HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In Hawaii New Now's on-going coverage of the same-sex marriage debate, a noted University of Hawaii economist has crunched the numbers on the cost and benefits of legalizing gay marriage.
The independent study estimates the passage of same-sex marriage could net more than $250,000,000 in additional spending for the state.
UH economics professor Sumner La Croix previously studied the economic effect of civil unions here. In this newly-released report dated February 5th, 2013, he took that one step further to review the financial impact of same-sex marriage.
Hawaii is already considered a dream wedding destination for heterosexual couples, but this independent review shows enacting marriage equality here could mean hundreds of millions in added tourism revenue. "Expanding the market in this way would be a significant boon to Hawaii's economy," says Lauren Gabriel, a UH law student who co-authored the report.
They found, if same-sex marriage is adopted, the state could see huge increases in visitor spending – estimated between $46 million and $258 million, depending on various scenarios, over the 2014 to 2016 period.
Gabriel continues, " … same-sex couples from other states coming here, the amount they spend on their trip here. The amount all of their guests spend and guests from other states who come to Hawaii to witness the same-sex marriage of Hawaii residents."
Their numbers include, what the team refers to as, "the multiplier effect" - money coming into the state to pay for wedding planners, photographers, venues, etc. that will, in turn, stay in Hawaii, as those vendors buy other goods and services here.
That would be a double bonus for photographer Renea Stewart and her partner, Lisa Veneri - who believe gay marriage would bring in big business. "There are a lot of people waiting for that to happen," says Veneri. "When it does happen, I'm sure there will be a windfall of people." "Yeah, absolutely," adds Stewart, "… which, by the way, I'm available for photography!" she says with a laugh.
In terms of cost, researchers found same-sex marriage will not likely lead to substantial increases in employee health insurance expenditures for public or private employers – which is a concern for some opponents.
The team also reports, in the nine states and DC where same-sex marriage is now legal, they found no evidence of a decline in tourism that could be traced to gay marriage.
The UH researchers are planning to submit their report to the state legislature - where lawmakers are considering two bills on marriage equality.
If you'd like to read more on the findings or methodology, you can log onto the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii (UHERO) website: http://www.uhero.hawaii.edu. Enter "marriage equality" in the search field.