Economic Impact: KY Ahead of WI, Gays Vacate Virginia

People often question: what will be the economic impact of the civil unions and marriage ban?

We're beginning to get a sense of how this will hurt our state's economy.

Today's Washington Post reports on a growing number of gay people who are vacating Virginia. That state already has a far-reaching state law banning legal protections for gay couples, and state voters will now decide on a constitutional ban this November.
Reston-based real estate agent Evan Johnson, owner of http://mygayagent.com, said that when he started in business seven years ago, his Virginia clients, most of whom are gay, all bought other homes in Virginia when they sold their homes, unless they were being transferred. But in the past year and a half, of 51 transactions involving gay clients who lived in Virginia, 26 moved out, most to the District or Maryland, he said.

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Art director Beth Lower and her partner, Kati Towle, owned a home in Arlington but didn't know about the Virginia laws until they went to a lawyer to draw up a will and adoption paperwork for Lower after Towle became pregnant. "The lawyer said, 'Don't have that baby in Virginia,' " recalled Lower, who works for a trade association. "We weren't really into Virginia politics, so we didn't really know about any laws that might be working against us."

Towle, a school teacher in Alexandria, delivered the baby at George Washington University Hospital in the District, and the three moved to Silver Spring.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, the University of Louisville has decided to extend domestic partner benefits to help it attract and retain top-notch researchers. This isn't too surprising, considering that nearly 300 academic institutions and 260 Fortune 500 companies now offer such benefits.

What's surprising is how advocates of the benefits policy in Kentucky use Wisconsin as an example of why not offering benefits has a tangible, negative impact. The University of Wisconsin is the only Big 10 school--and in fact, one of the few major research institutions in the nation--that does not offer domestic partner benefits. The Louisville Courier details the impact on UW:

Rob Carpick, 37, an engineering professor whose roughly $500,000 in annual research funding comes from such sources as the National Science Foundation, the Army and the Air Force, is leaving Wisconsin at the end of the year to join the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Penn offers domestic partner benefits, and Carpick said that's a key reason he is leaving. It will allow his partner to open a small business -- something he couldn't do in Madison because he had to work at the university to get health insurance, Carpick said.

"Wisconsin has already lost good people because of this and Wisconsin will continue to lose good people because of this. And it will fail to attract good people because of this," Carpick said.

It is unclear if the University of Louisville will be able to implement the new benefits plan because some state lawmakers are saying they won't let it happen. In Michigan and Ohio, lawsuits have been filed to attack similar benefits, citing the civil unions and marriage bans passed there in 2004.


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