Gay marriage: Eight things for better, for worse

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MPs debate plans, opposed by many religious groups, for same-sex marriage next week. Ahead of that occasion, the government has published its assessment of the possible wider impacts. Here are eight ways it believes the bill might change things:

1. Economic stimulus

Lavish spending often accompanies a wedding, and so a large increase in the number of marriages taking place each year would create a significant boost to certain parts of the economy.

Beneficiaries might include ceremony venues, cake manufacturers, function band agencies, and hoteliers.

The government estimates the total economic stimulus could be as much as £14.4m - but thinks it is more likely to be closer to £0.

"As the demand for same-sex marriage is uncertain, and because these economic benefits are not guaranteed to be additional (for example, the spending on a civil partnership or marriage ceremony may not be additional if the couple and guests cut back on spending in other areas), we use zero benefit as our best estimate," it explains.

2. Transgender spouses and the law

Also facing increased demand for its services is the Gender Recognition Panel, which furnishes transgender people with certificates documenting their gender transitions.

At present, it is impossible for a member of a married couple to change gender and remain legally married.

So the government is anticipating a "noticeable increase" in the panel's workload as "those who may have changed gender some years ago but decided not to apply for legal recognition, since they wished to remain in their existing marriage", adapt to the change in the law.

3. Health benefits

During its consultation on same-sex marriages, the government received evidence from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which said lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (LGB) people experience more mental health problems and a greater likelihood of drug addiction than heterosexuals.

Ministers believe that discrimination against LGB people partially accounts for this phenomenon.

The removal of discrimination against same-sex couples in the current legal definition of marriage, the government argues, might therefore improve public health.

4. IT upgrades

A number of Whitehall departments will need to tweak their computer systems to enable them to administer services properly to same-sex married couples.

The biggest impact will be felt at the Home Office, which oversees the registration of marriages, civil partnerships, births and deaths.

The government estimates that necessary changes to its online registration system will cost £2m.

Lower costs will fall on the Department for Work and Pensions, which will need to adapt its systems to cope with changes to pension entitlements, and the Ministry of Justice, which will need to alter the courts' "FamilyMan" IT system.

5. Tourism boost

If the government's plans become law, the UK will join a select group of 12 countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

The Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association told the government in its consultation to prepare for a "modest boost" in tourism as a consequence.

"We are aware that same-sex couples from the UK travel to places like Canada to get married because they prefer this to a civil partnership. We expect that if marriage is open to same-sex couples in England and Wales, couples especially from elsewhere in Europe will come here to get married here," it said.

6. Re-training registrars

Those who will be conducting same-sex marriages will need to get to grips with the new system.

The government assumes that they will need between two and seven hours' training each - "time which could have been spent on other tasks", it notes.

7. Who to tell and how

"Currently, if a person discloses that they are in a civil partnership rather than a marriage, they automatically disclose their sexual orientation," the government says.

People in same-sex marriages will have greater discretion over how, when, or whether to divulge this information.

Recent research suggests that one in five LGB people think they have been harassed at work because of their sexual orientation, the government says.

8. Societal benefits

Same-sex marriages might encourage greater acceptance of same-sex couples in society, the government believes.

This would be good for society as a whole, ministers have concluded, by helping to create "a more inclusive society where there is more choice and acceptance".

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