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June 27, 2003

Making Bets

So, how long until gay marriage in the US? A year ago, I wouldn't have even tried to give you an estimate. But today, with a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling kicking the government out of bedrooms and our neighbors to the north letting boys marry boys and girls marry girls, I'm feeling saucy. So I say: Within ten years, at least one US state will allow gay marriage; probably one of those commie states up there in the northeast. And then the fun really begins, because all the other states in the union, including the 30-some-odd who have passed "defense of marriage" laws, will be up against it. I should also note that I think the "ten years" date is too conservative, and that I wouldn't be entirely surprised if it happens sooner -- much sooner.

Also, I don't think those "defense of marriage" laws would last terribly long after the first US gay marriage, and the reason for this is is simple: Money, baby. Let's say that Massachusetts becomes the first state in the US to allow gay people to marry. Every gay person who wants to get hitched starts planning his or her wedding -- in Massachusetts. Well, what a huge financial windfall for the state: All those weddings need wedding locations, hotels, catering, DJs, tuxes and/or dresses, blah blah blah, so on and so forth. Massachusetts wedding-related businesses will be so busy they won't know what to do with themselves.

Meanwhile, wedding-related businesses in, say, Ohio, will be looking at all this potential wedding money going out of state and will say to their lobbyists (whom I assume would be the various chambers of commerce): Hey, that's our income going to Massachusetts. Fix that. NOW. Hard-liners might not like gay marriage, but they do like free enterprise, and what these "defense of marriage" laws would constitute at that point is restraint of trade.

At this point, the big news won't be the first gay marriage in America; I can't imagine that some Americans haven't already gotten married in Canada by now, since it has no residency requirement. No, the big deal will be the first gay divorce: It'll be vibrant proof that gays and lesbians are just like the rest of us, and sometimes their marriages will go ker-pop. It will be reassuring to the straights, who already suspect that gays and lesbians have more fun in their relationships, just because they're gays and lesbians, and it'll be a nice cautionary tale for gays and lesbians, to keep them from getting hitched just because now they can. After the first few gay divorces, everyone will just settle down. And won't that be nice.

Anyway: Ten years. Starting... now.

Posted by john at June 27, 2003 10:36 AM

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Comments

MAB | June 27, 2003 11:03 AM

While I'm all for legalization of gay marriage in America, I question this part of the Massachusetts/Ohio analogy:
> Hey, that's our income going to Massachusetts

Strictly speaking, since neither state had legal gay marriages before the (hypothetical) Mass. legalization, Ohio wouldn't be losing (previously existing) revenue; it's just that Mass. would have created a new revenue stream (that Ohio might want to tap [as it were]).

MAB | June 27, 2003 11:05 AM

Hmm; the above is kind of unclear. What I was trying to say is that Ohio isn't losing an industry to Massachusetts (in this hypothetical situation); Massachusetts is creating an entirely new one.

John Scalzi | June 27, 2003 11:09 AM

Why? The marriage industry already exists; the infrastructure is there in every state. It would just be that Massachusetts would be servicing a segment of the marrying population Ohio could not.

Incidentally, I'm not aware that Ohio has a "defense of marriage" act on its books. I'm just using it as an example because I happen to live there.

Rich | June 27, 2003 11:16 AM

Yeah, I'm not sure we do either John...though it wouldn't suprise me if we did.

MinstrelOfFunk | June 27, 2003 11:25 AM

I see what MAB is saying, though. If Ohio wedding industry made X dollars a year and Massachusetts suddenly enacted such a law, Ohio industry wouldn't suddenly be making X - Y per year. They'd still be making X, so they're not really losing money, per se.
That's not to say it wouldn't still stick in the proverbial craw of wedding planners state-wide, but missed potential earnings is not nearly as upsetting as an actual dip in revenue.

_Jon | June 27, 2003 12:05 PM


Ummm - my bet is Las Vegas Nevada - and TWO years.

Go read SDB's post about LV, and I think you'll see where I'm drawing this from. It would certainly boost their visitor's numbers.

Maggie | June 27, 2003 12:11 PM

Happily surprising: Ohio's proposed Defense of Marriage Act (what a revolting thing) died in the state senate on its first run:

" "Defense of Marriage Act" bills have been adopted by Congress and in dozens of states. The bills define a marriage as a union of a man and a woman and preclude governments from recognizing gay unions. The Ohio House approved such a bill in November 68-29, but it died because the Senate did not vote on it. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said he would reintroduce the bill."

Group seeks registry for 'domestic partners'
The Cincinatti Enquirer - Monday, February 24, 2003
http://enquirer.com/editions/2003/02/24/loc_oh-gayregistry24.html

It was re-introduced to the state senate on April 1, 2003 (how apropos), and there it still sits.

Not that this really makes a difference. Gay marriages aren't legally recognized in our state. Feh.

Zeynep | June 27, 2003 12:27 PM

Counting right along with you.

Bill | June 27, 2003 02:09 PM

I think your estimate is reasonable, unless (and currently I think it's a long shot) Howard Dean takes the White House. In which case things may move a lot quicker.

_Jon | June 27, 2003 03:08 PM


I got something else to gripe about here that is close to on-topic. I'm not married, but I live with my g/f. She is my "domestic partner". However, unless we are "Same Sex Domestic Partners", I cannot add her to my Medical Benefits package. Isn't that discriminatory?

It just *bugs* me. If I were living with a *guy* for 6 months, I could add *him* to my benefits. But because I'm *male* and *she's* not, I can't.

pheh.

Tripp | June 27, 2003 04:25 PM

_Jon, I don't think the term 'discriminatory' can be applied to a business during a Republican administration.

Sory.

Jennie | June 27, 2003 04:46 PM

No, because you have the option to marry and choose not to exercise it whereas a gay couple cannot marry. Give them the option, have them choose not to exercise it and still get partner benefits, then that is discriminatory.

MadJayhawk | June 27, 2003 04:51 PM

Jon: I really think companies are going to have to rethink their policies with regards to what constitutes a marriage in order to determine who is or isn't eligible for benefits. The benefits previously given to those with traditional relationships may be eliminated by corporations. Corporations (and their legal staffs) will want to keep from having to make tough judgements about what relationships does or does not qualify for corporate support.

I always thought it was extraordinarily dumb of corporations to give any benefits in the first place. Benefits serve as the number one focal point of employee complaints. Every benefit a company offers is subject to scorn by unhappy employees for not being a enough or benefiting only a few. Better to give higher wages than to offer or to increase benefits. Human resoursces guru, Frederick Hertzberg, was big advocate of this idea back in the 1970s because he felt that receiving benefits were not a big organizational motivationing factor. I do not know if he is still preaching. HR People at the time thought his ideas were interesting but they were not going to be the first on the block to adopt them.

rick mcginnis | June 27, 2003 05:28 PM

What few people have talked about is another boom, soon to manifest itself - gay divorce. And don't think the lawyers aren't already swallowing deeply and glancing sidelong and hungry at the thought of THAT...

Mikal | June 27, 2003 06:02 PM

Some companys actually don't suck. The company I work for offers benifits to monogomas couples of at least one year, same sex partners or not. So me being a women I can get benifits for my live in boyfriend of a year, or if I had live in girlfriend of a year I could get benifits for her too.

Naomi | June 27, 2003 06:24 PM

My husband's company (an HMO) extends certain benefits to either your spouse, or your "spouse-equivalent." This did, in fact, apply to me when we shacked up before we got married. I didn't get health coverage through him at that point because it was cheaper to get it from my own job. However, we did take advantage of it on one occasion: he took a "spousal sick day" to take care of me after I had knee surgery.

I would love to see all companies offer similar benefits (that apply to both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners), but my priority would be to provide them to same-sex domestic partners, as they don't have the option of just paying $50 and getting married in front of a Justice of the Peace or whatever. Actually, what I'd _really_ like to see is socialized medicine, but I'm betting that we'll see same-sex marriage _way_ before we see socialized health care in the U.S.

Bill Peschel | June 27, 2003 06:32 PM

Won't the next milestone be the first gay celebrity marriage? Yeah, we know about the hookups, but when People puts the couple on the cover like they did with Matt LeBlanc recently, we'll know we've hit the next speed bump on the highway to hell (which we've been on since, oh, the time of Socrates).

Ken L | June 27, 2003 08:55 PM

Bah, we've been on the Highway to Hell since at least the moment the first Homo sapiens dreamt up religion and the idea of an afterlife.

I mean, since that damn Eve tempted Adam in the Garden. Yeah.

I'm with John. Sodomy for everybody!

Erbo | June 28, 2003 03:24 AM

Of course, some people are saying this might energize the supporters of the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution (H.J.Res.93, introduced last May). See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:h.j.res.00093: for details.

Short and sweet, it would say, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." And, if it's part of the Constitution, nothing the Supremos say can erase it.

Fortunately, this thing seems to be going nowhere fast. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, and they seem to have pretty much sat on it for the past year. And getting it passed by 2/3 in both the House and Senate, then by 3/4 of the state legislatures, will be a daunting task at best.

sulizano | June 29, 2003 10:05 PM

Heh heh, John! You've really nailed it. So to speak.

Just so happens that my brother and his (male) sweety of many years have been planning their event for some time now. The money is *rolling* out the door.

Tripp | June 30, 2003 08:13 AM

"Company benefits' are to the rest of us what 'stock options' are to the execs - a means for the coporation to give to employees without them (the employees) paying income tax.

Since I take GREAT advantage of benefits at a GREAT company, I ain't complaining.

mark | June 30, 2003 08:31 AM

Of course, the first gay divorce could well be taken as evidence that gay marriages won't last, and that "those people" are just as horribly promiscuous and adulterous as homophobes have always claimed.

Such homophobes, of course, would have to pretend that hetero divorces never happen. But hey, those guys aren't exactly first in line to receive Recognition of Reality awards.

Alex Elliott | June 30, 2003 11:23 AM

Yes, there have been at least thirty American same-sex couples married here in Toronto over the past week. Many gay advocacy groups are advising couples to be very careful about this though - there is no residency requirement for marriage, but there is a one-year residency requirement for Canadian divorce.

This past weekend was Gay Pride in Toronto and the City Hall clerks office stayed open over the weekend to rake in the bucks...er...I mean help citizens get married. At C$110 per marriage license, I'm very happy that American couples have been coming up here and helping to reduce my property tax burden!

Andrew | June 30, 2003 02:27 PM

I will have to disagree with John on the 10 year thing. IT will take much longer.

With the recent Supreme Court decision The U.S. is in the same position that Canada was in in approximately 1967 when the (then) Minister of Justice, Pierre Elliot Trudeau said that the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation and made consensual gay sex legal.

38 years later, gay marriage is now legal, despite some furious opposition.

It may take the U.S. much faster to make gay marriages a reality but I think not for a few (interrelated) reasons.


First, there is no "bible belt" in Canada equivalent to the SE U.S.. While there are some pockets of Canada that have a "bible belt" feel (e.g. rural Alberta) there is noplace that has the same political and demographic clout as the U.S. Bible belt.

This has a direct impact on our body politic. The religious right in Canada are relegated to the fringe of Canadian Politics. Our former leader of the opposition (Stockwell Day) was lampooned in the media for holding religious-political views typical of the U.S. religious right. He no longer leads his party (admittedly for many other reasons than his faith).

This means that much of the opposition to gay marriage in Canada came from a political view (the religious right) that was foriegn to our way of thinking.

This is not the case with the U.S.. The religious right is very real in the U.S. and dominates the republican party. They have elected a president and I am sure that many governors owe their jobs to the religious right.

They know that gay marriage is in the cards and are fighting it tooth and nail.

Given the influence of the religious right on U.S. politics the movement from legalizing consensual sodomy to legitimizing gay marriage will take at least 38 years. I suspect that gay marriage won't be recognized in the U.S. until at least mid century.

Cheers
Andrew

PDXJules | July 3, 2003 01:28 PM

This issue can really pick up momentum during the Democratic Primary. The Doctor is IN!

To find an unofficial Gov Howard Dean for President meeting near you, visit http://www.MeetUp.com and do a quick search on Dean. This is an exciting movement - with many people getting active for the first time...and contributing their own ideas to create history.
The Media is providing lots of Free Coverage on our issues - becuase this is a genuine people's movement. In Oregon, HRC activist Terry Bean has been visible for Dean from the beginning...and he encourages others to plan a House Party for Dean - as he already has - for $200 donors and up. Average gifts to Dean so far are under $100 gifts - which is evidence that many regular folks are getting involved.

In support of Same Sex Unions, and Universal Health Coverage **however** we can sensibly get there...which currently mean pushing lots of initiatives in different ways, as we a national build consensus.

Happy Summer to all!

Julie

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