Sanders: Marriage equality key to economic recovery

Off the heels of his win in the WisPolitics Democratic convention straw poll, Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Henry Sanders, Jr. makes the case for marriage equality as a key to Wisconsin’s economic recovery. When I spoke with Sanders at the DPW convention, he mentioned marriage equality as a key to Wisconsin’s ability to attract and retain talented workers.

Marriage Equality Key to Economic Recovery

By Henry Sanders, Jr.

In a tough economy, cities, regions and entire states must do everything they can to compete. That means providing the best infrastructure, talent pool, and economic incentives necessary to attract and retain jobs. Among the most important factors businesses consider as they seek out sites to locate or expand operations is workforce. That’s why marriage equality is a key plank in Progressive Recovery, my 18-point job creation platform.

Marriage equality would lead to a significant immediate windfall in the tourism and hospitality industries, sectors that have especially suffered during the recent recession. A study by UCLA’s Williams Institute projects that recently-enacted marriage equality policies in the District of Columbia would grow the city’s economy by over $52.2 million over the first three years. The local tax base is expected to jump by $5.4 million as a direct result of marriage equality. More than 700 new jobs will be created almost immediately through increased marriage licensing needs, tourism, and other work related to the wedding industry. This immediate positive impact results from a population only one-tenth of that of the State of Wisconsin.

Perhaps more important, however, are the long-term implications in terms of human capital. Studies show that the next generation of workers increasingly choose a place to live first, and then find a job there. These same workers are more attracted to places they see as inclusive, places that accept and embrace people of all races, backgrounds and family types. As the economy continues to evolve, and the aging Baby Boom generation retires, attracting and retaining these workers will become increasingly important for the health of Wisconsin’s economy.

Since 2006, discriminatory language directed against marriage equality written into our state’s constitution has directly hampered Wisconsin’s ability to attract and retain the human capital necessary for economic development. In the public sector alone, tens of millions of dollars in research grants and federal funds have been lost due to the departures of university faculty. For example, three recently departed faculty members interviewed by a UW-Madison newspaper cited inequality concerns as a major factor in their decision. The departures resulted in a loss of nearly $10 million in grants and dozens of staff positions. This trend will only worsen over time, with a ripple effect that will be felt across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Conversely, a significant number of highly-skilled workers would be attracted to Wisconsin in order to take advantage of benefits such as inheritance and medical protections. In addition to Washington, DC, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, have all capitalized on these economic benefits by guaranteeing full equality for all couples.

The private sector already knows this. Half of the Fortune 500 offer full benefits to same-gender couples, as do more than 7,500 major corporations nationwide. They do this because they need to remain competitive. It is far past time for the state government to catch up.

For our state to compete economically in a national and global marketplace, we must take the necessary steps toward guaranteeing full equality for all couples in Wisconsin. The next administration and legislature must work to repeal the discriminatory language in our state constitution and pave the way to equality for all Wisconsin families.

Henry Sanders, Jr. is a Waunakee non-profit executive, small business owner, and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor whom party leaders and grassroots activists favored by a 2-to-1 margin at the recent Democratic Convention. Read more about Sanders’ job creation and economic development experience at


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17 thoughts on “Sanders: Marriage equality key to economic recovery

  1. If you want to attract businesses and tourists to our community CUT TAXES and spending. If someone wants to have a relationship with someone, let them find a church or Boat Captain to unite them. The Govt. doesn’t need to wander into this Gay Marriage issue. What a ridiculous idea to accomplish your pretend goal. Henry your as transparent as Silicone gel.

    1. The government wandered into this gay marriage issue long ago, first when they began sanctioning marriage, and then when they decided gay people couldn’t get married.

    2. Cut taxes and spending, you say. Okay. Great general thing to shout. But, what specifically should be cut? Roads? Schools? Jails? National Guard? Water treatment? Oil drill regulation? Only good things can happen if we cut all of those.

  2. First of all, I do support gay marriage as a matter of principle and equality (though my preference is for the state to get out of the marriage business entirely).

    That said, this argument, that it’s key to economic recovery is laughable and just plain idiotic. With unemployment as high as it is, employers ability to hire and retain high caliber employees has really never been higher.

    The next administration and legislature must work to repeal the discriminatory language in our state constitution and pave the way to equality for all Wisconsin families.

    Couldn’t help but notice that the voters who approved that amendment weren’t mentioned.

    If the Democrats want to push gay marriage, that’s great. But do so as a matter of equality. Making up silly arguments and justification such as this only makes you look dumb and turns away the moderates you need to convince in order to actually get it done.

    1. Well said Locke.

      Although I would argue that when it comes to equality the voters’ passage of an amendment banning same sex marriage is irrelevant. Just as it would be if a state were to pass a mixed race marriage prohibition.

      1. I would agree as well – for the most part, my comment on the voters was just me being argumentative. Though I’m mostly conservative, I was disappointed if not troubled by the referendum results. I certainly think the will of the people should be of major importance. But we’re a nation of laws, not opinions and the Constitution should be used to expand or guarantee the rights of the individual, not limit them. de Tocqueville was a smart guy – his “tyranny of the majority” might well apply.

    2. I agree. Freedom and equality are at the top of my considerations when voting, but this argument is outright bizarre.

  3. I’m all for marriage equality with all its rights and responsibilities, however I wouldn’t characterize this as the “key” to economic recovery. It would however be a contributor to economic vitality as experts like Richard Florida have stated in their analysis of the creative class and communities that are accepting of diversity.

    I’d also argue that if the government didn’t waste so much time and money fighting a losing battle on issues like this one, we’d be far ahead in being able to focus on and fight the real challenges to our economy at the state and national levels.

    As Larry the Cable Guy says “git r done”.

    1. As Larry the Cable Guy says “git r done”.

      It took a little bit, but for some reason just now the irony of quoting Larry the Cable guy in this context – in a thread on gay marriage rights. 🙂

  4. If equal benefits weren’t a factor in attracting and keeping talented workers, why do so many Fortune 500 companies do it? It’s certainly not a “fairness issue” for them!

    1. I agree with you that many Fortune 500 and other employers provide equal benefits and would encourage this to be a standard for any employer. An exception of note is Exxon Mobil, which eliminated domestic partnership benefits and a nondiscrimination policy held by Mobil employees after the company merged with Exxon. ( Another notable problem employer is Arizona, where right wing, Christian, anti-immigrant, family values queen, Jan Brewer, eliminated domestic partnership benefits 1 year after they were implemented under former Governor Napolitano. (

    2. “why do so many Fortune 500 companies do it” I would wager it has less to do with retaining and keeping talented workers than it does with attracting gay-friendly customers.”

      I think we can all agree that if a company like McDonalds didn’t have a anti-gay discrimination policy, it’s San Francisco sales would seriously suffer.

  5. It’s a shame when Des Moines and other random communities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois are doing a better job with the creative class than we are here in WI. And that definitely has a real economic impact – both short-term and long-term.

  6. Super ID Right ON!!! The Artistic, Decorators, and Hair stylists? Could that be the “creative Class” your referring too? Most Gay folks I know are regular folks who work on Road crews, or Bank execs, Govt. Employees or any one of the many diverse groups reflected in the “Non-Gay” community! Get over yourself MSNDem You sound like Jocelyn Elders! “We are loosing our best and Brightest” referring to AIDS in the early 90’s. As if the Gay community was somehow a more important slice of our community than everyone else.

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