Separate But Equal Is Neither: A Taxing Story

9 Feb

Regular readers of this blog know how adamantly we demand full marriage equality. Committed same-sex couples deserve the same privileges and opportunities as Britney Spears and Newt Gingrich. At the end of the day, it is a simple matter of human rights; as a citizen of this country, no-one should be able to tell me what basic rights I am entitled to enjoy.

Today there were some heartening numbers released demonstrating national support for equality; sadly, over half of these supporters are willing to stop short of full equality and ask LGBT families to settle for civil unions or domestic partnerships. This is not enough.

As wonderful as it is to have the state of Oregon recognize our relationship legally, a domestic partnership is not a marriage. It’s a one-state-only stopgap that provides a solid legal footing on many issues, but still creates a confusing quagmire whenever Oregon laws intersect with federal laws or the laws of other states. Those intersections are myriad.

I had a practical lesson in the inequities of the not-so-separate yesterday as I was working on our household income taxes.

As a married-in-all-but-name couple in Oregon, we have to file as married, either jointly or separately. So far, so good. Unfortunately, shared tax status is one of the 1100 or so benefits and responsibilities that the federal government confers to married couples that are denied to same-sex couples. For our federal taxes, then, we must file as single. That makes our federal return invalid when filed (as required) with our state taxes. So we have to fill out what Oregon calls an “as-if” federal form that matches the filing-jointly or filing-separately form we file with the state. >whew<

You can imagine my joy at creating a whole second set of federal forms. The phrase “as-if” is just salt in the wound.

As an added wrinkle, one of us had income from another state last year. Fortunately, it was California, which also has domestic partnerships, so they have tax laws to deal with this situation too. Unfortunately, California’s laws are different than Oregon’s. We may very well have to create three sets of federal forms. Why? Because the federal government doesn’t recognize our marriage.

This is just one example of the complications caused by well-intentioned half-measures. I can only imagine what people dealing with health care or inheritance issues might face.

Marriage matters. The word matters. The benefits matter. The equality matters.

Opponents and squeamish supporters of same-sex couples offer up alternatives to marriage as though we should be grateful just to be considered. I am not grateful. I am relieved to be protected, insofar as we are. I am, however, insulted to be treated as something other and I am injured by the extraordinary efforts required of me for no reason beyond someone else’s prejudice.

We are a couple. We are committed to one another in word, deed, passion, and support. Together we participate in our city, county, state, and nation. Together we contribute to our society and our community.

But still, for now, we are seen as separate. That can never be equal.

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7 Responses to “Separate But Equal Is Neither: A Taxing Story”

  1. Drew & John February 9, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    Great story! And it is so sadly true. Let’s not forget that even “equal” isn’t equal on a national scale. John and I are legally married in MA. Means nothin’ to Uncle Sam (nor to most other states). We wish you all the best in Oregon’s fight for marriage equality. As all of us must work together to make national equality the simple truth it ought to be.

    • rhulshofschmidt February 9, 2011 at 6:24 am #

      Glad you liked the story, guys. Excellent point about the sad patchwork that DOMA created. Much belated congratulations on your marriage ;-} and welcome to the Solipsistic Me!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 9, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      Nice to have a married couple weigh in on this! I do believe solidarity and perseverance will prevail.

  2. webwordwarrior February 9, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    What an absurdity. I can’t decide if that kind of tax structure is more worthy of Carroll or Orwell. :0
    Someday (soon, I hope) the voices of bias will be drowned out by love and reason.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      I should say a strange perversion of the two. Yes, I, too, share your hope.

      • webwordwarrior February 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

        I should have thought of that! I used to have a t-shirt that Melissa made for me with an Orwoll on it: a creature with a dodo head on one end and a pig head on the other. That seems to fit here.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt February 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

        Yes, unfortunately a perfectly fitting image.

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