Businesspeople speak up on potential impact of civil unions - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Businesspeople speak up on potential impact of civil unions in Hawaii

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Kehau Hiona Kehau Hiona
Dennis Arakaki Dennis Arakaki

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor is on her way back to Hawaii and a civil unions bill that is now in her hands.

Her office says she has a lot to consider before deciding if she will veto it and local businesses are watching carefully.

Many businesses we spoke say it's still too early to tell how they'll be affected, but they do agree on one thing, whether big or small, there will be some sort of impact.

In this recession, businesses like Pet's Central are just trying to weather the storm.

But they do see a silver lining in those dark clouds, civil unions one step away from becoming law.

"We have a lot of gay families and gay couples that have nowhere to go because sometimes they're mistreated, this is an opportunity for them to come to a place that accepts them for who they are," Pet's Central store manager Kehau Hiona said.

Pet's Central, which has six stores across Oahu, admits that business is usually slow during this time of year, but it's been especially hard because more and more people are cutting back on things they want, such as pets.

The civil unions bill may give them that needed relief.

"I think in general for all businesses regardless if its retail or anything to do with tourism, I think it's perfect, I think its helpful because it's a niche the tourism industry can fulfill," Hiona said.

But opponents say it will cripple small businesses who will have to pay extra costs, such as healthcare for spouses.

"There's a potential for great cost to a business, because we know there's lots of people living together who don't want to get married, but now it gives them all the benefits of marriage , without having to get married," civil unions opponent Dennis Arakaki said.

Arakaki also says people covered under the state's Reciprocal Beneficiary Act, which provides benefits for people in unmarried relationships not covered by civil unions, may sue because of claims they're being discriminated against.

"I guess the troubling thing is that we don't know what the cost will be to employers and given the down economy I'm not sure if they're aware of this coming and it would come soon, it would take effect as soon as the governor signs it," Arakaki said.

The governor has 45 days to veto it, sign it or allow civil unions to become law without her signature.

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