Updated 12:01 AM EDT, Wed, Sep 03, 2014

Eyes on 2014: Can Same-Sex Marriage Boost States' Economies Through Tourism?

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Hawaii Same-Sex Marriage
Deborah Cohn (L-R), Carolyn Golujuch, Michele Golujuch and Danny Robinson celebrate after Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 1, allowing same sex marriage to be legal in the state, in Honolulu, Hawaii November 13, 2013. Abercrombie signed the law on Wednesday to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in a state long popular as a wedding and honeymoon destination and regarded as a pioneer in advancing the cause of gay matrimony. (Photo : Reuters)

Can same-sex marriage improve tourism and boost states’ economies? That’s what some states are hoping for. Hawaii, which legalized same-sex marriage last month, hopes to boost its already robust tourism industry by attracting the gay wedding market.

States that have approved same-sex marriage, 14 not including Hawaii, have already seen a positive economic impact and higher tax revenues from gay and lesbian weddings, NBCNews reported.

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Massachusetts, which first legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, gained $111 million from 2004 to 2009, a study by the Williams Institute revealed.

Likewise, New York, which legalized same-sex marriage in July 2011, has also seen a significant boost in economic impact and tax revenues. According to a report released by the city, NYC’s “NYC I Do” campaign nabbed an estimated $259 million in economic impact and $16 million in city revenues in its first year.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said at the time, “The widespread reach marriage equality has had in New York extends beyond the fundamental need to make sure all people are free to marry the person of their choosing.” She continued, “Our economy has also reaped the benefits full equality has to offer and the impressive economic impact same-sex marriage had and will continue to have on our City is a boon for New York and for all those who fought so hard to make equality a reality in New York State.”

Massachusetts and New York were not the only states to benefit economically. A January 2012 study by the institute revealed that extending marriage to same-sex couples would add “an estimated $88 million boost to the state and local economy of Washington over the course of three years,” through spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by resident same-sex couples and their guests.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of Washington in December 2012. The study noted that it only included resident same-sex couples and not potential out-of-state couples that could travel to Washington to marry. According to the study, a conservative estimate of the economic impact would fall to $18 million over the first three years.

Hawaii may see a similar rise in tourism, providing a boost to its economic impact and tax revenues. According to a working paper from the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, the Aloha State could bring in an additional $69 million a year from 2014 to 2017.

Sumner La Croix, an economist at the University of Hawaii who co-wrote the working paper, spoke to NPR and said Hawaii’s booming tourism industry gives it an edge over other states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

“Same-sex couples will be attracted to Hawaii for the same reasons that opposite-sex couples are attracted to Hawaii,” he said. “It’s the great weather, it’s the warm water, it’s the beautiful scenery. And it’s also the aloha spirit.”

La Croix told NPR, “The machinery of marriage is already in place here. There are hotels that are in the marriage business. They’re used to catering to couples who are honeymooning or want to get married or are celebrating a marriage. There are wedding photographers. There are caterers. There’s a large number of firms that are specialized in the marriage business.”

Businesses in Hawaii have already begun advertising to gay and lesbian couples. A search on Hawaii’s tourism website yields 41 resorts and hotels designated as LGBT weddings and honeymoons spots. Other websites, such as enGaygedMarriage.com, are serving as directories for LGBT-friendly wedding services, from photographers to caterers.

In Hawaii, it seems that the question is not whether it will receive an economic boost from same-sex marriages, but rather just how big of a boost it will see.

The 'Eyes on 2014' series covers a wide range of issues that will dominate the upcoming year, specifically those that will be key during the 2014 mid-term elections.

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