and he maketh me pay on those domestic partner benefits. Yes, it’s tax time again, and once again the LGBT community is reminded that we are treated differently. Unequally, as a matter of fact. And with every step forward, it seems there’s an almost equal step back.
I am deeply grateful that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley last year included same-sex domestic partner benefits in the state budget. I am equally grateful that the State legislature did not fight it. As a state employee, I have good and affordable health coverage that I can now share with Unnamed Partner, who — working part-time and attending school — does not otherwise have access to affordable health care. Just like my straight married co-workers, I can include her on my plan.
Except. To quote HRC:
When an employer provides health insurance for the spouse or dependents of an employee, federal tax law allows the value of the health insurance coverage to be excluded from the employee’s gross income. However, because the federal definition of spouse is limited by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, non-dependent same-sex partners and spouses are treated differently for federal tax purposes.
On other words, my co-workers don’t have to pay taxes on the cost of their family’s health benefits. But I do.
I’m sure my legally married gay friends have a nightmare when it comes time to filing their taxes. I mean, think about it: first you do your federal taxes, and then you do your state taxes. But if your federal taxes state that you are single because they don’t recognize a same-sex marriage, then how do you do your states taxes? I would imagine there’s an entire industry of accountants who specialize in this area.
Meanwhile, a Maryland state delegate is introducing a bill to mandate that Maryland not recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states. I actually heard the sponsor, Del. Burns, say “They’re legalizing it in DC, and you know, that’s right next to Maryland.” Tired of being referred to as some pestilence that will take over the state, I wrote to my 3 state representatives to ask them to stand against this bill. Two never responded, and the one did, said this, with my highlighting of an especially outrageous sentence:
I look forward to the opinion from Attorney General Gansler on the issue of same-sex marriage as it relates to official recognition by the State of Maryland for those marriages performed in other states. Please know that in accordance with my faith, I have consistently stated that I could not vote to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Maryland. On the other hand, I have consistently voted in favor of legalizing specific benefits that were needed for same-sex couples, as I promised I would.
Head pounding on keyboard. I quickly contacted my pals over at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State and asked for advice on a cool-headed response. This is what I sent my Delegate:
Thank you for your prompt response to my message. I appreciate your honesty, but feel compelled to respond that we do have a First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state, and while I respect your right to hold your personal view you were elected to represent ALL your constituents. There are faith traditions that currently perform same sex marriage ceremonies, and they want those marriages to have the same legal recognition as marriages performed for heterosexual couples.
For this reason I think that marriage equality IS a church-state separation issue and we must not allow our laws to be based on one belief.
I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your position, and would be happy to speak with you in person about this very important matter. There are thousands of lesbians and gays who reside in Maryland, and we deserve full and equal representation by our elected officials.
I am still waiting on a response to this message ….