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Opening Arguments

It's not the economy, stupid

Indiana University professor Charles Trzcinka: The claim that putting a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution would have a negative economic impact is bogus:

The facts that do exist indicate that same-sex marriage is simply not an economic issue. The Kinsey Center at Indiana University reports that the males who self-identify as homosexual are between 2 and 4 percent of the population while females who self-identify as homosexual are 1 to 2 percent of the population (see http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#homosexuality). The primary measure of economic output is gross domestic product, which is tabulated by the federal government on a national and state level. You can think of this as the income for the state. The number is widely reported but most economists understand that it is computed with a substantial error. For the national figure, the error rate in estimating GDP is roughly 4 percent (see http://www.ssc.upenn.edu/~schorf/papers/ADNSS2.pdf). For state numbers the error rates are certainly the same or higher. To measure the economic impact of a policy this is the primary measure and the number of homosexuals are simply too small to have a measurable impact.

To see that measurable direct effects are unlikely, 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?

I've always thought the economic arguments were exaggerated simply because a big majority of states already have a gay marriage ban in their constitutions. How could joining the majority hurt us? But it's good to see his number based on some actual calculations.

He also says -- correctly -- that discussions of economi mpact simply reflects people's biases. Opponents of HJR 3 argue it will make people think of us as the backwater of U.S. culture. Proponents say sticking with the current definition of marriage will atract hardworking people of traditional values. This shouldn't be an economic debate, and trying to make it one trivializes a profound moral dilemma.