July 24, 2012 9:11 pm

New York counts returns from gay marriage

Legal gay marriage has generated $259m in benefits for New York City’s economy over the past year as same-sex couples spent money on custom-made suits and gowns, catering and flowers and their guests flocked to hotels and restaurants.

A new survey by New York’s tourism agency found the city has issued 8,200 licenses for same-sex marriage, more than 10 per cent of the 75,000 total issued since the state’s marriage equality act went into effect on July 24 2011.

An estimated 296,500 guests – 200,000 from outside the city – attended a same-sex wedding, Michael Bloomberg, mayor, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“I did more than one,” he said, turning to Christine Quinn, the city council speaker who wed her long-time partner in May. “Thank you for including me.”

Ms Quinn said: “I hope people who think that marriage equality was somehow going to cause the end of the world see it has done quite the opposite. It has put people to work, helped restaurants, helped catering halls.”

Gay marriages created $16m in direct revenues for city businesses, including 32,000 announcements and invitations printed and 46,000 wedding favours sold, the survey said.

Couples spent an average of $9,039 on their weddings, with 30 per cent spending $10,000 or more. Hotels were among the biggest beneficiaries, as visitors booked 235,900 overnight stays at an average rate of $275 a night.

“There is no question, our wedding business is probably up 20 per cent with same-sex marriage,” said Liz Neumark, chief executive of Great Performances. Her company catered one of the city’s first such celebrations a year ago, when Mr Bloomberg officiated at the wedding of two long-time staffers.

Ms Neumark said the summer – always a popular time for weddings – has been even busier this year. “We would typically have seen that on some of these summer weekends we could start to take a break and that hasn’t happened.”

Nic Faitos, senior partner at Starbright Floral Design, said his business had seen a jump in the past year. Starbright and Great Performances were among a host of companies that partnered with the city in a campaign to promote New York as a wedding destination.

“Marriage equality has made our city more open, inclusive and free,” Mr Bloomberg said. “And it has done that while also creating jobs and supporting our economy. In other words, it’s a win for everybody.”

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