April 4, 2009

April 4, 2009
Taxed for being gay?

Thanks for stopping by for another blog entry and the latest of what is going on in my life. It has been a very busy week and I am so glad the weekend is finally here.

I am just now starting to work out again after a little over a week of taking a break because of lower back strain. So I am a little sore from my workout yesterday which was chest and biceps. Still doing at least two protein shakes a day and occasionally three of them to keep my weight up.

Speaking of things being up, we have all heard about the new cigarette taxes. But what about the tax on lesbian and gay couples?

What is that? You did not know. Same sex couples get no sympathy - or equal rights - from the tax man. Here is what I am talking about today.

With April 15th just around the corner, gay and lesbian people are outraged. This day brings much discrimination upon same-sex partners. There are 1138 benefits of marriage that LGBTQ people do not receive, even if they are "legally married." Although a gay or lesbian couple can officially marry in one of the (only two!) gay marriage friendly states, their relationship is not recognized by the federal government as that of two spouses. Therefore, federal taxes (amongst other discrimination) bring about much anguish and frustration for same sex couples.

It is relatively known and understood that some people discriminate against gay and lesbian people. Random acts of prejudice and hate can be explained through an individuals biases and fears. Discrimination that is less publicly known are the inequalities regarding taxes. All LGBTQ people have to pay the same taxes as straight people, but they are given the rights of second class citizens.

A huge inequality regards gay and lesbian couples being taxed on their partner's health benefits as if it were part of their income. Dr. Wendy Chapkis, professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies at USM, explains: "If I am a lesbian or gay man and I get hired at USM, thanks to the efforts of union organizers, we get domestic partner benefits. So that is fabulous, yay! We get health benefits just like a heterosexual! Except, no unlike my heterosexual married colleague whose wife of one day can get health benefits, my partner of 20 years gets [them] and every dollar that the university pays for her health insurance is added to my paycheck as though it were income; I get taxed on them as if I were making an additional $5744 dollars a year. I look at that and I think this is outright discrimination!"

Although any same sex couple in the United States can get a state recognized marriage in Massachusetts or Connecticut, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing those very same marriages (not that they ever have been recognized - DOMA just made that official). So a lesbian or gay couple can get married, but there are 1138 benefits that they are not eligible to receive. Gabe Demaine, Diversity and Scholarship Liaison at USM, calls this 'hetero-supremacy.' Chapkis says "This is so unfair, this form of discrimination is so blatant, and it is not just oh, we want white wedding gowns and a wedding cake like everybody else gets. We want full civil rights." Demaine confirms "We are really over hetero supremacy, and these kinds of discriminatory behaviors by the federal government is an expression of that…It is just, you know, tax day equals hetero-supremacy day."

But there are many days besides tax day that equal hetero supremacy day. One could be any given day that a partner of a same sex couple passes away. Even if both partners have been paying social security all their lives, if one partner dies the other receives not a penny of survivor benefits. This is not the case with straight couples.

Another federal discrimination is family residency rights. When a U.S. citizen marries someone of the opposite sex from another country, that foreigner is automatically eligible for U.S citizenship, visa rights, or a Green Card, along with any children the couple might have. A foreign partner of a U.S. citizen in any same sex same couple is not eligible for these benefits, and neither are their children.

There are so many rights besides these few listed that same sex couples do not receive. The discrimination is clear, yet hidden since most people do not really know about it.

Jenni Hebert, an administrative assistant at USM employee shares her frustration: "What happened to justice for all? The federal discrimination of same sex couples had led to the divide of a nation. MY Constitutional right of Freedom Against Discrimination, as established in the 14th Amendment, is being renegotiated to fit the morals and values of those opposed to anti-discriminatory laws. The ability to file returns as "married filing jointly," or the ability to cover a spouse on a health plan without paying extra income taxes on that coverage is something only "normal" married couples can enjoy. The rest of us, the "abnormal", are forced to suffer with higher taxes, lower tax refunds, and a derogatory look from the local IRS agent. As an American citizen I was blessed with the unalienable rights as mentioned in the Constitution of this great United States, what I did not bargain for was that the Government of this "great" nation gets to pick and choose whose rights to honor."

Indeed, there seems to be a divide in the nation between straight and same sex couples. Why some enjoy benefits and others can not is an issue that tax day will inevitably raise.

What are your thoughts? Inquiring minds want to know. So drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab