February 25, 2011

Same-sex marriage bill clears Senate; supporters say it will bring in $94 million to Maryland economy

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

same-sex marriage senate vote

Senate tally board on same-sex marriage.

The Maryland Senate passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage with a 25-21 vote Thursday night, which supporters said would be a $94 million boon to the Maryland economy and bring in $3.2 million in state taxes.

“I am proud to be a member of this body, but I have never been prouder than I am tonight,” Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and floor leader of the bill, said right before the vote was taken. “It is a fundamental wrong to deny our citizens a fundamental right.”

Although same-sex marriage is usually considered a social, political and religious issue, Anne Arundel County Republican Sen. Edward Reilly brought up the dollars and cents of the issue Thursday morning. He said that the fiscal note didn’t portray the real impact the bill will have on county and local governments, as well as small businesses.

In the afternoon away from the Senate floor, Raskin did some research.

He found a 2007 report from the Williams Institute, part of the University of California, Los Angeles’ law school. The Williams Institute focuses on law and public policy related to sexual orientation , and has done analysis of the impact on changes to marriage laws in different states.

The Maryland analysis states that there will be a net $3.2 million annual increase in state revenues. According to the study, Marylanders and those traveling to the state to get married would spend about $94 million a year on wedding-related expenses. The study concluded that, considering both in-state and out-of-state couples getting married in Maryland, the state would gain about $14 million in tax revenues over three years — a figure that might be higher, since the study was done before sales tax increased to 6% in 2007. Additionally, Raskin said, the most recent census states that there are more than 15,000 same-sex couples living together in the state, more than the 10,000 referenced in the bill’s fiscal note.

As far as revenues the state would lose by allowing same-sex couples to marry — applying spousal benefits to different taxes and fees in the state — Raskin said that Maryland has already made policy changes that have the same effect.

“In a sense, you could say we’ve already got the cost of same-sex marriage without having any of the fiscal benefits,” Raskin said.

Reilly disagreed with Raskin’s view. He said that he spoke with an insurance agent in Anne Arundel County, and they did some quick math. He estimated that small businesses would be spending an additional $15 million on insurance benefits for same-sex spouses.

“This bill will foist upon the businesses we rely on to create jobs and revenues an unfunded mandate,” Reilly said.

He recommended more financial analysis be done on the issue before passing the bill.

Raskin said he — and the 24 senators who voted with them — would most likely not be swayed if the analysis said Maryland would lose $3.2 million annually.

“We don’t want to put a price tag on peoples’ freedom, peoples’ equality,” Raskin said. “We don’t want to say that anyone’s rights are too expensive.”

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, which begins considering it at a Judiciary Committee hearing Friday afternoon. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign legislation establishing same-sex marriage.