Right before the feather boa hit the fan, the Columbia Free Times ran a cover story on the money South Carolina is losing from the gay community.

“Gay and lesbian buying power reached $690 billion in 2007 and likely will top $712 billion in 2008,” says an article published in this month’s edition of Gay Business Report.

As it follows, the degree to which a community and state welcome or reject non-heterosexuals translates into a very real-world impact on the economy of that location.

For South Carolina — its dominant mores fostering a virtual hate state for gays and lesbians — it means opportunity lost. And if for no other reason, amid recessionary times, skyrocketing gasoline prices and economic development struggles, the financial toll of South Carolina’s anti-gay culture is important to consider.

An estimated 67,000 or so gay couples will flock to the state to get married, says an ABC News report June 11, six days before California began issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

“Spending by resident same-sex couples on their weddings, and by out-of-state couples on tourism and their weddings, will boost California’s economy by over $683.6 million in direct spending” over the next three years, the ABC story says, quoting the Williams Institute research.

With tourism the No. 1 industry in South Carolina, the prevailing impression of the state in the GLBT community amounts to a death knell.

“There’s almost a sense of, you could get killed there,” says Ray Drew, director of South Carolina Equality, a group that works to equalize GLBT rights in the state.

The state should give pause to the dynamic, Shaw says. “I think South Carolina ought to think very directly about this economic impact because of our major industry of tourism,” he says.