UH: Gay marriage in Hawaii worth $217M in tourism

UH economic analysis: Tourism boost worth $217M over 3 years if gay marriage legal in Hawaii

Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- A new economic analysis from the University of Hawaii says legalizing gay marriage in the state would boost tourism by $217 million over the next three years.

The study from the university's Economic Research Organization says that would boost state and local general excise tax revenues by $10.2 million from 2014 through 2016.

Previous estimates on the effect gay marriage would have on tourism were less specific because two U.S. Supreme Court cases were pending.

The study's author, professor Sumner LaCroix, said the recent decisions that affirmed federal benefits for married same-sex couples and rejected a law that halted gay marriages in California now give a clearer picture, but the issue is time sensitive because of pent-up demand for same-sex marriage.

"If Hawaii waits to adopt same-sex marriage, it will not realize these gains," LaCroix said in the analysis. "They will be lost forever, diverted to other states that recognize marriage equality."

Since the Supreme Court rulings last month, advocates of gay marriage have been pushing for a special session in Hawaii to push for more than the civil union law that is already in place. But legislators from the House and Senate told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this week they don't have the two-thirds support needed to call themselves back into session, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not signaled whether he will call for a special session on his own.

A proposed constitutional amendment died in committee in the House earlier this year, while a Senate resolution passed asking for more study on the issue.

The Legislature reconvenes its regular session in January.

Most of the added visitor spending would come from couples from other U.S. states that have legalized gay marriage who might plan a destination wedding or honeymoon in Hawaii, LaCroix said. He estimated $166 million would be spent on marriage ceremonies and honeymoons.

LaCroix said nearly 2,000 same-sex couples living in Hawaii could be married by the end of 2016.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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