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Study: Allowing same-sex marriage would save federal government nearly $1 billion per year

By: Lee Badgett


Amherst, MA -- The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that allowing same-sex couples to marry would have a positive impact on the federal budget. The report confirms recent findings from state-level studies conducted by the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (IGLSS) and the Williams Project at UCLA Law School.

The Congressional Budget Office found that allowing same-sex couples to marry would boost federal income tax revenues by $400 million per year til the end of this decade, mainly because of the so-called "marriage penalty." Social security payments would rise over time, as would spending on spousal health insurance benefits for federal workers. Other expenditure items would be much lower, however, since spending on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would fall. The net impact would be a federal budget savings of nearly $1 billion per year.

These findings parallel the conclusions of recent studies that were conducted by IGLSS and the Williams Project about the impact of granting marriage and domestic partnership rights at the state level. The most recent study showed that California would have a net savings of $22-25 million per year if same-sex couples could marry. A 2003 study of New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act, which goes into effect in July, predicts that the state is likely to see a net savings of $61 million per year by giving same-sex couples rights.

"The CBO report adds to the growing weight of studies showing that same-sex marriage makes sense from an economic perspective," noted economist M. V. Lee Badgett of IGLSS and the University of Massachusetts, who has authored or co-authored five reports on the fiscal impact of same-sex marriage. "Although most attention has focused on the benefits of marriage, this report reminds us that marriage involves responsibilities, too. Strengthening same-sex couples' legal standing will reduce demands on federal and state budgets."

"Rather than relying on stereotypes about gay and lesbian couples, the CBO used the best data available on same-sex couples from Census 2000 to calculate their estimates," stated Brad Sears, the executive director of UCLA's Williams Project and a co-author of the studies in California and New Jersey. "Applying the Census figures to individual states' budgets would show many millions more in savings if same-sex couples could marry."

The CBO study, which was requested by Congressperson Steve Chabot, is available at www.cbo.gov. The IGLSS-Williams Project studies are available at www.iglss.org and www1.law.ucla.edu/~williamsproj/home.html.

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