When Suze Orman, renowned financial advisor and host of CNBC’s “The Suze Orman Show,” hosted a conference call in April on the financial burdens imposed on LGBT couples due to marriage inequality, her guidance was practical, sensible and matter-of-fact.
One of Orman’s most exuberant suggestions was an actual migration to recognition. Orman advised LGBT couples to move to states that are establishing safe zones and honing in on LGBT-friendly policies and practices. The simplicity and eloquence with which she addressed the matter made the notion seem inconsequential in theory — but the aftermath would cause a substantial shift in state economies. In practice, the theory would have drastic social and economic implications for both straight and LGBT individuals alike.
Orman encouraged same-sex couples to move to states that have already legalized and recognize LGBT marriage. The mass influx to these states would result in a shift she has coined “The Great LGBT Migration.” While the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, is what many advocates, including Orman, believe to be inevitable, its demise will not be the end of anti-LGBT discrimination, as LGBT individuals will still be vulnerable to inequality perpetuated at the state level.
But, should the general public, and LGBT couples in particular, choose to follow Orman’s advice, we can expect to witness one of two possible outcomes: Either states that are not LGBT-friendly will be alienated and become even less willing to accommodate LGBT citizens, or the LGBT migration will provide a firm nudge in the right direction.
The less-desirable outcomes would result from the already-inadequate advocacy presence in notoriously “anti-LGBT” states leaving. Having millions of LGBT individuals relocate would be akin to having the most intelligent students leaving certain states for states with better colleges. If this happened, you will essentially have the best and the brightest in one place, and the less-qualified college hopefuls would remain in the states with less prestigious schools. A “Great LGBT Migration” could essentially polarize the dynamic of equality among states that foster tolerance and acceptance, and those that have yet to embrace against a 21st-century notion of equality.
However, a “Great LGBT Migration” could also develop a very public stage on which anti-LGBT marriage legislators could see the positive effects that legalizing the institution could yield. LGBT marriage creates new markets for business in both private and public sectors, so passing it would be beneficial in more than just a social sense. LGBT couples taking their businesses and livelihood to states that permit same-sex marriage would rip economic opportunities away from prejudicial states and hand them to states that value equality.
This fact may be becoming more evident to policymakers in states on the precipice of passing LGBT marriage; Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota have all recently approved same-sex marriage laws. When Massachusetts became the first state to codify marriage equality in 2003, it took nearly five full years before Connecticut followed suit. But now, over the course of two weeks, these three states joined the ranks of nine others (and the District of Columbia) that have taken this momentous step towards LGBT equality.
Why is it best practice for policymakers to step up and pass equality? In short, it’s good business, and having all of our best business-minded individuals polarized to certain states would create unequal state economic growth.
Currently, businesses comply with a patchwork of state and local laws that prohibit discrimination, which is why Orman suggests the move to the progressive-minded states. However, overpopulating the areas will not bring uniformity or clarity to the legal employment landscape.
Orman’s assertion and promotion of a “Great LGBT Migration” could be hit or miss; it could polarize support for LGBT marriage through the development of purely “LGBT-friendly” and “anti-LGBT” states, or it could pressure states to further advocate for marriage equality in order to maintain the LGBT community as both consumers and residents.
Orman’s goal is for LGBT couples to move to states that recognize marriage equality but that is not a solution to the big-picture problems. LGBT individuals relocating their lives is not the answer. The true work will lie in pushing states to adopt pro-LGBT laws through advocacy and policy reform. The goal is for every LGBT marriage to be legalized, regardless of what state the couple lives in.