Did the Housing Crisis Help Prop 8 Pass?

The great recession may be to blame for stirring up the culture wars: according to a study in the winter issue of the American Sociological Review, resistance to gay marriage deepens significantly during hard times. In conservative parts of the 30 states that have blocked same-sex unions (where ballot measures tend to be won or lost), researchers found that each 10 percent drop in homeownership led to a 5 percent increase in support for a ban. Other signs of a community in trouble—including spikes in the crime rate and the percentage of people moving—also tracked with heightened opposition. When people think their neighborhood is breaking down, says Notre Dame professor Rory McVeigh, a coauthor of the study, "they think gay marriage is only going to make things worse."

That's bad news for gay-advocacy groups, as much of the country remains racked by the housing crisis. In California, where foreclosure rates are among the highest in the nation, it could help explain how Proposition 8 squeaked by in 2008—despite bills legalizing gay marriage in 2005 and 2007 (the governor -vetoed both). A judge could soon overturn the state's gay-marriage ban—but, as three new states consider restrictions in 2010, McVeigh's analysis suggests another string of setbacks for same-sex unions.