An Equal Safety Net

Reacting to big business support for marriage equality, Amy Davidson presents the economic case for equality:

If one believes that protecting children is a priority, then so is same-sex marriage. A third of lesbian couples and a fifth of gay couples who live together already have children, according to the Census, and a lack of access to marriage takes both social and economic security away from them. A widow or widower with a minor child whose income falls below a certain level can get social-security benefits based on the deceased spouse’s earnings—but not if the spouse is of the same sex. The same is true of tax laws, like the one affecting Windsor, that might cost families their homes. Some opponents of same-sex marriage have turned this on its head and wondered if it will cost the government too much money. The answer, according to a Congressional Budget Office study, is that it most likely will not, both because the amounts, though large in the life of, say, a widow with a child, are not so large in terms of the federal budget. The government will also make money from things like imposing the income-tax marriage penalty on more couples, and from some people losing eligibility for benefits when their combined income is calculated. (There are harder-to-answer questions, like how much it might save Medicare if, earlier in life, a person had access to preventive care through a spouse’s insurance.) Marriage equality does not inflate budgets; it removes irrational distortions from them.