civil rights and cheapen the debate. Rights are rights.

 What if the Williams Institute had found the opposite? What if gay marriage were going to cost the Texas economy in some way? What would Smith say then? It wouldn’t be a valid argument against extending rights to gay and lesbian couples any more than a boost to the economy is a valid argument for it.

In fact, the report could be used in ways as an argument that gay marriage would not have a significant effect on the economy. Texas’ leisure and hospitality industry bring in $65.7 billion a year, the Williams Institute study notes. Same-sex marriage’s contribution would add up to less than a thousandth of that. Most of the boost would be in the first year; after that, revenue from same-sex marriage would be all but invisible.

Studies of this sort generally have a specious side; they assume that money for the marriages is money that would otherwise not be spent. Same-sex couples might choose to spend the money on other parties, or on travel or dining that would likewise help the leisure and hospitality industry.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Nor do the interminable debates about whether children of same-sex couples do as well as those in families headed by heterosexual couples. Even if they didn’t, we do not use highest-quality parenting as a litmus test for any other marriages. Same-sex couples can and do have or adopt children, with or without marriage. Meanwhile, alcoholics and drug addicts, whose parenting skills might be sketchy to say the least, are allowed to wed.

There is one really good reason to support gay marriage: Marriage is a right — as the courts have said on numerous occasions — and it is discriminatory to relegate same-sex couples to the second-class status of civil unions rather than recognizing them as fully married. This right in no way tramples on the rights of others. And its effect on state economies is irrelevant.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Gay rights are on the march

    On this Independence Day, gay rights are on the march

    More than 1,300 legally married same-sex couples in Utah, where the Mormon Church is headquartered? Who would have thought it possible 10 or even five years ago? Marriage licenses issued to more than 500 gay and lesbian couples in the politically conservative state of Arkansas? This is progress...

  • Memorial Day 1919: 'What shall be for memory?'

    Memorial Day 1919: 'What shall be for memory?'

    As a history buff, I like browsing through old newspapers (not to mention archives) seeking links to the present, which led me to dust off the Times' editorial from Memorial Day 1919 - the first commemoration following the end of World War One.

  • Opposing the TPP makes no sense in California

    Opposing the TPP makes no sense in California

    The two leading contenders in next year's campaign to represent California in the U.S. Senate have been staunch supporters of President Obama. But both Democratic candidates, state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, have spoken out against one of Obama's top remaining priorities:...

  • The unknown helicopter

    The unknown helicopter

    Jeff Houlihan first noticed the helicopter in 1977, perched on top of a 40-foot steel tower at Rialto Municipal Airport. He could tell it was a Huey, used in Vietnam, but no one could explain how it got to the top of the tower. He could tell it had received enemy gunfire — it was spattered with...

  • Trying to house L.A.'s homeless veterans is a complex, lengthy process

    Trying to house L.A.'s homeless veterans is a complex, lengthy process

    As we honor the dead on this Memorial Day, it's worth remembering as well the living veterans of military service who have no homes except sidewalk encampments or the occasional shelter bed, whose lives are so wracked by mental illness, addictions or physical disabilities that they are essentially...

  • Nurturing smart justice in Los Angeles County

    Nurturing smart justice in Los Angeles County

    Nearly four years ago, California's 58 counties and their jails began taking on some of the state's burden of housing and supervising nonviolent felons, and contrary to widespread belief, the shift wasn't merely a result of federal court orders to reduce the state prison population. In fact, policymakers...

  • California is steering toward more reasonable traffic ticket laws

    California is steering toward more reasonable traffic ticket laws

    Here's something to elicit happy honks from California motorists: Two of the more abusive aspects of traffic citations — "bail for trial" and excessive fines — are being hauled off the road.

  • A global obligation to Myanmar's Rohingya refugees

    A global obligation to Myanmar's Rohingya refugees

    After watching for several weeks as refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh drifted in crowded boats in the seas off Southeast Asia, begging for food and water, some dying along the way, the world is, finally, responding. Although they initially pushed away some of the boats, Malaysia and Indonesia...

Comments
Loading