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Business

Same-sex marriage law in Australia has wedding sector in a swoon

New law will encourage gays to marry in-country while luring those from abroad

SYDNEY -- Australia's wedding industry has welcomed legalization of same-sex marriage, as high-earning gay couples are expected to lift the market by 10%.

The revised marriage law came into force on Dec. 9. The first same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot in January 2018.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) analysis believes that legalization will also lure same-sex couples from outside Australia for their nuptials, helping the overall economy. ANZ expects an estimated 650 million Australian dollars ($497 million) in economic benefits over the next year.

The country's A$6.3 billion wedding market, in particular, is anticipating new opportunities as opposite-sex couples are increasingly eschewing splashy ceremonies. Same-sex couples are seen as more likely to have higher incomes than their opposite-sex counterparts and are less likely to have children, implying greater disposable income.

Jewelry, restaurant, hotel and other related sectors, as well as state governments which will see an increase in revenues from marriage licenses, are among the beneficiaries of the change.

According to ANZ, the news means that "a small boost to consumer confidence is possible given that recent polls show most Australians support marriage equality."

Australia joins the club

The same-sex marriage bill passed on Dec. 7, making Australia one of more than 20 countries in the world to legalize these marriages. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed his excitement in Canberra, saying, "What a day in history. ...You have all the rights that everyone else has had for so long. Now we're all at one."

Three days before the bill's passage, Liberal Party member Tim Wilson proposed to his partner, school teacher Ryan Bolger, in the public gallery during a debate on the bill in the lower house of the Australian parliament. "Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?" asked Wilson. 

Bolger answered, "Yes," after which the chamber broke out in applause.

According to the 2016 census, there were about 46,800 same-sex couples in Australia, up 39% from the previous census conducted in 2011. Previously, many same-sex couples headed to neighboring New Zealand, where gay marriage is legal, to get married. Last year, Australian couples comprised 29% of same-sex marriages in New Zealand.

Now that Australia has green-lighted same-sex marriages, the number of couples seeking to wed is expected to rise.

Win-win for all

The government of the eastern state of Queensland, home to Cairns and other popular tourist spots, is anticipating a growth in same-sex couples from overseas visiting for honeymoons.

Jennifer Westacott, CEO of Business Council of Australia, an industry association comprising Australia's major companies, said in a Nov. 16 interview with national broadcaster ABC that gay marriage legalization would have a positive effect on corporate society as a whole. She said that Australian businesses "want to have inclusive and diverse workplaces."

Westacott herself has publicly stated that she has a same-sex partner.

There are some hopes that the new marriage system would enhance social stability. Australian Marriage Equality, a lobbying group which has campaigned for same-sex marriage, described marriage as "an effective welfare safety net."

It pointed to the greater self-reliance of married partners, citing studies that showed that married partners -- including married same-sex partners -- are less likely to seek welfare than unmarried partners or singles in times of personal crisis, such as loss of a job.

Legalization of same-sex marriage is a rare success for the Turnbull administration, the approval ratings of which are low amid a string of scandals, including the resignation of lawmakers over dual citizenship issues.

The change may trigger a marriage boom, giving both the administration and economy a lift.

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