LAST night I had a swirling, whirling dervish of a dream. My friends and I all in white, dancing and singing to ABBA’s “I do I do I do I do I do I do… ooooooooh”. I woke feeling good, feeling happy, but with a tinge of melancholy.

Why the melancholy? Well because really, if my friends Richard and David who had been together for 10 years couldn’t legally be married in the country that they love then what hope did I have? Love and even commitment is apparently in some lawmakers’ views not enough.

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But as much as I want my friends to get married (after all if I can, why can’t they) the argument for reform is deflating romance and turning to the cold hard economics of the issue. Not that I think economics are bad. It just makes me sad that we feel the need to rationalise matters of the heart to make them acceptable. Cue ABBA: “Money, money, money, must be funny in the rich man’s world.”

However, lack of equal rights actually isn’t funny nor is it frivolous. And in an effort to sway those who are either still on the fence or who are well and truly on the other side stuck in a ditch, advocates have been touting the economic significance of what marriage equality would mean to Australia’s bottom-line.

It’s an argument that has legs and mighty good looking ones at that. But it also speaks the language of those who perhaps are clutching their pearls and twisting the brown leather buttons on their cardigans at the thought that their neighbours, instead of being Wayne and Lorraine, might be Wayne and Shane.

I mean, why just let people get married because they love each other? As that wise old sage Miranda Devine from The Daily Telegraph reminded us so eloquently recently: “Marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman, for the core purpose of procreating and rearing children. It exists to tame the base sexual instincts of men and women, to harness a mother and father to monogamy and the optimal upbringing of their children. It is not a vehicle to validate adult romantic interests.” When I read this I was so relieved that finally someone was able to explain to me why I had never married. I’ve always been a romantic and I’ve never been tamed. Thanks, Miranda.

But I digress. Let’s get out the abacus and get down to business (no, I don’t mean that, get your mind out of the gutter). The most popular economic defence of marriage equality is the “wedding spend”, which makes sense. Imagine if tomorrow anyone who wanted to get married could? It would be a festival of weddings of such proportions it would put the Moonies to shame. If you don’t know who the Moonies are look them up, I promise you won’t be sorry.

However, the “wedding spend” is just one aspect of this very important discussion. A more sophisticated analysis also realises that it’s about productivity in the workplace. I recently had the pleasure of being the MC at the Marriage Equality CEO Breakfast and it was there that much more finesse was applied to the economic benefits of reform. 

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, told the room that because Australia did not recognise same-sex unions there were instances where he couldn’t attract the overseas talent that he wanted, and conversely, Australian talent was moving overseas to countries who would recognise their relationships legally.

This was something I had never heard or considered before. It’s a point that Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome makes in his soon-to-be-released book.

Rodney also says: “LGBTI tourists are more likely to travel to countries where they are treated equally.” Well we all know how important the tourist dollar, whether it’s vanilla or pink, is to the domestic economy.

Rodney goes even further to explain how the big end of town views and values such social reforms: “When faced with two countries with similar economic fundamentals, investors will look to issues like marriage equality to distinguish which country embraces change, looks outward and values personal freedom. Most important of all, workplaces are more productive when all staff feel equally respected and protected.”

Joe Hockey take note. If you want to boost the economy get on board.

While the economics of this issue are very important at the end of the day, marriage equality is about love and acceptance. As Jesse J says in her song Price Tag: “It’s not about the money, money, money. We don’t need your money, money, money, we just wanna make the world change, forget about the price tag.”

Whitney Fitzsimmons is a freelance journalist and TV presenter. She is a former ABC senior journalist and newsreader and presenter of Business Today on ABC News 24. She is a passionate supporter of marriage equality. Follow her on Twitter: @whitfitzsimmons

Australian Marriage Equality is in the middle of a campaign inviting corporates across Australia to show their support for marriage reform.  You can see the current supporters here: corpsupport.org.au

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**This story was first published in the July edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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