In December homosexual marriage became legal in Hawaii, generating a flurry of news stories saying homosexual marriage would be an economic boon to the Aloha State. Most of them cited a University of Hawaii study claiming the benefit to Hawaii would be around $217 million during the next three years.
But that estimate is almost certainly not true.
“Such studies measure benefits, but not costs,” said Jay Richards, whose book Money, Greed, and God debunks economic myths. Even if the study is accurate to the penny in measuring benefits, according to Richards, “that’s just one side of the ledger. The other side of the ledger includes both economic and social costs.”
Those costs are enormous. The annual cost to society of marriage breakdown is $229 billion, according to a 1999 study by the left-leaning Brookings Institution. Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, who directs the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America, said not all of these costs fall at the feet of homosexual activists. But they share the blame because of their efforts to “change, devalue and diminish marriage as a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman committed to their union and their children.” Whatever the causes, this is indisputable: The rate of marriage in the United States has fallen by nearly 20 percent since 1991, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s the year the Hawaii Supreme Court touched off the modern debate over same-sex marriage by ruling the state’s refusal to grant same-sex marriage licenses discriminatory.
It’s likely the economic benefits of gay marriage are dramatically overstated. The Sheraton Waikiki has a relationship with the state of Hawaii to issue marriage licenses. Kelly Sanders, general manager of the hotel, told WORLD that on Dec. 2, the day homosexual marriage became legal, the hotel issued 39 marriage licenses. These ceremonies began just after midnight and lasted until 4:30 a.m. However only eight more weddings were currently scheduled, and he would not speculate about how many gay weddings the hotel would do after the initial flurry ended. Since the hotel started issuing wedding licenses on Jan. 15, 2013, more than 2,000 had been granted to heterosexual couples, a dramatically larger share of the state’s $14 billion tourist industry.
Even the widely quoted University of Hawaii study, the basis for most of the news stories, has been controversial. The principal author of the study, Dr. Sumner La Croix, openly supports gay marriage. When he released the study in the summer, he encouraged the state to act quickly. “If Hawaii waits to adopt same-sex marriage,” he said then, “it will not realize these gains. They will be lost forever, diverted to other states that recognize marriage equality.” Since the study’s completion, California began allowing same-sex marriage, issuing more than 30,000 same-sex marriage licenses in July alone. The changing environment has made the original estimates obsolete.
Biased or not, outdated or not, the study continues to be quoted. Richards said that’s because most journalists are not trained in economics: “Such studies flatter their pre-existing opinions, and most people … treat economics differently from other disciplines. If you were writing about chemistry or physics, you would know you needed some training in those fields. But most people think they have an intuitive feel for economics.”
But, Richards added, much of economics is counterintuitive and produces unintended consequences. That means all assertions about the economic impact of gay marriage are at best a guess: “Gay marriage is a new phenomenon. We simply don’t have a lot of data.”