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Same-sex weddings usher equality — and economics

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With due respect to both Bruce Springsteen and Gov. Chris Christie, where would you rather get married, New Jersey or Hawaii?

As Hawaii this week edges toward making gay marriage legal here, it is time to look not at the philosophical, historical or political effects, but more crassly, at how much money same-sex marriage will bring to Hawaii.

According to a report prepared this summer, the answer is an extra $217 million between 2014 and 2016.

As more states join the list of states allowing same-sex marriage — New Jersey is the latest — there is an economic aspect to Hawaii’s upcoming legislative action.

The new report was prepared by Sumner La Croix with the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and Lauren Gabriel, with the UH law school (

The pair updated an earlier report to say that same-sex marriages would be a big economic driver, not because of local gay couples getting married, but because of mainland demand.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are 3,262 same-sex couples in Hawaii.

But getting gay couples from the mainland to wed in Hawaii would be worth a lot more.

La Croix and Gabriel reason that gay couples would come to Hawaii to get married in the same numbers as opposite-sex couples.

The data shows that in 2012, the average visitor coming to Hawaii to get married spent $259 a day and stayed for a little more than 10 days.

So the pair looked at the states that now allow same-sex marriage as the pool for possible new marriage customers. That would bring in an extra $166 million in the 2014-2016 time frame.

Adding in all the states would bring the total take up to $217 million.

For state and local government, that could generate an additional $10 million in general excise taxes collected. Even the state Health Department would make out, as an extra $183,000 could be expected in marriage license fees.

Of course all economic studies must include an "on the other hand" caveat, and this study comes with a caution.

"The substantial size of some of our visitor spending estimates is based on pent-up demand," the study notes. It figures 10 percent of gay couples in same-sex marriage states will get married in the first three years of the new laws.

After that, gay couples will go to states allowing gay marriage for their wedding and honeymoon.

"No same-sex couple on the U.S. mainland is waiting for Hawaii to recognize same-sex marriage before they marry," the report warned.

As if to emphasize the timelessness of the demand, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak recently went to Chicago to pitch for gay couples to get married in his city after a new Minnesota law allowed same-sex unions.

Rybak showed off the campaign in Chicago’s well-known gay district, "Boystown." It prompted a response from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who complained that the reluctance of the Illinois legislature to approve same-sex marriage "is bad for Chicago, bad for Illinois, and bad for our local economy and the jobs it creates."

So in one sense, the question is not one of equality, but one that asks: Do gay couples want to celebrate in Newark or Hana?


Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

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