The bad economics of stopping gay marriage

Focus on the Family spends half a million in support of Proposition 8, then announces a big round of layoffs.

Published November 17, 2008 9:16PM (EST)

In the Gospel of Mark, 8:36, it reads "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

How the World Works proposes an updated version: "For what shall it profit a Christian nonprofit, if it stops gay marriage, but all its employees lose their jobs?"

Focus on the Family, the ultra-conservative religious nonprofit led by James Dobson, announced on Monday that it is eliminating 202 jobs -- "149 through layoffs and 53 by not filling vacant positions," according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, Cara Degette reports in the Colorado Independent that Focus on the Family recently spent more than half a million dollars in a so-far successful effort to ban gay marriage in California.

In all, Focus pumped $539,000 in cash and another $83,000 worth of non-monetary support into the measure to overturn a California Supreme Court ruling that allowed gays and lesbians to marry in that state. The group was the seventh-largest donor to the effort in the country. The cash contributions are equal to the salaries of 19 Coloradans earning the 2008 per capita income of $29,133.

In addition Elsa Prince, the auto parts heiress and longtime funder of conservative social causes who sits on the Focus on the Family board, contributed another $450,000 to Prop. 8.

Layoffs suck, though How the World Works isn't feeling a whole lot of Christian charity toward those who work for an organization that devotes so much time and energy to the cause of denying the right to a legal marriage to same-sex couples (not to mention attacking retailers for insufficiently "Christian" Christmas spirit). Instead, I am heartened by the thought of a new strategy for relegating Focus on the Family and its ilk to the dustbin of history: economic warfare!

If one accepts the argument that one reason the Soviet Union collapsed was because its economy simply could not keep up with the United States' huge outlay on defense spending, well then, couldn't a similar strategy be the ticket to defeating the evil empire that currently is headquartered in Colorado Springs? Spend 'em into submission. Focus on the Family is on the wrong side of history, and the free market will prove it.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Gay Marriage Globalization How The World Works Proposition 8