Gay married couples could add tens of millions of dollars to the economy in Virginia in the span of three years if a federal appeals court upholds a recent ruling that overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban, a new report has found.
Total spending on wedding arrangements and tourism would generate between $46 and $60 million to the state and local economies in the first three years if same-sex marriage becomes legal in Virginia, according to a report published this month by the Williams Institute at UCLA's School of Law. An estimated 5,000 marriages in the first year alone would generate about $38 million in revenue to the economy. Half of the 14,244 gay couples who live in Virginia would wed during the first three years, according to the report.
A judge in February struck down Virgina's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Virginia voters enacted in 2006, ruling that amendment violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Courts in Utah and Oklahoma have also ruled similar bans unconstitutional. A three-judge panel in the Fourth U.S. Circuit of Appeals will hear arguments about the Virginia case -- the judge in February issued a stay on the ruling -- on May 13.
"This study confirms that all Virginians benefit from marriage for same-sex couples, not just the LGBT community," Lee Badgett, an author of the study, said in a statement.
The spending on weddings could generate nearly 600 new jobs and add about $3 million in taxes to the Old Dominion State, the study also found.
Researchers based their findings on trends in Massachusetts and other states where same-sex marriage is legal, and from the 2010 U.S. Census data, the most recent national survey information available. The numbers, however, don't include out-of-state gay couples who might travel to Virginia to marry.
State and federal courts continue to hear marriage equality cases. Just last week, news broke that the Proposition 8 lawyer who previously argued to uphold California's ban on same-sex marriage has since changed his stance on the issue because one of his children is gay.
"[The report is] just one in the number of indicators that things are considerably changing. We're really seeing such a groundswell of support," Bernadette Coveney Smith, founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute, told msnbc. "We are seeing it more and more from politicians and legislators, not just judges who are ruling in favor of marriage equality."
"The economic impact is really hard to ignore," she added.
Coveney Smith said she has worked with same-sex couples in Virginia who traveled to New York City or Boston to marry, but returned home to the state to celebrate with a party. She acknowledged the difficulty in measuring the exact economic outcome of such events, but noted the positive impact of legalizing gay marriage in New York, which benefited by $259 million in one year after the state passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011.
Residents in other states saw a similar trend predicted in the new report. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak rolled out the "Marry Me in Minneapolis" campaign last year in Chicago, where same-sex marriages were not legal at the time. A judge in Illinois has since ruled to allow gay couples to marry in the state. Rybak created the initiative with the hope of pulling tourists from Chicago into Minneapolis to marry, not only for the emotional effect, but also for the predicted positive economic outcomes.
A similar Williams Institute study published last April found that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples would increase Minnesota's wedding and tourism industry by $42 million.