Writing Sample for Pilot Media Solutions / Virginian-Pilot

Photo Credit: Heather Hughes Photography

Photo Credit: Heather Hughes Photography

What is a family? Sure, it can be easily defined by Merriam-Webster. A search on Google can give us a definition or two, but it is more than “parents and children,” more than “common ancestors.”

For many in Hampton Roads, and across the United States, the term family was limited to that of a man and woman, and any children they may have. Times have changed, and the term “family” no longer holds those same limitations and includes so many more variables than ever before. On June 5, 2015, the legal definition of marriage changed to include same-sex couples, thus changing how we view families everywhere when the US Supreme Court formally struck down statutes denying marriage rights to same-sex individuals. UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute and the National Center for Transgender Equality estimated that 96,000 same-sex couples married in the four months following this decision.

According to The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), there are approximately 2.9% or about 183,545 adults living in Virginia that self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning. Between 2012 and 2014, Gallup Inc., the well-known public poll organization, conducted more than 370,000 tracking interviews of LGBTQ people. Gallup ranked the Virginia Beach-Norfolk Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) 12th (at 4.4 percent of our population) on the list of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas regarding the percentage of individuals who self-identify as LGBTQ.

Are refined roles in family good for the economy?

Wedding spending by those couples who married after the June 2015 decision and their out-of-state guests totaled an estimated $813 million and generated an estimated $52 million in state and local sales tax revenue. An economic study of the Commonwealth of Virginia estimated that extending marriage to same-sex couples in Virginia would generate up to $60 million in spending within the Commonwealth.

The economy is strengthened after the wedding cake is eaten as well. An increase in the housing market is also impacted.  When people get married, move in together and/or start a family, they usually buy stuff — and lots of it. “When people are happy, they tend to spend more money,” says Sarah Kate Ellis, president and Chief Executive of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a nonprofit organization founded by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the media. “Married couples also fill their new home with furniture and, often times, get new cars.” With DOMA overturned, gay couples can file joint income tax returns and claim the mortgage interest deduction as a married couple.

New ways of defining family create stability and value within LGBT communities

Today’s children represent the future and it is in the country’s best interest to support their development, regardless of whom they are parented by. Marriage, as an institution, helps to foster the well-being of children by providing married couples with various rights, benefits and protections which can strengthen relationship bonds and family units. Around the nation, there are millions of children being raised in households led by same-sex couples and are thriving every day.
Decades of research indicates marriage and being part of a family is good for you. “The research is clear, diverse and consistent,” according to Abby Rodman, a Boston-based psychotherapist.  “Those who marry have a much higher likelihood of living longer, being healthier and being happier. These benefits are exclusive to marriage.”

Families in Hampton Roads are no different. With organizations like the LGBT Life Center, resources and support are offered to everyone in the family by providing a safe space, resources, education and support for the entire community.