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EDITORIAL

Gay marriage not an economic issue

Friday, January 24, 2014 - 12:01 am

Trying to make it one trivializes the debate.

You've heard the economic argument about gay marriage from chambers of commerce, big-city mayors and the heads of companies such as Eli Lilly and Cummins: If HJR 3, the bill to put a gay marriage ban into the state constitution, is passed, it will send a signal that Indiana does not welcome all, so companies won't be able to recruit young professionals, and there will be dire “negative economic effects.”

Common sense alone should cast doubt on this prediction. Since a gay marriage ban is already in state law, wouldn't any negative effects already have been felt? And how about the fact that 31 states already have constitutional amendments barring recognition of same-sex marriage? Why would Indiana have trouble recruiting when it is merely joining a majority of other states on this issue? If those states have suffered dire consequences, why hasn't anybody produced evidence of it?

Now, Indiana University professor Charles Trzcinka has produced some numbers disputing the economic-impact argument. He notes that the Kinsey Center at IU reports that males who self-identify as homosexual are between 2 and 4 percent of the population, while females who self-identify as gay are 1 to 2 percent of the population. That means the gay population is “simply too small to have a measurable impact.”

He elaborates: “Suppose that HJR-3 fails and a judge rules that the current law against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. According to the executives at Lilly and Cummins, this will increase their ability to recruit. How big does this have to be to move GDP? It has to be much larger than either company's workforce. If 4 percent of the Indiana workforce is homosexual and they contribute more than 4 percent to GDP, let's say double the average worker, rejecting HJR-3 would have to increase the workforce by more than 64,000 people. Cummins and Lilly combined have about 84,000 employees. Does anyone at Lilly, Cummins or the other firms behind Freedom Indiana think this is remotely possible?”

Whether to recognize or ban gay marriage is a profound legal question with underlying moral arguments about how people should live their lives and treat other people. Those on both sides of the debate have sincere, strongly held beliefs, which must be understood and taken into account by those doing the arguing. Turning the issue into an economic argument ignores both sides of the moral debate.

As Trzcinka says, the debate “is a demand for respect by homosexuals who ask heterosexuals to fundamentally change an institution that is thousands of years old.” The argument by the chambers and business executives takes “one side of a moral debate and trivializes the discussion by trying to assert economic effects. Gay marriage is either right or wrong regardless of its economic impact.”