Yet another academic study says civil unions have more positive impact on state economies and budgets than negative.

The latest study, detailed in a 10-page memo Monday by UCLA’s Williams Institute, was conducted at the request of the ACLU of Hawaii and state Rep. Blake Oshiro.

Oshiro, a Democrat, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 444, the civil unions measure that awaits action by Gov. Linda Lingle.

The Williams Institute conducts research on sexual orientation law and public policy.

The new report is authored by Naomi G. Goldberg, R. Bradley Sears and M. V. Lee Badgett, nationally recognized experts in the field.

“Extending same-sex unions to different-sex and same-sex couples in Hawaii will positively boost the economy of the state through increased spending and job creation, will attract highly educated and talented members of the ‘creative class,’ will increase the ability of businesses to recruit and retain employees, and will generate revenue for the state,” the report concludes.

Jeffrey Hong, vice president of the ACLU of Hawaii and head of Microsoft Consulting Services in the state, said vetoing HB 444 would actually hurt local businesses.

“Education, imagination and a solid work ethic form the raw resources of the IP industry,” he said. “Diversity is the fertilizer of this environment. Microsoft has resources dedicated to increasing workforce diversity because it is viewed as a competitive advantage.”

Hong continued: “It is a real disadvantage to be located in a place where the protections of civil unions are lacking. We are competing with Boston, Seattle, LA, and the Bay Area for the same resources who are free to locate their businesses anywhere. How do I convince talented gay persons from these areas to come to Hawaii when they will be losing protections for their families?”

The Williams Institute report found that “the costs to the state of Hawaii implementing HB 444 would be minimal,” based on the states that have implemented civil unions, including Connecticut and New Jersey.
Because civil unions would encourage more local business to “adopt favorable corporate policies” toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees — e.g., non-discrimination policies and domestic-partner benefits — research shows the policies “improve productivity” of current employees.

“Businesses in states with legal recognition of same-sex couples do not report experiencing  significant costs as a result of such recognition,” the study concludes. “Studies of employers who recognize same-sex couples find that there is generally a 0.3 to 1 percent increase in enrollment when   employers offer same‐sex partner benefits and a 1.3 to 1.8 percent increase when benefits are offered only to different-sex couples.”

Goldberg, Sears and Badgett estimate between 569 and 1,285 same-sex couples in Hawaii will enter civil unions in the first four years that registration is available.

Over 20 studies conducted during the past 10 years, including by state governments and the Congressional Budget  Office, suggest that  HB 444 will have “positive fiscal effects,” according to the authors. “Our analysis is  consistent with a recent analysis of the  HB 444 conducted by researchers  at the University of Hawaii showing measurable and  positive effects.”  

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