JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the midst of an ongoing battle to decide whether or not Florida's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, a new report says the Sunshine state could start seeing millions of dollars poured into the economy if gay couples are allowed to marry.
A UCLA Williams Institute study says letting same-sex couples marry legally in Florida would mean an estimated $182 million boost to the state economy with $117 million in the first year alone. The report also predicts up to 2,600 jobs would be created with more same-sex couples having weddings and celebrations.
Several same-sex couples in Jacksonville say they have been holding out planning their wedding to see if the ban is lifted. Last October Dawn Mathews and Melody Choate got engaged.
"Before I asked her I went through all of that in my head," said Mathews.
Mathews is talking about how difficult it would be to plan two ceremonies, a real one in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, and a fake one in their hometown so all their friends and family members can attend.
"That fact that we'd have to go to New York before or after and have one wedding be fake; some family can't see that it's pretty frustrating," said Choate.
Choate already picked out her dress on the popular TLC show 'Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.' The couple also says they'd spend thousands of dollars right here in Jacksonville, if they could say "I Do" legally.
"We would love the opportunity to give back to our community that has given us these memories we'd like to spend our money here, not elsewhere," added Choate.
Several business owners in the wedding industry say they would welcome the wave of new clientele.
"We would expect that to be a positive for our business," said Jeff Guy, owner of 3 Sisters Chocolate and Bakery in Mandarin.
Guy says during peak months he usually has to hire outside chefs to help with orders. He says more weddings means more cakes and more business means more chefs he needs to hire.
"Definitely, if we saw steady demand beyond the peaks or higher peaks that we normally see, we definitely would consider that," said Guy.
But Matt Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, an organization that opposes gay marriage, said in statement:
"The UCLA report is pure propaganda. There is no evidence same-sex marriage results in sustained economic impact. Everywhere same-sex marriage has been adopted the fact is very few males marry. And same-sex marriages are notoriously short lived, resulting in a high level of divorce. Divorce creates negative economic impact and is the quickest way to poverty. Instead of deconstructing marriage, we should work to promote and strengthen natural marriage."
Four county circuit court judges have overturned Florida's same-sex marriage ban in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The Attorney General has issued a stay on those rulings until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states have a right to ban gay marriage.