Legalize It

On Tuesday, February 7, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Prop 8 as unconstitutional. In their majority decision, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that Prop 8 “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Individuals such as Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage disagreed with the ruling, writing for the National Review Online that the ruling was a “breathtaking exercise in ill-natured illogic.” This is of course ridiculous. The ruling was the right course of action and is logical from both an economic and social standpoint.

In an economic environment where many things are being cut, legalizing gay marriage would create a decent cashflow. In 2008, a study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law predicted that having gay marriages in California would put $64 million into the state budget and would also bring $684 million to the state’s wedding industry. It should be noted that this study was conducted when Massachusetts was the only other state that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

A later study in 2012 from the Williams Institute noted that 24,000 same-sex couples living in California would likely marry if permitted to do so, which would give a boost of $290 million and create 2,600 jobs. Of course this is a drop in the bucket compared to the many economic woes that California faces, but any little bit helps, right?

However, one thing that would change is the health of homosexual couples. The aforementioned 2012 Williams Institute study also notes that allowing gay marriage brings about good tidings for health: “Same-sex couples gain social support from their families and a greater level of commitment to each other when they can marry.”

In addition, the same study notes that health benefits are even greater than being in a civil union: “Although lesser forms of legal recognition for one’s same-sex relationship had positive health effects for the gay men studied, being legally married boosted emotional health to a greater extent than being in a legally recognized domestic partnership or civil union.”

The Prop 8 ruling should also serve as a warning to religious organizations which spend their funds on political causes. According to a 2009 article from the SF Gate, the Church of Latter-day Saints reported spending nearly $190,000 in assisting the campaign on Prop 8. While this is chump change compared to some of the donations of private individuals (the New York Times reported in a November 2008 article that a grandson of one of the LDS church founders donated a million dollars to the campaign), this is contentious because the actual church itself took a political stance.

By overturning the proposition, the money that went into campaigning for it ultimately undermined the goal, which is an amusing irony.

Obviously, the recent court decision didn’t make gay marriage legal in California; presumably Prop 8’s backers will take this debate to the Supreme Court. It’s too early to say for certain what the final result will be, but if the judges consider the relatively minor social ramifications of gay marriage (mainly, gay people will get married to each other), they would make the right choice.