The passage of a bill making same-sex marriage legal in the state of New York has created a wealth of opportunities for financial services and legal professionals in the state. With efforts to have the issue on the ballot in the state of Colorado in 2012, could the passage have the same effect here? If you ask the professionals impacted, the answer would be a resounding yes.
According to a May report by the Independent Democratic Conference on the economic impact of recognizing marriage between same-sex partners in New York State would create a potential $311 million in increased revenue over the next three years. Married same sex couples would also be less likely to need or to be eligible for assistance since combined incomes and assets would exceed program limits. That alone would save New York State an estimate of more than $80 million in Supplemental Security Income and other programs of assistance.
Financial experts feel that a similar result could be expected here in Colorado. But in addition to the financial benefits to the state, legal and financial professionals would benefit as well.
Same-sex marriages create a number of legal issues for couples; wills, trust documents, even pre-nuptial agreements. According to Lois Liberman, a matrimonial attorney in New York City, the problems of heterosexual couples are now those of same sex couples as well.
“Just as you have ‘gold diggers’ who are out there in the heterosexual world, you have ‘gold diggers’ in the homosexual world,” says Liberman. “And just as among heterosexual marriages, some same-sex marriages won’t work out, even between partners who have been together for years.”
The national divorce rate for first marriage is around 50%, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. Here in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment there are on average 96 marriages each day in Colorado, but an astounding 56 divorces as well. Though the Colorado divorce rate dropped from 4.4 per 1,000 people to 4.3 per 1,000 people from 2004 to 2005, the divorce rate locally is still considered high compared to national averages.
Another legal consideration come in that while same-sex marriages are only recognized in a handful of states in addition to New York, they are not recognized on the Federal level. This does have an impact on how same-sex married couples would file their income tax returns with the IRS. This also creates new opportunities for financial planners and accountants.
Insurance professionals would feel the impact as well, as same-sex couples could be added to policies. And even if there are currently documents that exist for the couple in regard to insurance, finances, even living wills and trusts, upon marriage is an excellent time to review these documents with a professional.
There are still hurdles that have to be crossed before the issue is put before voters in the state. The state’s title board approved the ballot- initiative proposal last week; the next step will be to collect 86,000 signatures to get the initiative before voters in the 2012 election. A lot can happen, with a little more than a year till the election, and expectation is that opposition to the initiative will be strong. Still, should the initiative pass in 2012 those in the financial and legal professions could expect a boon in their business.