Millennials get a bad rap in society. Economists worry that those of us born between 1980 and 2000 are not getting married or buying houses. Our elders have called us “the Selfie” and “Me” generation. We’re connected. We access worldwide information, news and data with a tap. We’re competing with peers around the globe for jobs post-graduation. We have student loan debt. We’re more open-minded than our parents. We’re not afraid of lesbians.

In 2011, more than 70 percent of Millennials surveyed considered marriage between two men or two women legitimate. This number represents beliefs of young people on both sides of the American political spectrum: 61 percent of young Republicans and 77 percent of young Democrats. Today, laws in 14 out of the 50 states do not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Millennials. Many states have recently amended their state constitutions to prevent gay and lesbian marriages. This past November, just 21.3 percent of Millennials voted in the 2014 midterm elections.

Statistically, it’s older generations, especially males, that are pushing for same-sex marriage prohibition. Though the majority of young Republicans support same sex-marriage, just 40 percent of all Republicans do. Men are also less likely to approve of same-sex marriage than women. The demographic with the most members against same sex-marriage is men over 50. As of 2011, only 35 percent of this group approved of legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. This difference of viewpoints is more than just political; it’s generational.

Same-sex marriage isn’t the first sociopolitical issue that has divided generations. Regardless of whether or not our parents are U.S. natives, they grew up in an entirely different country. American women were denied the right to vote until 1920. Discrimination in the workplace was largely overlooked from a legal standpoint until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It wasn’t even until 1967 that the Supreme Court deemed anti-interracial marriage laws unconstitutional. Four percent of the population of the United States identifies as LGBTQ. Millennials are done pretending that lesbians and gays don’t exist.

Same-sex marriage prohibition is hurting Michigan’s economy. Millennials know that preventing same-sex marriage isn’t fiscally conservative. In 2012, 56,315 couples got married in Michigan. Because same-sex marriage is banned in Michigan, they were all straight couples. These marriages account for just 96 percent of the population. Although four percent may seem like a small number, it’s not. The average American wedding costs $25,200. Michigan missed out on 2,346 potential gay weddings in 2012.

What a buzzkill.

If Michigan had allowed for gay weddings in 2012, our gross state product could have increased by $59,119,200. The state of Michigan could have had an additional approximate $3.5 million in sales tax alone in 2012 by allowing gay weddings. Similarly, same-sex marriage legalization could raise enough money to pay the salaries of 69 salt truck drivers in Michigan every year.

Another outdated “conservative” argument against same-sex marriage is income tax evasion. In the late 1940s, income tax breaks for marriage encouraged couples to marry and file taxes jointly. Social “conservatives” argue that if same-sex marriage is legalized, the sanctity of marriage will diminish because some will marry simply to cheat the IRS. However, this is not accurate. Today, joint filing doesn’t offer much of a marital discount, especially if two partners have similar incomes. The average American woman makes $30,000 per year, and the average lesbian woman makes $38,000. The average straight man $48,000, and the average gay man $47,000. Same-sex couples make more than straight couples. Married couples typically only see a marriage discount, as opposed to filing individually, if there is a wage gap between the couple.

According to IRS tax brackets as of 2014, and average incomes, the average lesbian couple and the average gay couple would save very little when marrying and filing jointly. The average straight couple would save $690 per year. LGBTQ Americans, especially lesbians, are eliminating the gender pay gap. Income taxes cannot be evaded through fraudulent gay and lesbian marriages.

The majority of men over 50 in this country are against same-sex marriage, and it’s not because of fiscal conservatism. The roots to this lack of acceptance stem from somewhere else: religion and a historically understandable threat of workplace competition. Statistically, while modern American men still have higher average incomes than women, the difference is nowhere near what it used to be. Throughout the past 50 years, women, especially lesbians, have come far in increasing their incomes relative to men. Since the 1960s, the gender pay gap has decreased by about 20 percent.

When women entered the workforce, especially into moderate- to high-paying occupations throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, labor supply increased. Competition for jobs increased. An increase in income and employment for women meant a relative decrease in employment and income for men. Lesbians are leading women as far as income equality, which is why men, especially those older than 50, must be afraid of them. Household income used to be largely generated by straight men, but now gay households lead straight households in average income. Is voting against same-sex marriage part of an effort to repress the competition?

“Conservatives” will not win another presidential election until traditional marriage rhetoric is abandoned. Socially “conservative” Republicans are wasting breath and losing young voters over a non-conservative sociopolitical issue about which Millennials have already made up their minds. Same-sex marriage advocates are being born everyday, while traditional marriage advocates were born 50 years ago. The United States became a nation because colonists wanted freedom from state-forced religion, and yet in 2015, states are lacing religious definitions of marriage into their constitutions to fight a battle that has already been lost. It’s clear that traditional marriage advocates are either intimidated by independent, financially stable women or simply hate the idea of having 69 extra salt trucks in Michigan.

Lauren Richmond can be reached at lerichmo@umich.edu.

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