Gay Marriage’s Future: Profits, Votes and Taxes

Last Sunday's Gay Pride Parade revelers. Flickr.

On the evening of June 24, New York became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. Cheers poured out from gay rights bastion The Stonewall Inn and Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade was one of the most joyous in recent memory.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan — one of New York’s most visible opponents of gay marriage — was admittedly in poor spirits as the rest of the city celebrated.

But following the massive celebrations — and the few-and-far-between laments following the State Senate’s historic vote — certain city officials and entrepreneurs were seeing dollar signs as gay couples prepared to exchange vows on July 30 when the Marriage Equality Act goes into effect.

I do plan to spend

Mayor Michael Bloomberg may once have been quiet on the gay marriage issue, but this year he was one of its most vocal supporters.  He arrived unexpectedly in Albany before the State Senate last week to try to sway then-undecided GOP members. Part of the mayor’s motivation might have been economic, evidenced by the city’s unveiling of a new advertising campaign — “NYC I DO” — that encourages gay couples to spend their weddings and dollars in the city. Gay marriage could bring the city an estimated $142 million within three years of it being legalized, according to a 2007 study by former city Comptroller William Thompson. NYC & Co., the city’s official tourism agency and the creators of the campaign, have yet to reveal its scope, but say it will capitalize on New York’s heritage as the birthplace of the gay rights movement and promote romantic wedding locations like Coney Island and Central Park. The campaign will also direct couples to hotels, flower shops and catering companies. At least five large hotels are preparing their own gay marriage ad campaigns to accommodate the hordes of wedding guests, according to Crain’s New York. New York City’s four W Hotel’s have come up with the slogan “Right to Unite.” The Skylight Group, which offers three sizeable event spaces for rent, will offer gay wedding parties a 20 percent discount.

Cuomo’s victory lap

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was one of most ardent advocates for the Marriage Equality Act — and it hasn’t hurt his approval ratings, which rose to 70 percent following Cuomo’s announcement of the bill last January.  Cuomo is now being called the “new face of gay marriage” and calling on other states to legalize gay marriage. Some sources have pondered whether Cuomo could be eying a future presidential campaign —which the governor has denied. However, Cuomo’s political victory with gay marriage illuminates his sharp contrast with President Obama on the issue. Obama has maintained his position that gay marriage is for the state’s to decide — much to the dismay of many gay rights advocates.

The real path to gay marriage, behind and ahead

While New York communities, protestors and political figureheads stood their ground throughout gay marriage debate, the New York Times reported that a key ingredient in passing the Marriage Equality Act happened in secret. Over the past several weeks, Cuomo, leading Democrats and gay Republican financiers lobbied wealthy Republican donors to sway the four undecided Republican Senators who were crucial to passing the law, the paper reported. Looking to the future, many gay couples are now tasked with trying to figure out the complicated tax codes if they decide to get married. The matter is still more complex than it is for heterosexual couples. Since the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, married gay partners will have to file separate federal tax returns and are not able to sponsor green cards for one another.

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