Economic Benefits of Legalizing Same-sex Marriages in Hawai’i

girls2Legalizing same-sex marriages in Hawaii has been a major topic in the news, with opposing sides strongly voicing their opinions.  The statement that same-sex marriages can benefit Hawaii’s economy has been mentioned in various articles on the web.  However this statement was not backed up by substantial evidence, other than one study done by the economics department of University of Hawaii at Manoa.  If there is substantial proof to show that Hawaii’s economic situation will improve, we should legalize same-sex marriages for this reason.

In the study done by Sumner La Croix and Lauren Gabriel from the University of Hawaii,  they projected $217 million over the next two years if same-sex marriages were legalized.  The revenue projected is due to the high demand for states and locations that allow these marriages.  Hawaii is already a location for destination weddings that drive millions of visitors to our state.  Last year the state of Hawaii had 15,004 weddings in which both the bride and groom were non-residents.  There are 646,464 same-sex couples in the U.S. but only about 50,000 same-sex couples have married, according to the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.  By legalizing same-sex marriages, there will be an increase in couples and guests that arrive for these weddings.  Money would be spent in the state for hotel costs, venue costs, and plane fares.  Additional money would be spent at local businesses for meals, flowers, cakes, and photographers.  This money would stay in Hawaii, as the vendors buy from other local businesses.  More revenue would be generated from honeymoons to Hawaii by these couples.  According to rankings done by U.S. News, Maui ranks as the #1 best honeymoon destination, followed by Kauai at #2, Lanai at #3, the Big Island at #8, and Oahu at #11.

In New York, one of the states that allow same-sex marriages, just in the first year alone $259 million dollars were generated for New York City’s economy.  Out of the 75,000 marriage licenses that have been issued in New York City from July 24, 2011 to July 16, 2012, approximately 10% were from same-sex marriages.  In other states that allow same sex marriages, such as Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, they also had increases by millions of dollars in revenue from wedding costs and tourism spending.  These states are not huge tourist attractions but yet they still have had millions flow into their state economies.  Could it even be possible that we generate more income then New York in the first year alone?  Although the study by La Croiz and Gabriel estimates $217 over two years, it could possibly be even more if we take into account Hawaii’s appeal as a destination.

Hawaii is one of the few states that do recognize civil unions in same-sex couples.  However they are not afforded all of the same rights as married couples.  Although Hawaii state workers that are in civil unions receive benefits from their partner, federal workers are not.  The Office of Personal Management made the announcement that the Obama administration will not extend eligibility for most federal benefit programs to couples involved in civil unions.  Only same-sex couples who are legally married are allowed to receive those benefits.  Thus this leaves the problem up to the states whether or not to allow same-sex marriages.

In a study done by the Williams Institute of UCLA, they found that by offering health benefits for federal workers to their same-sex partners, it would generate an additional $41 million to the federal budget in just the first year alone.  It is projected that $675 million would be generated over the following 10 years.  If Hawaii allows same-sex marriages it would allow coverage of federal benefits for health insurance(health, dental, and vision), group life insurance, and retirement savings programs to their families.  When changing from a single coverage plan to a family plan, your premium increases.  The government’s premium for family health care coverage is $4,600 per year for federal workers and $5,244 for postal workers.  The premiums paid are majority of the revenue that would be generated for the federal budget.  Not only would this benefit our budget, it would also improve the quality of healthcare services received by these families.

Legalization of marriages would also allow non-federal workers who are in same-sex relationships, health benefits from their spouse.  This could prove to boost the state and federal budgets by lowering the amount of money that would be spent on assistance programs.  The Congressional Budget Office did an analysis of the potential effects on the budget, due to same-sex marriages in 2004. The analysis showed that if gay marriages were legalized in all 50 states, it would greatly reduce government spending on Medicaid, Medicare, and Supplemental Security Income.  In the study it concluded that “legalization of same-sex marriages would save the Supplemental Security Income program about $100 million a year by 2014”.  This is due to the fact that married couples are more likely to support each other financially and with shared benefits. Although it is highly unlikely that all 50 states will legalize same-sex marriage, the states that do will see a decrease in state and federal spending.

Hawaii could also see similar increases in the state budget by decreasing the amount of money spent on state run healthcare plans and welfare benefits.  In another study that was conducted by UCLA’s Williams Institute, it showed that by legalizing gay marriage in Maine, they reduced their spending on welfare and state health plans for children and adults.  The projected total savings was approximately $7.3 million.  This allowed the state to have “freed-up” moneys that could be used to help other needy families.

Although the projected revenue from the UH Manoa study is just an estimate, the estimated numbers seem plausible.  There is significant data from the other states that have legalized same-sex marriages, that show that it has a positive benefit on their economies from wedding revenue.   Studies that have been conducted by government agencies have shown that it can be beneficial in reducing state and federal spending.  Additional monies would be added to the federal budget from family premiums paid for healthcare.  It appears that there can be many positive benefits for Hawaii’s economy if we decide to legalize same-sex marriages.  Any money that we can either generate or save by reducing our spending would help to close the state deficit.  For this reason, I support the legalization of same-sex marriages because in the end it will benefit all of us  who reside here in Hawaii.

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