Date set for civil union signing ceremony

Francis Duran
Francis Duran
Francis Duran and Jim Slatkavitz
Francis Duran and Jim Slatkavitz

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The suspense is gone. Governor Neil Abercrombie promised he would sign the civil union bill into law and now he's set a date for the ceremony. The Governor will make it official Thursday afternoon at 1:00.

So what are some of the economic impacts when the bill goes into effect on January 1?

Civil union benefits could save couples money but in some cases it could cost them as well.  According to research by University of Hawaii at Manoa economics professors Sumner La Croix and Kimberly Burnett fewer than 2,000 couples will actually be joined by civil unions in the next six years.  They also conclude civil unions will have "a minimal impact on any aspect of Hawaii's economy and state government operations."

However the impact on gay couples is profound.

"When my partner of 22 years was without a job I actually had to get him separate health insurance policy because my employer did not recognize him as part of my family," said Francis Duran, Aloha Technical Solutions Sales Manager.

That cost quite a bit of money but after becoming law civil union couples will qualify for their partner's health benefits.  But actually the researchers say that will only apply to about 40 couples because most people in civil unions already have jobs with their own benefits.

However where it will affect more couples is on hospital visits.  Duran and his partner Jim Slatkavitz have been together since 1989, but when Slatkavitz was diagnosed with cancer, Duran still had to get power of attorney in order to have a say in his partner's health decisions.

"In the event he wouldn't pull through on the surgery or something serious would happen and he wouldn't be coherent then I would be his spokesperson," said Duran. "Doctors and nurses were very compassionate, but they didn't know how to deal with us because we were a gay couple."

Equal rights also includes the negatives.  Civil unions could actually cost couples money.  In some cases couples could end up paying more in state income taxes when they file jointly rather than if they were single it's the so called marriage tax and it would also apply to a civil union tax penalty.  But for Francis Duran and Jim Slatkavitz it's a tax they'll gladly pay.

"We will be treated as a normal taxpaying citizen of Hawaii," said Duran.

A marriage license is $60.  A civil union license should be the same and would bring in about $120,000 to the state budget.  The report also estimates between 4,000 to 8,000 civil unions from out of state visitors as well which could bring in another $480,000.

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