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MIAMI (Reuters) - Legalizing same-sex marriage in Florida could add $182 million to state coffers over three years by spurring weddings, sales tax revenues and tourism, according to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles.
Of the state’s nearly 50,000 same-sex couples, more than 24,000 would wed in the first three years if permitted, according to researchers at UCLA’s Williams Institute.
Its researchers in 2012 wrote similar studies for Maine, Maryland and Washington that found each state could boost revenues by about $166 million over three years by allowing same-sex couples to marry.
“The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that if all 50 states, in addition to the federal government, extended the rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples, the federal government would benefit by nearly $1 billion each year,” the report said.
Same-sex marriage is banned in Florida but is currently being challenged in the courts. Four state judges in recent weeks ruled the gay marriage ban unconstitutional. No marriages have taken place, however, as the decisions were quickly appealed.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government last year to extend benefits to legally married gay couples, every federal and state court that has taken up the issue of same-sex marriage – about 20 - has ruled against state bans.
Should Florida’s Supreme Court overturn the state’s ban it could attract a wave of couples from nearby states where same-sex marriage isn’t allowed, the UCLA report said.
Of “the five states that send the most visitors to Florida ... three of these states – Georgia, Texas and Alabama – do not offer marriage to same-sex couples,” the report said. Census estimates peg the number of same-sex couples in those three states at more than 74,000.
To prepare the study, UCLA researchers drew on information about marriage spending by same-sex couples in other states, along with wedding expenditure and tourism data from Florida, as well as U.S census data on same-sex couples.
Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh