Same-sex marriage pays off, proponents argue in California trial

When all else fails, talk about money. Proponents of same-sex marriage, in the San Francisco trial now being fought over the issue, brought in the big financial guns yesterday. They were operated by economist Edmund Egan.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would reduce San Francisco’s health and welfare costs because married people are healthier and wealthier than singles, and would generate revenue for government from a surge in weddings, the city’s chief economist testified Thursday at the trial of a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8.

Edmund Egan’s testimony was the first attempt by the plaintiffs – two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco – to assess the economic effects of the November 2008 ballot measure that amended the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Egan heads the Office of Economic Analysis in the city controller’s office. He argued that married individuals are generally healthier, less likely to need health care and more likely to be insured — all of which translates into greater productivity, more taxes paid, fewer costs to the community. He said it was not possible to put a dollar figure on projected savings, but estimated sales tax revenues would be in the area of $1.7 million and the city could also expect an additional $900,000 in hotel tax revenues from wedding-related spending.

Peter Patterson, lawyer for Protect Marriage, the Prop. 8 campaign committee, said Egan had greatly overstated the measure’s impact.

The 2008 figures reflected a “pent-up demand” for same-sex weddings that would surely decline, Patterson said during cross-examination. He noted that there was a sharp drop in gay and lesbian marriages in Massachusetts in the second year after they were legalized there.

Patterson questioned Egan’s assumption that married same-sex couples would be less likely to incur health care costs than unmarried partners, saying the economist had based his statement on studies of heterosexual couples. Those studies were irrelevant to a “gay-friendly city” like San Francisco, Patterson said.

One friend of this writer, partnered for over 35 years with the man he had hoped to marry “but we missed the window,” said yesterday that he’d be happy to furnish a list of potential weddings to Patterson, with the assurance that it would take a long time for them all to be accomplished. “But I think we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to opine on our marriage-worthiness,” he said.

Same-sex marriage pays off, S.F. economist says.

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