The long fight over legalizing same-sex marriage in the Ocean State has a host of social, moral, political and even religious consequences that inevitably enflames the debate.
There’s one argument in favor, however, in states that have already legalized it, that even opponents have difficulty questioning: It makes at least some fiscal sense.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, a long-time supporter of marriage equality, has been using economics to argue in favor of the matter by citing a need to compete with nearby states, including Massachusetts and New York – which allow same-sex marriage – in attracting companies and top talent here.
And wedding- and tourism-industry businesses say they would see immediate benefits should the legislation pass.
“I honestly feel we could come close to doubling the wedding business we have,” said Mark Gervais, general manager of the upscale Hotel Viking in Newport. “It would enhance the opportunity to make revenue not only for a hotel in Newport but for Newport and for Rhode Island as a whole.”
Rhode Island, which since July 2011 has allowed civil unions between same-sex couples, is the only New England state in which those couples cannot legally marry.
Rhode Island since 2002 has allowed for unregistered domestic partnerships that provide some legal benefits to same-sex couples. Also, Rhode Island couples since 2006 have been able to marry in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage became legal nine years ago.
As of May 2012 the state does, under Chafee’s executive order, recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.
Chafee has been outspoken on his view that Rhode Island should be offering the same legal benefits to same-sex couples as other nearby states in order to promote a business and civil climate of tolerance, given Rhode Island’s stubbornly high unemployment – 9.9 percent in December 2012.
While that benefit may be hard to quantify, wedding-related business would likely rise should same-sex couples be able to hold ceremonies and receptions here.
“For an economic-impact story alone, it would give us a new product to go out and market, and it’s a lucrative market,” said Mark Brodeur, director of tourism for the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.