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Five ways to count the marriage equality boom

Marriage equality in Australia would bring economic benefits to the tune of at least $500 million in the form of additional expenditure related to weddings alone.

It's a policy that has the support of Australia's new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the majority of the public.

"If half of the population of same sex couples chose to marry within one year, the benefits to the economy in the first year of the legislation would be over $1bn."
Cherelle Murphy & Mandeep Kaura, Co-head of Australian Economics & Economic statistician | ANZ

But legislative certainty is still some time away, with the PM stating he will maintain his predecessor's plan for a plebiscite or referendum on the issue sometime after the next election.

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Caption: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio officiate the marriages of (L-R) Terrence McNally and Thomas Kirdahy, Denise Niewinski and Cindy Jackson, and Sarah Joseph and Katrina Council on the steps of City Hall, New York on June 26, 2015. They will make history as the first couples to exchange their vows with marriage equality as the law of not just our state, but of the entire country. the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex marriage be made legal nationwide. Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images.

Whenever it happens, the rush of same-sex weddings would have a positive impact on activity and confidence, particularly in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Marriage equality will be a fresh and much-needed source of demand for the Australian economy.

It will complement the federal governments' agenda of boosting the small-business sector and lift confidence by securing additional sources of demand for the many retailers, hospitality and professional service businesses involved in the wedding and honeymoon industry.

There are also additional economic benefits from an improved image of Australia as a more tolerant and progressive country.

Longer term, it may also assist growth via the beneficial impact on individuals' well-being and from Australia gaining international recognition for its anti-discriminatory and socially inclusive posture.

HOCKEY STICK MOVEMENT

ANZ expects pent-up demand for marriage in the initial phase of any successful legislation to result in higher crude-marriage rates in the short term compared to the long term average.

Wedding-related consumption is therefore likely to be lumped and pulled forward, as indicated by the spike in marriages registered in the Australian Capital Territory in the days following the temporary legislation there.

According to the 2011 Census there were nearly 34,000 same sex couples in Australia, which was 32 per cent higher than in the 2006 Census. Around 96 per cent of those said they were in a de facto relationship.

Extrapolating that growth rate by only half of the past five year growth rate, by 2016, the pool of possible couples that could marry if new legislation were implemented could be around 37,000 to 38,000.

Five immediate economic benefits of marriage equality

  • Expenditure on weddings. This could benefit a range of industries including retail trade, hospitality, arts and recreation, professional services (pre-nuptial agreements and divorce).
  • Increased service exports due to offshore visitors marrying and honeymooning in Australia.
  • The diversion of Australian same sex couples back home that would otherwise have married overseas. This may further boost the industries listed above.
  • Increased state government revenue from same-sex marriage license fees and from conducting on-site ceremonies in state run registries of births, deaths and marriages.
  • There may also be a small boost to consumer confidence, given the change to marriage equality is a policy supported by the majority of Australians.

We've assumed that around half of those couples would choose to get married (based on a 2010 study by the University of Queensland) and only half of those of these marry within 12 months of marriage equality legislation. Based on an average spend per wedding of $51,000 that could add $500 million to $550 million to the economy in 12 months.

The risks to this figure are to the upside given our conservative assumptions. If half of the population of same sex couples chose to marry within one year, the benefits to the economy in the first year of the legislation would be over $1 billion.

Those figures do not include honeymoon expenditure which would add to the stimulus, especially if foreign couples come to Australia to marry or Australians are encouraged to stay at home, a trend that may be encouraged by the depreciating Australian dollar. Honeymoon expenditures is however difficult to estimate and to some extent, likely to replace existing holiday plans.

SIDE EFFECTS

As well as the direct economic benefits of weddings, there could be improved social, health and welfare outcomes that would indirectly increase Australia's economic potential.

The security that comes from a marriage would create an effective welfare safety net according to marriage equality lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality as spouses insure each other against a sudden loss of income.

It would also lower levels of stress and mental health problem which are indirect consequences of legal discrimination and social exclusion according to the lobby group.

We could also envisage Australia becoming a more attractive destination for business with several corporations in support of marriage equality preferring to do businesses here and in New Zealand than in other economies in the region. Already a number of employers grant full recognition to the same-sex marriages of their employees and customers.

Whether or not a plebiscite is the means, community pressure for change will remain.

Cherelle Murphy is co-head of Australian Economics and Mandeep Kaura is an economic statistician at ANZ.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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