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The cost of gay marriage – in dollars and cents

As states like California grapple over gay marriage, New England has found that it can be a small fillip to the economy.

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Maghi Geary might have some peculiar advice for Californians: Gay marriage is good for business. The co-owner of Provincetown Florist has 20 to 30 weddings booked this summer, and the reason for that decent return is evident in the next customer who walks through the door – a lesbian couple from Kansas desperately in need of some carnations for their wedding.

Tuesday, the California Supreme Court made the most recent in a series of legislative and judicial decisions on gay marriage nationwide: It upheld Proposition 8, a measure that bans gay marriage in the state. But here in Massachusetts, gay marriage has been legal since 2003, and in Provincetown, more than 2,000 same-sex couples have tied the knot since then.

In some ways, this farthest fingernail of Cape Cod is emblematic of the economics of gay marriage: a big impact, but only at the margins.

Massachusetts estimates that gay marriage has added money to its coffers – but only about $37 million a year, or less than 1 percent of the annual state budget.

In the private sector, the wedding industry could grow by more than $16 billion if gay marriage were expanded to all 50 states, according to a 2004 study by Forbes magazine.

But Massachusetts' experience suggests that money would be concentrated in cities with a significant gay population, like Provincetown.

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