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Same-sex weddings would boost San Francisco economy, witness says at Prop. 8 trial

January 14, 2010 | 12:27 pm

A San Francisco economist testified today that same-sex weddings would generate more than $35 million in annual spending in San Francisco and produce millions of dollars in additional tax revenue.

Edmund Egan, chief economist for the city and county of San Francisco, said he based his short-term projections on the revenue generated by more than 5,000 same-sex weddings in San Francisco during the five months in 2008 when gay marriage was legal.

Egan was one of several expert witnesses called by challengers of Proposition 8, the voter initiative that reinstated the state's same-sex marriage ban in 2008. Two same-sex couples are trying to overturn the law on the grounds it violates the U.S. Constitution.

During cross-examination in the fourth day of trial, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 campaign suggested that the number of same-sex weddings in 2008 reflected "a pent-up demand" and would have dropped as time passed. The lawyer also elicited testimony that Egan's projections were only for "several years."

In other matters, Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 campaign, asked U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker to discontinue the audio and video taping of the trial. The trial is being shown on a screen in a second, "overflow" courtroom in the federal courthouse.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, by a 5-4 vote, kept in place an order preventing Walker to broadcast the proceedings on the Internet.

But Walker, who is presiding over the trial, said that order did not preclude taping the trial for viewing in another courtroom in the same building.

"It is not going to be for purposes of public broadcasting or televising," Walker assured Cooper.

Supporters of same-sex marriage favored a public broadcast of the trial, but lawyers defending Proposition 8 said it would intimidate and possibly even endanger witnesses.

-- Maura Dolan at the San Francisco federal courthouse