Will gay marriage be a business boon?

Think tank estimates $66 million boost to Illinois’ economy

Sisters Lisa and Laurie Fulton support gay marriage from an equal rights perspective.

Now that a measure legalizing gay marriage in Illinois has passed, the owners of Events By L see it boosting business.

Since the law passed Nov. 5, the McHenry-based event planners have entered the initial stages of planning three weddings for same-sex couples. It’s an encouraging sign that the new legislation could provide an economic boost.

“We think it’s going to blossom even more so,” Laurie Fulton said. “We think it’s going to drive the business.”

Like the rest of the state, wedding-related businesses in McHenry County are starting to field interest from same-sex couples awaiting their first chance to wed in June, when the law goes into effect.

According to a study published before the law was passed by the Williams Institute, a UCLA School of law think tank, the economic impact will be significant.

The study estimated about 11,500 same-sex couples in Illinois would wed in the first three years of the law, bringing a $103 million boost to the state’s economy – $66 million in the first year. A more conservative estimate puts the three-year total at $54 million, the study said.

For Laurie and Lisa Fulton, who have worked with same-sex couples to plan commitment ceremonies in the past, the law opens a new door.

“We have a whole new market to tap into,” Lisa Fulton said.

John Regan, owner of Twisted Stem Floral in Crystal Lake, is similarly optimistic about what the new law will mean for his business.

Regan, a gay business owner who proudly sports a 4-foot “love is love” sign on the back of his car, said gauging the extent of McHenry County’s LGBT community can be difficult given its conservative tendencies.

But he’s excited to be a part of weddings for those who now can get married freely.

It brings a “whole new level of excitement to weddings and to spaces once you’re sort of freed up to reinvent the idea of the ceremony,” Regan said.

It’s unclear what will happen to businesses that aren’t as open to gay marriage.

The new law allows religious institutions and clergy to deny gay weddings, but it has left some room for interpretation when it comes to businesses. That means florists, event planners, jewelers and others who deny services to same-sex couples could need to gear up for legal battles.

That won’t be an issue for 31 North Banquet and Conference Center in McHenry, which has held commitment ceremonies in the past.

“We welcome all of our couples equally,” events coordinator Kathleen Rickerson said.

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