Oh sure, marriage equality is the right thing to do because the gays deserve the same rights and privileges as everybody else, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But along with the civic pride of being the first state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage at the polls, Referendum 74 could also bring Washingtonians a shit ton of money!
According to an economic impact study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, our state's wedding and tourism industries could generate an additional $88 million in business revenue (and $8 million in state and local taxes for our broke-ass state) in the first three years of marriage equality alone. That's assuming only half of the state's 19,000 same-sex couples choose to marry, a rate similar to what was seen in Massachusetts.
What's more, this figure doesn't include spending from out-of-state same-sex couples that will certainly travel to Washington to marry, creating a wedding tourism industry that could prove quite lucrative. (Referendum 74's passage would make Washington the only same-sex-marriage state west of Iowa.) According to 2010 US Census data, there are 129,133 same-sex couples in the five states that already send the most visitors to Washington State—Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, and Arizona. If only a fraction of these couples travel to Washington to marry—bringing, on average, 16 out-of-state wedding guests with them—it could add tens of millions of additional dollars a year to our tourism industry alone.
Which is why the Williams Institute also concludes that extending the right to marry to same-sex couples could create an additional 940 travel industry jobs in Washington within the first three years of passage.
However, the wedding and tourism industries (not to mention, ultimately, divorce lawyers) are only the most obvious and immediate economic beneficiaries of Referendum 74. In a region whose major selling point has always been quality of life, marriage equality could prove to be a key recruitment tool for the high-tech industries on which we are pinning our economic future.
Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft are fighting to recruit the best and the brightest, and some of these best and brightest are LGBT. Referendum 74 would give Washington businesses a competitive advantage, not only by allowing them to offer equal marriage rights and benefits to their LGBT employees, but by demonstrating that Washington is a state in which the majority of voters welcome the LGBT community as full and equal citizens. (Which is surely among the reasons that leaders of both Amazon and Microsoft are backing R-74.)
In sum—and by the power vested in me as the only person on The Stranger staff who can add—I confidently submit that if you can't bring yourself to approve Referendum 74 for any other reason, you really should do it for the most America-loving reason of all: the money.