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My two moms can beat up your eight wives: a marriage update

15 Feb

DSC_0418Since there’s a lot going on, I thought it might be time for a little update on what’s going on in the big gay world.

ILLIONOIS – Yesterday, the Illionois Senate approved marriage overwhelmingly with a vote of 34-21! Happy Valentine’s Day! Support is expected to be thinner but still winnable in the House and we don’t yet know when it will be taken up. Governor Pat Quinn has pledged to sign it into law should the House pass it. YAY!

RHODE ISLAND – About 3 weeks ago, the RI House approved marriage even more overwhelmingly with a 51-19 vote. The Senate is a bit of an uphill battle but certainly not unwinnable. They are looking at a Spring vote and again the Governor is a huge supporter.

OHIO – Currently collecting signatures for a pro-equality ballot measure in 2013

-ARIZONA, MICHIGAN & OREON – Currently collecting signatures for a pro-equality ballot measure in 2014

-MINNESOTA  – Following the beatdown of an anti-gay marriage ballot measure in 2012, and a pwnership of the house, senate and the election of awesome pro-equality Governor Mark Dayton, advocates are pushing for a pro-equality bill in the next few months.

One of these states will most likely be state #10 to (not including the unstate of DC) to approve marriage equality.

SCOTUS! (Supreme Court of the United States) March 26th, SCOTUS will be hearing oral arguments on two marriage cases. The first is on CA’s Prop 8. (Perry)

Possible outcomes of Prop 8 decisions: 

All gay marriage bans will be struck down: This is not a likely scenario, but would make me very happy. Our lawyers are arguing to make this happen by pointing out the unconstitutionality of anti-gay marriage bans and the creation of different classes of citizens federally.

Prop 8. will be overturned: This is what most pundits are thinking will happen. It will overturn the discriminatory law and once again allow gay and lesbian Californians to marry in that state only. CA is different from other states because the courts legalized marriage in May of 2008. From May through November (prior to Prop 8 passing), more than 30,000 gay and lesbian Californians were married. This means, there are three separate classes in CA. Heterosexuals who can legally marry, Gays and Lesbians who are legally married and Gays and Lesbians who are prohibited from marrying. This is a good basis for overturning the ban and some think this is the argument the court will use to do so.

Prop 8 will be upheld: Many think this is unlikely considering the proponents of Prop 8 have no legitimate argument outside of “this is how the people voted.” Every court thus far has overturned or upheld the decision of the previous ruling.

SCOTUS will punt: One of the questions presented by the court was whether or not those defending the anti-gay law had the right to defend it in court. The Brown administration and the one before him had both pulled out of defending Prop 8 because they found it to be discriminatory. After that, the anti-gay campaign began defending it in court. Some don’t believe that a biased campaign has the right to defend a state law in court. If SCOTUS punts, then two things could happen, the decisions of the earlier courts could be upheld or they could essentially issue a do-over.

On March 27th (the next day), SCOTUS will be hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As many of you know, as a side note – Obama’s DoJ stopped defending DOMA a few years ago as on 8 separate occasions now, when the government was sued over DOMA, it has been found unconstitutional – so there’s a bit of precedent here. It’s also clearly a waste of money to defend a clearly unconstitutional law. Yet John Boehner has just increased to $2 million the amount of money they will spend towards lawyers to defend DOMA…yet they keep screaming that we spend too much on frivolous things.

But I digress…

The reason most courts have found DOMA to be unconstitutional is that it violates state’s rights. Legally married gay couples in states that recognize equality are not afforded more than 1100 rights and responsibilities given to heterosexual couples granted by the federal government. This includes everything from federal tax benefits, to citizenship. If I were to marry a man from Argentina – legally, let’s say in DC – they could still be deported because of DOMA. If I (a very gay man) were to marry a woman from Argentina, that marriage would give her the opportunity to apply (and win) US citizenship.

Edie Windos, lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court DOMA cases

Edie Windos, lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court DOMA cases

Possible outcomes of DOMA decisions:

DOMA is struck down: The court could decide that Section 3 of DOMA (that which defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman) violates state’s rights and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection for all under the law.

DOMA is upheld: The court could uphold DOMA which would enshrine two classes of citizen where one class is treated differently under federal law than the other. Legally married gay couples would continue to not receive tax and social security survivor benefits. Another side note: 17 year – Congressman Gerry Studds, the first openly-gay member of Congress, was legally married to his partner of 16 years Dean Hara. When Studds died in 2006, Hara was not elegible to receive spousal survivor benefits and pension afforded every other Congressional spouse.

SCOTUS punts: Due to the aforementioned discrepancies with who is defending this law, the court could dismiss the case on procedural grounds. It would of course, find it’s way back to the Supreme Court eventually, but this would make it so they didn’t have to make a potentially unpopular opinion.

There are actions happening all over the country for you to get involved with. Everything from vigils to lobby days to house parties. Go find out what’s going on near you or plan something and let us know about it at Light to Justice or visit the March4Marriage Facebook page.

In the meantime, might I recommend the film Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (also available on Netflix). It’s a story about Edie Windsor and her wife, Thea. Edie is the lead plaintiff in the upcoming DOMA cases coming before the Supreme Court.

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The Boy Who Cried “DOMA is Hurting Our Families!”

17 Aug

Christina Santiago and her fiancee Alisha Brennon

Yesterday, a terrible story made it around the LGBT blogosphere like wildfire. It was the story of a lesbian activist who was among those killed in the tragic stage collapse in Indiana last weekend. While her story is tragic enough, and the fact that she was set to join her partner in a civil union next September makes it even more heartbreaking, another story was making it’s way around. Word was getting out that the Indiana coroner who was in car of Christina Santiago’s remains was refusing to release them to her lesbian partner.

The story claimed that the coroner’s office cited the so-called Defense of Marriage Act for it’s reasoning in not releasing Santiago’s body. This of course would make anyone’s blood boil. The very thought that simply because of someone’s sexual orientation, they would be denied their partner’s remains after a tragic accident like this is sickening. The problem is it wasn’t at all true.

Santiago’s partner, who was apparently in no way legally bound to Santiago in Indiana or any other state, was in critical care at the hospital so she clearly could not have shown up to the morgue seeking to collect her partner’s body. The coroner’s office was making arrangements with Santiago’s aunt (who was listed as next-of-kin) and a friend of the couple’s was also assisting with those arrangements.

Now the purpose of this post is not to place blame on who released erroneous facts or who said what to whom. I merely want to point out the fact that we don’t need to make up stories like this to illustrate just how damaging and hateful the Defense of Marriage Act is.

Hundreds of stories every year surface about partners being denied hospital visitations, about husbands being ripped apart because one spouse lives in a different country, about wives fighting for health benefits, pensions and social security.

Congressman Gerry Studds, Husband Dean Hara and their dog, Bonnie

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) has an excellent printable book on their site which you can get to by linking the image below. The book features 20 stories of how DOMA harms American families. Many of these stories are heartbreaking and I’m sharing one here. This is the story of Dean Hara, the surviving husband of former Congressman Gerry Studds. We’ve discussed the Congressman here before as being the first openly-gay Congressman. But here’s his husband’s story and how he’s affected by DOMA today:

Dean met U.S. Representative Gerry E. Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress, through mutual friends in the early 1980s. They crossed paths in their Washington, DC neighborhood over the next 10 years, and began dating in January 1991. Less than nine months later Dean accepted when Gerry proposed a lifetime commitment and they exchanged rings.

Over the next five years Dean and Gerry as a couple attended congressional, public and political events in Washington and around the country. Dean wore the congressional spousal pin and in 1995 was given a congressional photo identification card as Gerry’s spouse.

Gerry decided not to run for re-election in 1996, and retired from public service after 24 years in Congress. He and Dean moved to Massachusetts with their new dog, Bonnie, and built a quiet life together with family and friends. They legally married in May 2004, one week after Massachusetts ended marriage discrimination.

On October 3, 2006 Gerry took Bonnie out for her morning walk. He collapsed from a blood clot in his lung and was rushed to the hospital. His health improved at first, but 10 days later his condition suddenly got worse, and he died in the early morning hours of October 14, 2006.

“Gerry and I spent 16 wonderful years together and I miss him,” says Dean. “I remember when he spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during the debate about DOMA as I watched from the visitor’s gallery in July 1996. Back then, we didn’t know that we would ever be able to legally marry. Now that Gerry is gone, I’m always reminded that DOMA denies fair and equal treatment.”

Dean, now 53, works as a financial advisor and continues to live in Boston with Bonnie. Since Gerry’s death Dean has sought to be treated the same as other surviving spouses of retired federal employees.

“Gerry was a public servant for 27 years, worked hard for our country, and paid as much into the system as anyone else,” he says. “But after he died, I was treated differently than other surviving spouses. Every federal employee counts on their surviving spouses having basic protections, but the federal government denies me those protections because of DOMA.”

Make sure you go download the book from GLAD and share it with everyone you know.

 

Refuse to Lie! New Campaign Tells the Truth to the IRS

31 Mar

An exciting new campaign which could have real consequence and promote real change, has been launched.

As dreaded tax day is fast approaching, we LGBT people have frequently sought ways to protest via the IRS. Some people have simply refused to pay taxes as we do not have equal protection under the laws. The Refuse to Lie campaign is shedding light on another way we can protest our unequal status with the Federal Government.

From the Refuse to Lie website:

Each year the federal government demands that thousands of married couples lie.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) not only denies legally married gay couples the benefits of heterosexual marriage, but we are also told to disavow our spouses and file our taxes as “single.”

The Federal Government must stop requiring legally married gay couples to deny the existence of our families and hide our marriages.

It is dehumanizing and it is wrong.

Across the country, legally married gay couples are taking a stand. We are refusing to lie about the fact that we are married.

The federal government’s refusal to recognize our marriages is blatant discrimination and we will not play along by lying on our tax returns and pretending we are single. The government has chosen to discriminate and we choose to expose their bigotry by refusing to lie.

Taking this principled stand is not without risk and each person doing so needs to carefully consider those risks before deciding if it is a stand you are willing to take.

While tax time forces legally married gay couples to decide whether to comply or resist the government’s requirement that we lie, it is not the only circumstance where we face this dilemma. We are married and our commitment is to tell the truth every time we are asked to fill out a form or respond to a question about our marital status.

This website is intended to be a resource to all who decide to refuse to lie. And it is a place for everyone who believes in marriage equality to show your support and stand with us by adding your name to this effort.

Not everyone will commit to filing as married but everyone can take a stand in solidarity.

Please sign the petiton and help send the message to the federal government that gay married couples should not be compelled to lie. Share this link of Facebook and help spread the word.

Of course this is not for everyone and you are certainly risking something, but the protest and the reasons behind it are completely legitimate. The very idea that we have to lie on our tax returns if we are legally married, is ludicrous. The site gives detailed information on how to go about taking part in the action, with options on how to do so safely and within the rules of filing.

How can you affirm your marital status, object to DOMA, file a joint return, and not be subject to penalties? Here are two possibilities:

  1. File two single returns (including the attachment affirming the marriage) and then file an amended return, filing jointly. The amended return is a 1040X. This is what the plaintiffs in the GLAD case did. Once the IRS rejects the amended return, or if six months passes and they do nothing, the taxpayers who file an amended return have the right to file suit in federal district court claiming the refund.The basis of the claim for refund by a Florida same-sex couple would be that they were married, that under the U.S. Constitution that marriage should be recognized, that it would be perjury to claim otherwise, and that DOMA itself is unconstitutional. This option would avoid penalties because your original return would be filed according to the statute.
  2. Submit two returns to the IRS, one filed jointly, showing the tax due on a joint return, and one filed as a single taxpayer, showing the tax due on a single return. Explain your constitutional and moral theory entitling you to file a joint return. Pay whatever amount is due on the single return and ask the IRS to choose which return to accept.If you have paid the amount due on the basis of a single return, then you have not made an underpayment as a result of disregarding a statute. Penalties are only due if there is an underpayment. If the IRS accepts your single return and accepts your tax payment on that basis, there is no penalty. Of course if the IRS accepts your joint return and that results in a refund to you, there is no way to know what will happen if you are later audited. That would be a new case.

    In many cases, of course, you will actually pay a higher tax if you file jointly. In that case, you should not owe a penalty.

Please check out the site, share your story and support this incredible action.

BREAKING: GLAD, ACLU File New Federal Challenges to DOMA

8 Nov

Our friends at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) are at it again.

Joanne Pedersen and Ann Meitzen, photo: Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Tomorrow, they will be filing another lawsuit against 1996’s so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Earlier this year on behalf of couples from Massachusetts who were legally married, GLAD filed it’s first federal suit against DOMA and was successful with a Boston federal judge. Obama’s Department of Justice is in the process of appealing that decision.

In today’s New York Times article, plaintiff Joanne Pedersen tried to add her spouse Ann Meitzen to her federal health insurance and was denied, again. Currently legally married in Connecticut, Pedersen and Meitzen are being represented by GLAD in their challenge to DOMA.

Tomorrow their will be two federal lawsuits filed against DOMA, one by GLAD and the other by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU is representing Edith C. Windsor, whose spouse died last year of aortic stenosis. Windsor

Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor in their NY Times wedding announcement

and her wife Thea C. Spyer were married in Toronto in 2007 but the couple lived in New York (which recognizes marriages performed elsewhere). Windsor was responsible for a $350,000 estate tax that were she and Spyer heterosexual, she would not have had to pay.

Edith and Thea were also the subjects of the recent film, “Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement.” Having met in 1965 in New York’s West Village, Edie recalled dancing so much on the night they met, that she wore a hole in her stocking. This incredible story spans an incredible half-century where they would go from having to keep their relationship a secret to getting married in Toronto in 2007.

As is outlined in the New York Times article, these cases represent the way LGBT couples are falling through the cracks in the system. Even though legally married in their states, the federal government is failing to recognize individual states freedoms because of the discriminatory and unconstitutional DOMA.

Many thanks to GLAD the ACLU and our brave plaintiffs for bringing your stories forward.