Federal Marriage Discrimination Hurts Families on Tax Day

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sean Eldridge
Director of Communications, Freedom to Marry
sean@freedomtomarry.org

Federal Marriage Discrimination Hurts Families on Tax Day

"How to Make Tax Day a Little Less Tough"

NEW YORK - April
15th marks a deadline that few Americans look
forward to - and same-sex couples in particular have reason to dread. 

This
year, same-sex couples will file joint tax returns in more states than
ever before: in the five states where gay couples have the freedom to
marry, as well as in a handful of other jurisdictions that provide some
relationship recognition, including California, Oregon, and New Jersey. 
However, because of the federal discrimination enacted under the
so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1996, no same-sex couples will be
permitted to file their taxes with the IRS as what they are: married. 
DOMA excludes same-sex couples from the more than a thousand federal
responsibilities and protections of marriage and from the common
practice and expectation that a valid marriage in one state is generally
recognized by others. 

Of course, every family is
different, and generalizations can only go so far, but there are a few
elements of federal marriage discrimination that consistently harm
same-sex couples and their families - glaringly so on Tax Day: 

Health care: Because gay
couples still lack the freedom to marry in most states, many companies
are not obligated to provide health insurance for an employee's partner,
even if they offer health coverage to all married spouses of their
employees.  So the cost of health insurance for same-sex couples is
often a lot higher than for heterosexual couples.  What many people
don't know is that when companies do provide coverage for an employee's
same-sex partner, that partner's coverage is taxed as additional
income.  Heterosexual couples, on the other hand, do not have to pay
taxes on spousal coverage. 

Income
tax:
As with non-gay
couples, filing as a married couple would affect same sex-couples in
various ways - for some taxes would decrease and for others they would
increase.  What is clear, however, is that under current discriminatory
federal law, same-sex couples are treated differently.  They are not
permitted to file as a couple, and in addition to the indignity of being
forced to falsely identify as "single," this often imposes financial
burdens on them and their family. 

Financial planning and
estate taxes
:  Different-sex
married couples can share unlimited assets with one another during
their lives and upon death without paying estate taxes.  In the eyes of
the federal government, however, for same sex-couples these day-to-day
transactions, as well as the transfer of earnings upon death, are
taxable "gifts," as if among strangers.  Same-sex couples often end up
spending far more on financial planning to protect their families and
their assets.  Navigating the complicated tax code as a gay couple is no
simple task, and because of federal marriage discrimination, gay
couples often spend thousands of dollars on professional advice and
coping strategies to protect their families.

And
needless to say, the harms and economic burdens that the denial of
marriage brings fall hardest on the most vulnerable, including people
who are ill or of lesser means.

Evan Wolfson,
Executive Director of Freedom to Marry stated that, "For gay couples, as
for non-gay couples, marriage is about much more than money and
financial security.  Same-sex couples build lives based on love,
commitment, dedication, and self-sacrifice, and share the joys and, yes,
do the work of marriage.  But at this time of year, the economic 
injustice of exclusion from marriage is impossible to ignore. Especially
in these rough economic times, government has no business putting
obstacles in the paths of committed couples seeking to take care of
their loved ones and their families." 

The White House
and the Department of Justice have conceded that "DOMA"  is a discriminatory policy and should be
repealed
.  And a number of challenges to the federal
anti-marriage law are making their way through the courts, including
cases brought by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and by the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  But Congress also has the authority to
repeal this infamous law, and according to Wolfson, "should heed
President Obama's call to dump DOMA and end federal marriage
discrimination now." 

In September 2009, the Respect
for Marriage Act, which would repeal "DOMA," was introduced in the House
of Representatives, and already has more than 100 co-sponsors.  Freedom to Marry is building support for the bill because,
Evan Wolfson stated, "it's time to end federal marriage discrimination
and make Tax Day a little less painful, and a whole lot fairer, for
American families."

###

Freedom to Marry is the gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide. Headed by Evan Wolfson, one of America's leading civil rights advocates and lawyers, Freedom to Marry brings new resources and a renewed context of urgency and opportunity to this social justice movement.

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