August 22, 2011

I’m all for equality in marriage, but …

Absolutely, positively any two adults who wish to get married should be able to. I love witnessing as each new state adds to the rolls of those offering equality in marriage. Hopefully California will soon be added (again) to that list.

However, these state laws bump up hard against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. A same sex couple is specifically excluded from any federal rights of marriage. These exclusions cover social security survivor’s benefits, federal income tax treatment and immigration benefits for married couples. These are some pretty damn, big exclusions!

Looking at this issue through a financial lens we’re actually penalized. For example, employment benefits (like health insurance) paid to a same sex partner are subject to federal income taxes. Similar benefits paid to a mixed sex married couple are not taxable. It gets worse. There is absolutely no social security survivor’s benefit available to same sex married persons. For mixed sex married couples, if one spouse dies the surviving spouse is entitled to a portion of the benefits of the deceased spouse. Because of DOMA, we’re not. We pay the same tax, yet receive less benefit.

Federal income tax is even worse. The lower rates and higher exclusions and deductions of married filing jointly are not available to same sex married couples. We have to file tax returns as separate individuals; that filing status almost always results in a higher tax bill! To make matters worse, in California and other community property states, the federal government forces a same sex couple to evenly distribute income between both partners. In many cases, this results in a higher tax bill with absolutely no federal recognition or financial benefit. In other words, we often pay more for being treated like second class citizens.

While the battle needs to continue at the state level, I don’t see any chance soon of needed change at the federal level. Not in this crazy political environment. My only hope at the Federal level would be for this unfair financial treatment to be ruled unconstitutional, but I’m not holding my breath.

No wonder I get so disillusioned.

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