Civil unions could generate $4.8 million for Colorado in first three years, study says

If Colorado lawmakers pass a bill to legalize civil unions, the state could see a bump in its bank account -- $4.8 million in the first three years, according to a report by the California-based sexual orientation think tank The Williams Institute. That money would come from a combination of things, including spending on civil union ceremonies and savings on public benefit programs, which tend to serve more single people than married couples.

Researchers estimate that 3,500 same-sex couples and 2,500 different-sex couples would enter into a civil union within the first three years of the law passing, says study author Jody Herman. (The bill, Senate Bill 2, would "authorize any two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union.")

Those 3,500 same-sex couples could spend as much as $19 million over three years on civil union ceremonies, according to researchers. Herman says researchers didn't estimate how much different-sex couples would spend, figuring that they may not choose to have a ceremony at all since they "do have marriage as an option." In addition, researchers figured that same-sex couples' out-of-state guests would spend an additional $6 million on lodging and other travel expenses, generating $726,000 in total sales tax.

Other potential revenue boosters include civil union license fees and savings on public benefits. However, researchers figure that civil unions would increase the number of couples who take advantage of state domestic partnership benefits, which would cost the state money. But in the end, Herman says, civil unions would be a net benefit.

The pro bono study was conducted a year ago in the midst of a failed push to legalize civil unions. But the numbers still stand, Herman says. This year's civil unions bill, sponsored again by Senator Pat Steadman, is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

More from our News archive: "Same-sex couples and same-sex parents: Maps, charts show where in Colorado most, least live."

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