Gay Marriage Boon to Massachusetts Economy

Kudos to Lisa van der pool who wrote in the Boston Business Journal on Feb. 28, 2008 about another plus for marriage equality in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, she asserts that equal treatment of all people attracts talented workers. While there has been much anecdotal documentation of gay and lesbian couples coming to Massachusetts because of the protections that marriage offers, it’s noteworthy that a trade journal like BBJ has published this piece.

Note that the contention of an “exodus of families from Massachusetts because of the same-sex marriage law” by Kris Mineau, a marriage equality opponent, has not been supported in any published story.

Here is van der Pool’s story in its entirety (for those who are not subscribers to BBJ):

Gay marriage attracts out-of-state workforce
Boston Business Journal
– by Lisa van der Pool Journal staff

Massachusetts has a dubious reputation for losing talented workers to less pricey markets. But a trend that runs counter to the talent drain has emerged in the form of the state’s controversial same-sex marriage law.
Massachusetts native Jeffrey Webb loved the Los Angeles lifestyle. He had a great job as a law partner in the L.A. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and his life partner, Mark Schuster, was equally happy with his work as chief of general pediatrics and professor at UCLA. “We both had positions that were hard to replicate,” said Webb, 43.

 Even so, Webb and Schuster left the California sunshine in December and moved to Brookline with their twin sons. It wasn’t the promise of enduring a gloomy Massachusetts winter that beckoned them — it was the ability to live in Massachusetts as a legally married couple.

“That was something that was really important to us,” said Webb, who married Schuster in Massachusetts soon after the couple bought a vacation home in Truro in 2004. Webb has since joined the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery LLP as a partner in the trial department, and Schuster is now the chief of general pediatrics and vice chair for health policy research at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Massachusetts has a dubious reputation for losing talented workers to less pricey markets. But a trend that runs counter to the talent drain has emerged in the form of the state’s controversial same-sex marriage law, a powerful lure for same-sex couples who want to live in a place where they can get married, gain legal rights and have access to spousal health benefits. In fact, some observers see the influx of same-sex couples as a boon for the state’s economy.

“Since the marriage law passed, we see a lot more (gay) professionals moving into the Boston area,” said Henry Hoey, a board member of the Greater Boston Business Council, a chamber of commerce for gay professionals. The organization’s membership has increased 5 percent to 1,100 members since last year. “The effects of this law are starting to take hold.”

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling. The decision sparked an intense effort by same-sex marriage opponents to amend the state Constitution; but that effort died in the Legislature last year. Since 2004, 10,168 same-sex couples have said their “I-Do’s” in Massachusetts. And while same-sex nuptials have tapered off since the initial rush in 2004 when 6,121 couples tied the knot — last year 550 same-sex couples got married in the state — that likely reflects an expected leveling off since the law was passed, according to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

The number of same-sex couples who have moved here since 2004 is not tracked by any organization. Martha Livingston, founder and CEO of Inclusive Recruitment LLC, a Boston-based staffing firm that places gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender professionals in welcoming workplaces, has noticed an increase in gay and lesbian couples who have moved or are planning to move to the state.

“There’s a woman that I’m working with right now because she came to Massachusetts so her marriage would be recognized,” said Livingston.
Massachusetts’s population could use some fresh faces. From 2003 to 2005, the population fell to 6,429,137 from 6,438,510, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the population crept back up to 6,449,755 in 2007, according to census estimates, the population grew a mere 1.5 percent from 2000 to 2006.
Not everyone agrees that same-sex marriage will ultimately prove beneficial to the state’s economy.

“We view same-sex marriage as a radical social experiment and to promote it on behalf of the economy is akin to promoting casinos on behalf of the economy,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute in Woburn. “There’s anecdotal evidence that (there has been) an exodus of families from Massachusetts because of the same-sex marriage law. So there’s two sides to the story.”

It’s not only the legal rights afforded by the Massachusetts law, but also the relatively open-minded political climate of the region that is drawing more gay couples. Lisa Forest and her wife, Anne Marie Willer, both had good jobs and owned their own home in the Dallas area. But in 2006 the couple left Texas for Massachusetts and rented an apartment in Quincy. Forest works at Bridgewater State College, where she launched the college’s GLBTA Pride Center. Willer works as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The couple married in 2006.

“It was a difficult move, but I found the political climate inhospitable,” Forest said of her time in Texas. She and Willer lived there for five years.

“There was a lot of psychological and physical energy that I was investing in just living my day-to-day life, because I had to defend myself against anti-gay sentiment and rhetoric. (But mainly) we were taking too large of financial and legal risks remaining there as strangers, legally,” Forest said.

The state’s same-sex marriage law could provide local businesses with a unique competitive edge, according to Carissa Cunningham, director of public affairs at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston.

“Massachusetts has a reputation for fairness both generally and in the specifics that it offers gay and lesbian couples, especially those with children who are concerned about raising their kids in a place that supports their family and protects their legal rights,” said Cunningham. “It makes the state competitive.”

While federal law does not recognize same-sex marriage, the benefits for gay couples who decide to marry on a state level still outweigh the drawbacks, according to Rick Kraft, an attorney who moved from Berkeley, Calif., to Massachusetts with his partner and their daughter in 2004. Benefits include partner health insurance, filing joint state tax returns and automatic inheritance if one spouse dies. One downside to marriage is that in the event of a split, alimony payments are not tax-deductable for same-sex couples, according to Kraft, who focuses his estate planning practice on the legal needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 “There are hundreds of automatic rights that come to couples when they’re married,” said Kraft, 46.

 Chris Ott, 37, and his partner, David Danaher, 40, decided to leave Wisconsin after the state passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Ott moved to Cambridge after he sold his home in Madison. Danaher, a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Wisconsin, plans to remain until he finds a post in Boston.

The two haven’t married in Massachusetts yet.

“The passage of that amendment meant that there were going to continue to be legal and financial barriers and hardships which we didn’t want to contend with, especially later in life,” said Ott, communications director at the ACLU’s Boston office. “We wanted to live somewhere where these issues had already been settled.”
Lisa van der Pool can be reached at

2 responses to “Gay Marriage Boon to Massachusetts Economy

  1. Christopher McIntosh

    Thank you for sharing this article! Indeed, I have pondered whether my life might be improved by living in Massachusetts vs. remaining in Missouri to re-hash the struggle to get us to a “state of equality” as it were with Massachusetts’ citizens.

  2. I owned a large construction company in Silicon Valley. We spent a lot of money recruiting good employees. We had medical insurance for domestic partners. For the straight married people, it wasn’t considered to be part of their income and they didn’t have to pay income taxes on it. The gay employees had to include the value in their taxes. We would give them the money to pay the taxes but it got confusing because then they were making higher salaries than their straight counterparts.

    We had domestic partner benefits because it was the right thing to do…and we didn’t want to lose employees to companies that had those benefits.

    I would have been really upset if any of our employees had moved to MA because CA didn’t allow gay marriage. Although who could blame them. This discrimination has to end.

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