If same-sex couples can’t persuade Australia’s lawmakers to let them marry, maybe their money will.
Instead of splashing out on celebrations in their own backyard, rising numbers of gay Australians are taking a three-hour flight to get hitched. Weddings of foreign same-sex couples in New Zealand last year overtook those of local gay marriages, with 58 percent of them traveling from Australia.
Australia’s failure to adopt same-sex marriage forced more than 270 of the nation’s couples to marry in New Zealand last year, where gay weddings have been allowed since 2013. Such ceremonies could add A$550 million ($405 million) to the economy within a year of legislation, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group estimated in a 2015 report.
“There is no doubt that Australia is missing out on the business that would be generated by same-sex weddings if we had marriage equality legislation”, Cherelle Murphy, a senior economist at ANZ who co-authored the report, said by e-mail. “We’re probably also losing wedding-related consumption to overseas destinations.”
Same-sex weddings have spawned a new global industry, with many of the major economies including the U.S, U.K., Canada and France legalizing the unions since the turn of the century in a domino effect.
But gay marriage has become a political football in Australia, with parties failing to reach agreement on how to even vote on the issue.
Conservative lawmakers in the ruling coalition have pressured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to resist a free vote in the nation’s parliament on the matter, while the main opposition Labor Party has only showed stronger support since its previous term in office ended in 2013.
New Zealand, meanwhile, has no regrets.
More than 3,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot there since marriage equality was enshrined in law, with almost half of them flying in from overseas. That’s also proving a boon for its tourism industry, which last year overtook dairy as the nation’s top export.
Aussie politicians seeking to shrink their pesky budget deficits should take note. Gay marriages are bringing in cash from more than just the often lavish ceremonies.
“It’s not just the weddings themselves, but the additional services that they generate,” said Murphy. “Honeymoon travel would be one example — as would divorce lawyers.”
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