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A federal trial on same-sex marriage continued in San Francisco today with testimony from a city economist who said gay marriage would help the city’s budget and that the lack of such unions costs money.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, which began Monday, is the first federal trial in the nation on a claim that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
The claim was filed in a lawsuit lodged by a lesbian couple from Berkeley and a gay couple from Burbank to challenge California’s ban, enacted by voters in 2008 as Proposition 8.
In addition to claiming that the measure violates their constitutional right to equal treatment, the couples have argued that denial of same-sex marriage is an economic burden on local governments.
The city of San Francisco was allowed to join the case as an official party to provide evidence on economic impacts.
To support the financial argument, the plaintiffs called Edmund Egan, the city’s chief economist, to the stand today.
He told Walker that the denial of same-sex marriage costs the city money both from loss of wedding-related revenue and from long-term health and financial effects on people who are not allowed to marry.
Egan said that quantifiable financial effects include $2.6 million lost in annual revenue from hotel and sales taxes paid by people attending gay weddings.
In addition, he said, the city loses an estimated $74,000 in sales tax revenue from money that would be spent by same-sex couples who would have lower federal income taxes as a result of being married.
But Egan said the most substantial budget effect if same-sex marriage were legalized would be the long-term result of having same-sex couples who are healthier and more able to save and spend money as a result of being married.
Egan said, “What we’re really talking about is the long-term advantages of marriage as an institution and the long-term costs of discrimination that weakens long-term productivity.”
He said the long-term effects are unquantifiable, but would include lower costs for city health and welfare services and higher sales tax revenue.