Let me count the 1,138 ways

doma TEXT 4 RESOURCE PG

Yesterday I was asked this question on Facebook by a single, straight, male acquaintance…

Michelle, tell me where I currently have any more freedom than a random gay couple?

Yes straight dude, you do have more freedom than a random gay couple. In honor of DOMA Day and the Supremes, let me count the ways… by the way, there are 1138 of them at the federal level and many more at the state level. Here are a few…

You are more free to marry whom you love and enjoy the same benefits, rights and responsibilities of that union under the law.

Your surviving spouse (since you are a working American) is eligible to receive Social Security payments should you die and you are eligible to receive those payments should you die.

You surviving spouse who is caring for your minor child is also eligible for an additional support payment and vice versa.

Notice…a lesbian couple who contributes an equal amount to Social Security over their lifetime as a married couple would receive drastically unequal benefits, as set forth below.

Family Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits (quoted from http://hrc.org/resources/entry/an-overview-of-federal-rights-and-protections-granted-to-married-couples)

  • Family #1: Married husband and wife, both are biological parents of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #2: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was the biological parent or adoptive of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #3: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was not the biological parent nor able to adopt child through second-parent adoption
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

Your future spouse’s medical contribution is made pretax.  However, an employer’s contribution for a domestic partner’s coverage, is included in the employee’s taxable income as a fringe benefit.

Should you have a child, you would be eligible for an earned income tax credit calculated in part based on the number of qualifying children you have. Gay couples can be disadvantaged by this if the biological parent stays at home or earns less than their partner, since they must file separately the family is ineligible for the adjustment in the EITC and therefore has less income to devote to raising the child.

You are eligible to be recognized as the “head-of-household” for an increased standard deduction which provides you with increased funds to care for your future dependents.  Thus, a gay or lesbian parent who supports his or her partner’s child (and who is ineligible in their state to adopt the child) has less income with which to support the child(ren).

If you meet income eligibility requirements you are entitled to a credit against taxes for qualifying children in your household.   This provision limits the child tax credit to children who meet the relationship test set forth in the earned income tax provisions, § 32(c)(3)(B) which do not include children of a taxpayer’s domestic partner if they are not related to the taxpayer biologically or through adoption. Again, less cash to help take care of the family.

As pointed out in the aforementioned article from  Marriage Equality USA,

All three of these inequities have the effect of penalizing families who choose to have one parent in the work force and the other caring for the children full-time.   In addition, they disadvantage such couples and their children by limiting the choice of which parent will be a full-time caregiver.  Although similarly situated married couples may choose which parent will fulfill that role without consequence, lesbian and gay couples, as well as other unmarried couples, face negative tax consequences for the same decision.

You may exclude up to $250,000 of profit due to the sale of your personal principal residence from taxable income.   If you should get married and file jointly you may exclude up to $500,000 on the sale of your home.  Lesbian and gay couples marriages are not recognized by the federal government and therefore cannot file jointly, are therefore taxed unfairly on all gain above $250,000.

Your surviving spouse is exempt from estate taxes transferred from your estate upon your death. For same-sex couples, this exemption is not available, creating another unequal tax.

Your surviving spouse may transfer plan benefits to an IRA or a retirement plan in which he or she is a participant upon inheritance.  This is important because  it allows your surviving spouse to defer taxation of the proceeds, perhaps even until she is in a lower tax bracket; and because it protects your spouse from being forced to withdraw from an investment program when its value is down.  Because gay and lesbian couples are treated the same as strangers under federal tax and pension law, they may not transfer plan benefits without incurring significant penalties, and cannot withdraw funds when they choose.

Jim and Stan have been in a committed relationship for over 15 years.   They are registered as domestic partners in Washington, D.C..  They have taken every legal step available to formalize their relationship and protect themselves, legally and financially.  Jim participated in his employer’s 401(k) plan, naming Stan as the primary beneficiary.  Stan purchased an IRA.  While driving to his job, Jim is killed in a car accident.  Stan does not have the option to transfer Jim’s 401(k) funds into his existing IRA because, under current law, only a “spouse” may roll over 401(k) and/or inherited IRA upon the death of a plan participant.  Stan must then take the entire proceeds of the inherited 401(k) in a lump sum and pay taxes on them immediately (at a much higher rate) rather than rolling it over tax free into his own name as a surviving spouse can do.

You are guaranteed family and medical leave to care for parents, children or your spouse.   This law does not provide leave to care for a domestic partner or the domestic partner’s family member.

If you should happen to find a wife who is currently not a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to petition for her to immigrate. (Approximately 75% of the one million green cards or immigrant visas issued each year are granted to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents).  Under current immigration law domestic partners are not eligible to immigrate as family.  Thousands of lesbian and gay couples are forced to separate under this law or live in constant fear of deportation.  In some cases, they even face prosecution by INS. Fifteen countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom recognize lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of immigration.

According to the Government Accountability Office Report, marital status affects over 270 provisions dealing with current and retired federal employees, members of the Armed Forces, elected officials, and judges.   Under current law, domestic partners of federal employees are excluded from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (Which you and your spouse would be eligible for).  Although married couples are eligible for reimbursement for expenses, expenses incurred by a domestic partner are not.   As of August 2003, nine states and the District of Columbia and 322 local governments offer health benefits to the domestic partners of their public employees, while the federal government does not.

You and your future spouse are eligible for COBRA benefits.  An increasing number of employers, including 198 of the Fortune 500, now offer their employees domestic partner benefits.  However, the Federal COBRA law does not require employers to provide extended coverage for domestic partners like it does married couples.  Under 29 U.S.C. § 1167, an employer is only required to offer continuation coverage to the employee and to “qualified beneficiaries,” which are defined as the employee’s spouse and dependent children, regardless of whether the employee’s original benefits plan covered other people (read their domestic partner).  Because of the narrow definition of “spouse” under federal law, employees are not guaranteed continued coverage for their domestic partners.

There is one more thing I would like to point out. DOMA defines marriage as: “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and spouse as: ” a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”. In her post today entitled, “One Man, One Woman”… Really?, Anya Cordell discusses how this definition breaks down when discussing the reality of human sexuality.

Yes, there are those who apparently neatly fit in these two categories; those with the requisite anatomies, who do not chafe at being the gender with which they are identified.

But overarching laws, policies, practices, and customs should be fair and just for all, not just for a proportion of a population. Such justice is what law is designed to protect.

The fact is, biologically and scientifically, that gender identity exists on a continuum, which is imprecise and indefinable, as opposed to two perfectly distinct categories into which every human can be assigned, and the discussion can be shut down…

We must, therefore, question this notion that “man” and “woman” are perfectly valid legal designations for humans, any more than configuration or color are allowed — any longer — to classify anyone as not fully, legally, human.

Why does not this issue, alone, put an end to the discussion of marriage equality, under the law, and even under religious institutions? Should religions blithely dismiss a percentage of humans, (those who are intersex, as the clearest example), from having the rights to love another, and form the bonds of family life? When religions make decrees and proclamations in terms of “male” and “female”, it is inconvenient when gender is not clear cut, but mustn’t the essential question, “Who is human?”, override “Who is a man or a woman?” If religions cannot grapple with such an appropriate question, then how valid can we hold such religions? (Convention alone cannot hold sway; science pushed even religions to eventually acknowledge the world is not flat; the sun does not revolve around the earth.)

I know for some of you this is making your heads explode right now. That’s okay. I get it. But as long as I have breath in me I hope I will have the courage to speak for the outlier as Jesus did. And when you read the feedback I received from a new friend today on Facebook I hope you will know why I continue.

Thank you for your blog today…my dear friend Janine (name changed to protect privacy) turned me onto you…I am a gay man of faith who wasted too much of his life hiding in fear and though I’m out of the closet now, I live every day with the consequences of having hidden who God made me to be for so long.

I am particularly struck by your stance on the gay marriage issue given you don’t have a gay loved one in your life that you’re advocating for…even my own family, who claim to support who I am, don’t speak out on these issues…you truly epitomize what it means to be Christ-like.

So today thanks to you, I am not just a gay man of faith but a GRATEFUL gay man of faith.

ADDENDUM: The above doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface by the way. These are just the legalities. When was the last time you were threatened or harassed simply because you were on a date with a member of the opposite sex? When was the last time you were denied service because you were straight? When were you last told God hated you because of something you had no choice in? When did you get passed over for a promotion or a job because you were straight? Just some food for thought…

This video is a bonus and brought tears to my eyes. I hope you enjoy it.

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