Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is a national organisation working for equal marriage for all consenting adults and believes a person’s gender or sexuality should not affect their legal rights and responsibilities under Australian marriage law.
National Director of AME, Rodney Croome AM, explains the benefits of marriage equality to corporate Australia.
As Heather Ridout, Australian Industry Council noted in 2010, marriage equality is important for many Australians including those in the business sector:
“I don't think the issue of gay marriage could be described as a radical, left-wing agenda….it's very relevant to many Australians."
Allowing all adult couples to legally marry has obvious benefits for businesses associated with the wedding industry.
The most conservative estimate puts the potential wedding of Australian same-sex couples at $161 million. This estimate was made by the Williams Institute at UCLA, the world experts on how much same-sex couples spend on weddings.
The Institute’s simple formula multiplies the numbers of same-sex couples (as indicated on the Census), with the percentage who say they will marry (about 55% in Australia). It then multiplies that figure by a quarter of the average wedding spend (on the assumption that same-sex couples may have already spent money on commitment ceremonies). If we factor in the average wedding spend instead, the figure rises to $700 million. The figure would rise again were we to include the couples who could be enticed from overseas to marry in Australia.
Clearly, the absence of marriage equality is costing the Australian economy dearly.
Worse, a portion of the wedding spend that should be going into the Australian economy is being spent in other countries by Australian couples forced to go overseas to wed.
Workplace fairness and inclusion
Marriage equality has received strong corporate backing in the U.S.
Over 200 top U.S. companies, including Citigroup, Apple, Mars and Alcoa, intervened in the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned the federal ban on recognising same-sex marriages. One of their main arguments was that the federal ban made it harder for them to treat staff equitably.
The situation is slightly different in Australia when it comes to equal staff benefits.
Health benefits rely less on employment and de facto same-sex partners have many of the same workplace benefits as married couples. But there are still disparities, especially in superannuation. On top of that, married partners don’t have to prove their relationship status in a way de facto partners are sometimes forced to.
Most of all, legal discrimination divides workforces. Not being allowed to marry stigmatises same-sex relationships as second-rate. It legitimises prejudice.
U.S. and Australian studies show this stigma and prejudice has a direct, negative impact on the mental health of same-sex attracted people. We also know from a range of studies that stigma and prejudice foster less cohesive and productive workplaces. Companies can do all they like to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion but they are pushing it uphill while the law discriminates against an entire segment of their staff.
Recruitment and reputation
U.S. companies have also argued that the failure to recognise same-sex marriages makes it harder for them to recruit the best and brightest from other countries.
The situation is the same in Australia.
With more and more countries achieving marriage equality, Australia is becoming an ever less attractive place for skilled workers to migrate to. Imagine you’re a skilled migrant in a British same-sex marriage looking to relocate. All else being equal, would you move to Canada, New Zealand or the U.S. where your marriage will be recognised, or Australia where it will be dishonoured by having no legal status? Obviously, if you have decided to marry and make vows of lifelong commitment you will favour those countries that respect your decision and honour your vows.
Discrimination in marriage may also impact recruitment more broadly.
For members of the “creative class”, marriage equality has come to be seen as a sign of a progressive and creative society. Even potential investors, when faced with two countries with similar economic fundamentals, will look to issues like marriage equality to distinguish which country embraces change, looks outward and values personal freedom. As more western countries achieve marriage equality and Australia becomes increasingly isolated, our international reputation will suffer.
Inevitably this will have an adverse impact on our economy.
A moral obligation
Lying behind all the financial benefits of marriage equality to Australian business is a moral obligation. Some 72% of Australians support marriage equality according to a national survey by the Liberal Party’s go-to research company, Crosby/Textor.
Yet too many of our politicians still refuse to listen.
In the absence of political leadership, each of us who supports marriage equality has an obligation to raise our voice for this important reform.
Australian Marriage Equality has made it easier than ever for marriage equality supporters to have their voices heard.
In partnership with Ben and Jerry’s, we have set up the Equality Calling hotline which allows you to leave a message that will be phoned through to the office of your local MP and the Senators in your state. To leave a message, call 1300 663 679.
AME has also made it easier for corporate Australia to support marriage equality.
We have invited Australian businesses to sign a corporate support letter for marriage equality. Already the letter has been signed by QANTAS CEO, Alan Joyce, Football Federation CEO, David Gallop, CEO of Global Logistics Consulting, Caterina Zaini, and by the Diversity Council Australia’s CEO, Lisa Annese.
If you would like to sign it as well please contact me.
Rodney Croome AM
Australian Marriage Equality
Tasmanian of the Year 2015
To learn more information about Australian Marriage Equality, visit: http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/
 Ridout, H., quoted in Karvelas, P., “Heather Ridout speaks in support of same-sex partnerships”, The Australian, 29.10.2010
 Badgett, MVL, “The Economic Impact of Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples in Australia”, Williams Institute, 2012