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Separate and Expensive
October 2, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Being a same-sex, taxpaying couple is more expensive, overall, than being a straight, taxpaying couple, for the same services and benefits, when available.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I understand that it is even more expensive for same-sex taxpaying couples who are left-handed.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:27 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is why we shouldn't let gay people marry. Who can afford it?
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2009


For some reason I was coming in here all ready to snark, but the article is nice, despite the somewhat silly first line.
posted by muddgirl at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2009


Costs money to be fabulous.
posted by klangklangston at 3:34 PM on October 2, 2009 [30 favorites]


This is where I insert a snarky comment like "Considering how much my Ex-Wife cost me, I know I should've made her take a Chromosome Test.."
posted by wendell at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


So....this looks like a 14th Amendment case, correct?
please, correct me if i'm wrong
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:36 PM on October 2, 2009


Blazecock, thanks very much for posting this.
posted by zarq at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2009


Costs money to be fabulous.

I officially declare today to be the day that we stop with jokes like this. I know you may mean well, but this is an interesting story and you've reduced its conclusions to some trivial stereotype to get a laugh.
posted by Adam_S at 3:51 PM on October 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


this is an interesting story and you've reduced its conclusions to some trivial stereotype to get a laugh

Wait. Blue background, white letters-- I'm not on MeFi?
posted by shetterly at 4:02 PM on October 2, 2009


News and not news - isn't it also more expensive to be an unmarried straight couple in states without common-law rules or to file separately or to have one income vs two? Like the justice system, the tax system can only try to be fair, it can never really achieve it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


P.S. Yes, it's a nice article, but being the New York Times, they gave the couple an income of $140,000. Had they used the US median income of $27590.16 per person, the difference between a married couple and an unmarried one would be much smaller.
posted by shetterly at 4:09 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


"I know you may mean well, but this is an interesting story and you've reduced its conclusions to some trivial stereotype to get a laugh."

At least I'm not in here trying to argue that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy and tasteless.
posted by klangklangston at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2009


Actually, no, that was way more assholish than I meant it to be.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on October 2, 2009


As for the article, something that stood out to me was how much the insurance difference is. I'm pro gay marriage (well, as much as I'm pro marriage in general), but I saw that and thought, well, y'know, let's have real universal health care, and then gays won't have to worry about getting their own. But I realize that given the politics of America, saying, "Hey, gays aren't getting treated equally! Let's fix it with socialism!" is kind of a non-starter, unfortunately.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on October 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


I officially declare today to be the day that we stop with jokes like this

Yeah? Well I officially declare that today be the day that official declarations like yours are summarily ignored. You're not even the Mayor of Metafilter or anything.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah? Well I officially declare that today be the day that official declarations like yours are summarily ignored. You're not even the Mayor of Metafilter or anything.

That may be true, but as the Assistant Deputy Mayor of Metafilter, I can still overrule you. The motion carries.

(done de-railing)
posted by Adam_S at 4:31 PM on October 2, 2009


So....this looks like a 14th Amendment case, correct?

Only for those things that are directly related to the government, such as taxes. Issues with private insurance companies, in cases where there are no government mandates involved, are not covered. It's equal protection under the law, not equal protection under Blue Cross.

unfortunately
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2009


Only for those things that are directly related to the government, such as taxes. Issues with private insurance companies, in cases where there are no government mandates involved, are not covered. It's equal protection under the law, not equal protection under Blue Cross.

Really not trying to be difficult here, but if you successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court that homosexuals are a class deserving equal protection under the law, wouldn't the 14th Amendment then apply to a situation like this? I mean, I don't think we need a separate amendment here, right? We just need the Court to say "yo, all the laws we have protecting people apply to homosexuals, because, like, they're people too".
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:56 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I officially declare today to be the day that we stop with jokes like this.

Gay people stop with jokes like this, straight people stop with jokes like this.
posted by davejay at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Only for those things that are directly related to the government, such as taxes. Issues with private insurance companies, in cases where there are no government mandates involved, are not covered. It's equal protection under the law, not equal protection under Blue Cross."

I count as a "domestic partner" for the purposes of my boyfriend's medical benefits, i.e.: same sex, been living together for over two years, and some other conditions. I could get on his health insurance. If I did, payments that his employer made to the premium to cover my health costs would be taxed as income by the federal government (and maybe the state government).

If the same company made the same payments to cover an employee's legally married spouse, the federal government would not tax those payments.
posted by kavasa at 5:02 PM on October 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


It's equal protection under the law, not equal protection under Blue Cross.

I think that HIPAA mandates that you should be allowed to add yourself to your spouse's plan, and vice versa, doesn't it? This inequality of treatment certainly seems like a legal issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 PM on October 2, 2009


if you successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court that homosexuals are a class deserving equal protection under the law, wouldn't the 14th Amendment then apply to a situation like this?

Yes, in the case of a law to be enforced or a public entity or agency, such as a state university. Also, if there are specific laws about medical insurance coverage policies, similar to redlining laws for banks, then yes, the 14th Amendment applies.

But don't miss the divide between public and private entities. Purely private individuals, companies and groups can generally do whatever they want, and exclude whomever they want. For example, private men's clubs can, and do, exclude women, blacks, Jews, etc. They'd open themselves up to all kinds of civil claims and public rejection, of course. But Augusta National Golf Club, for example, doesn't give a rat's ass about what others think about its men-only membership policy.

Health insurance laws may differ from state-to-state, but it wouldn't surprise me if, say, Blue Cross could deny coverage to redheads just because they don't like 'em.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2009


I think that HIPAA mandates that you should be allowed to add yourself to your spouse's plan, and vice versa, doesn't it?

In certain states where a homosexual partner can legally become a spouse, sure.

That does raise an interesting question. You have a federal law related to spousal rights trumped by differing standards of what can constitute a spouse, from state to state, causing a financial hardship. That might have some legal legs to run with.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2009


At least I'm not in here trying to argue that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy and tasteless.

Hm. Not too long ago people thought women got getting paid less than men because they were more incompetent. If you search the Free Republic long enough [not recommended], you'll probably find someone saying that same-sex couples pay more exactly because it's unhealthy.
posted by qvantamon at 5:21 PM on October 2, 2009


isn't it also more expensive to be an unmarried straight couple in states without common-law rules or to file separately or to have one income vs two?

Don't know about the first two, but you have the latter backwards. Getting married lowers your taxes if you have only one earner, or if one earner makes drastically more than the other. It increases your taxes if you have two earners making more similar incomes (because of progressive taxation --- independtly, those earners would both have a portion of their income taxed at the lower brackets, instead one earner's income is added to the others and thus only taxed at higher brackets. When you have a large disparity, this effect is overshadowed by the wider brackets for married couples). In my case, since I make over an order of magnitude more than my wife, it lowered my taxes.

(this is the "marriage bonus" vs "marriage penalty")
posted by wildcrdj at 5:24 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You have a federal law related to spousal rights trumped by differing standards of what can constitute a spouse, from state to state, causing a financial hardship. That might have some legal legs to run with.

Except that DOMA violates equal protection and keeps the federal government from recognizing its obligations, even with states that defend Constitutional rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2009


What? Is this true, Blazecock "Queenly Nomenclature" Pileon? Well, dog my cats!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:02 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


+1. One can never hear "dog my cats" enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


$140K? That's almost worth switching teams for.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:30 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gay tax cut, or full access to all legal rights straights take for granted. Fucking DUH.
posted by Scoo at 7:05 PM on October 2, 2009


You know what else sucks? Taking care of your children under current laws. The $17,000 I pay to my ex-wife in child support (however she chooses to use it) is tax-free income for her, but I pay taxes on it. She can claim them as dependents against her other income, and I can't claim them as dependents because they don't live with me. If I was gay I would be better off.
posted by Mike Buechel at 7:15 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except that DOMA violates equal protection and keeps the federal government from recognizing its obligations, even with states that defend Constitutional rights.

What?
posted by Mike Buechel at 7:22 PM on October 2, 2009


Sorry, Blazecock Pileon. I misunderstood. Please ignore my last comment.
posted by Mike Buechel at 7:37 PM on October 2, 2009


That was an incredibly bad lede.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:00 PM on October 2, 2009


From a new century populated with incredibly bad ledes.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:03 PM on October 2, 2009


Why does marriage have any income tax consequence? As it stands now, the IRS encourages marriage between (hetero) couples earning disparate wages, and discourages marriage between couples where each of them individualy makes a nice income. No fucking reason.
posted by exogenous at 8:47 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18.

Really? $140K? What's the N there? The article has an interesting premise, but seemed like such a load of waffley creative math. I'd love to see a rigorous treatment of this.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:53 PM on October 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Except that DOMA violates equal protection and keeps the federal government from recognizing its obligations, even with states that defend Constitutional rights.

Hence...
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a 32-page lawsuit Wednesday [July 8. 2009] against the U.S. government, seeking federal marriage benefits for 16,000 legally-wed gay and lesbian couples. At issue is the constitutionality of Section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act, recently notoriously defended by the Department of Justice.

The suit states that DOMA, termed "overreaching and discriminatory," interferes with the state's "sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage."

"We view all married persons equally," Coakley said at a press conference today.

The basis for the suit is the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 8 of the Constitution. Along with the United States itself, defendants include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Another suit by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) targeting DOMA is also in the works. GLAD's Janson Wu says, "We applaud the Commonwealth's decision to seek to protect its married citizens from the harms caused by federal discrimination."
posted by ericb at 10:04 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what else sucks? Taking care of your children under current laws. The $17,000 I pay to my ex-wife in child support (however she chooses to use it) is tax-free income for her, but I pay taxes on it. She can claim them as dependents against her other income, and I can't claim them as dependents because they don't live with me. If I was gay I would be better off.

I'm sure being gay would make your life so much easier.
posted by kylej at 10:30 PM on October 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


If I was gay I would be better off.

Look, I feel for you, honestly. That sounds unpleasant. But think of it this way -- if you were gay you probably wouldn't have had your children in the first place. Or if you did somehow manage to have them, your split-up would put you in a world of terrifying legal choices that would probably make what you have now seem like a real picnic. So that's sort of a weird thing for you to say, considering.
posted by hermitosis at 11:05 PM on October 2, 2009 [26 favorites]


did anyone read the comments of that article? a bunch of people bitching about how expensive it is to raise kids and how gays don't have to pay for that (because, you know, gays don't have kids). glad to see people called them out on how having kids is a choice, not a fucking requirement.

and, i would love to be in one of those stereotypical gay couples earning $140K a year. i don't even know a gay couple that earns that much...
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:13 PM on October 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know what else sucks? Taking care of your children under current laws. The $17,000 I pay to my ex-wife in child support (however she chooses to use it) is tax-free income for her, but I pay taxes on it. She can claim them as dependents against her other income, and I can't claim them as dependents because they don't live with me. If I was gay I would be better off.

well, maybe you shouldn't have had children then.

or, why don't you try living as a second class citizen for a few weeks here in the good old usa? because then you wouldn't make rediculous statements about how you'd be better off if you were gay.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:16 PM on October 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I'm sure being gay would make your life so much easier."

Well, you do get to fly everywhere by helicopter, and eat the secret Ben and Jerry's flavor, but it's murder getting Tony tickets.

Oh, and the civil rights thing. But once that gets cleared up (and all I'm saying is, you know, some socialism), and your parents are cool and you live in New York or at least Philly, it's pretty much too easy. Once they get those civil rights, we straights should get together and make sure they all get terrible haircuts or something. That'll even things out.
posted by klangklangston at 11:20 PM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I was gay I would be better off.

If by "better off", you mean "most states wouldn't recognize the fact that the non-biological parent has any rights in regards to the children."

Seriously, how fucking privileged you are to have the right to hang out with and care for the children that you produced.
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 PM on October 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


OK, "most" might be an exaggeration. Don't really care to research the exact level of homo-bigotry encoded in state laws here.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 PM on October 2, 2009


That may be true, but as the Assistant Deputy Mayor of Metafilter, I can still overrule you. The motion carries.
Assistant to the Deputy Mayor of Metafilter.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:30 AM on October 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow. So not fair.
posted by d4v1dr0b3r7s0n at 8:05 AM on October 3, 2009


Couldn't read the article: was this American same-sex couples? If so, you owe no loyalty to a country that isn't loyal to you.

In any case, give gay people full human rights and let capitalism do the rest. If it becomes clear that the market is inadequate, regulate.

Admittedly, if I was getting 140K, oppression would have me crying all the way to the bank...
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2009


Admittedly, if I was getting 140K, oppression would have me crying all the way to the bank...

Considering this was a New York Times article, that's really not all that much money to be making in the greater NYC area. Rents and cost of living there are not what they are in the rest of the country.

Not sure what you mean by you owe no loyalty to a country that isn't loyal to you and let capitalism do the rest in the context of things like government benefit equality and taxes and such. Explain?
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would have thought it cheaper since you can share all your clothes.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:00 PM on October 3, 2009


When I read the article this morning, the first thing I did was go here where I discovered that even in Manhattan, the 2007 household income was $64,217. That's far less than these hypothetical couples studied by the Times.

I skimmed through their "notebook" that is supposed to explain their methodology, but I didn't get a citation for their income figures. Maybe I missed that. Maybe they're more interested in upper-class families. Or maybe I have a chip on my shoulder. Either way, on preview I went back and deleted the bitter middle-class income-challenged snark I started to type in here; consider it said.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:58 PM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reasoning for the $140k income:
"We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18." (page 1 para 4)
posted by jacalata at 6:29 PM on October 3, 2009


jacalata, which is to say, for people whose income is in the top 5%.
posted by shetterly at 7:25 PM on October 3, 2009


wildcrdj: "Getting married lowers your taxes if you have only one earner, or if one earner makes drastically more than the other. It increases your taxes if you have two earners making more similar incomes"

I think this bears repeating. The way the government handles marriage and taxation in general isn't that great; two people on an equal financial footing are actually, in almost all circumstances that I'm aware of, better off not filing jointly because you just end up getting screwed that way. If you each make x, the tax liability on 2*x is not the same as 2*(tax liability on x).

So even if gay couples did have full and equal rights, if they both had basically equivalent incomes, they might be in the same situation that an increasing number of married couples are—it's better off to be single in the eyes of the IRS anyway.

(Of course, as a single person I don't see this as a "marriage penalty," I see it as a lack of a "marriage bonus"—a bonus which ought not to exist in the first place, because I don't think that encouraging [or restricting, or defining] marriage is any of the government's goddamn business in the first place. If we just got the government out of marriage completely, and had it treat every individual just as, you know, an individual, then we wouldn't have these ridiculous issues.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what else sucks? Taking care of your children under current laws. The $17,000 I pay to my ex-wife in child support (however she chooses to use it) is tax-free income for her,

Sigh. Child support is not a present to your ex-wife. It's child support. There's a difference.
posted by jokeefe at 9:32 PM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to put my earlier focus on economics in perspective: I think marriage is great, having been happily married for 27 years and eleven months. I believe adults should be free to marry in any combination they wish.

But I also think it's dishonest of the New York Times to ignore working class and middle class folks when trying to come up with a cost benefit for marriage.
posted by shetterly at 11:52 PM on October 3, 2009


You know what else sucks? Taking care of your children under current laws. The $17,000 I pay to my ex-wife in child support (however she chooses to use it) is tax-free income for her, but I pay taxes on it. She can claim them as dependents against her other income, and I can't claim them as dependents because they don't live with me. If I was gay I would be better off.

1. Your child support is not alimony, it's child support. For your children. As the custodial parent it's up to your ex to budget and save/spend the money that comes into the household. Mediators and Family Court are there for parents who cannot reach agreement on substantive disputes about what's best for the children.
2. Who claims the children as dependents is not legislated, it's to be worked out between you and your ex. If your ex claims your kids and you don't, then work it out with your ex. Don't confuse the terms of your divorce with "current laws."
3. As others have pointed out, same-sex non-biological parents have NO RIGHTS in most states to "take care of their children" should the relationship end. Worse than that, children of same-sex parents have NO RIGHTS in most states to have any relationship whatsoever with a non-biological parent should the relationship not work out, regardless of how much that parent has loved and nurtured them since birth and regardless of how detrimental it is to the child to lose contact with that parent. But damn those gays are lucky to not have ex-wives amirite?
posted by headnsouth at 6:15 AM on October 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


My (same-sex) wife and I live in CT, where our marriage is legal. Because our marriage is not federally recognized, we have to file federal income taxes separately, then make a mock joint federal filing which we have to use to file our joint state taxes. All of this is a royal pain in the ass (though thank god for tax software), but it has had the weird benefit of showing me that we actually pay about $8000 less in taxes separately than we would together as a straight married couple. This is because we are able to capitalize on the discrepancy in our incomes - my wife makes about 1/3 of what I make, so she declares the kids while I deduct the mortgage.

Much as I hate not legally declaring the kids that I birthed, for $8K a year I learned to live with it : ) . Of course, this does not take into consideration the several thousand extra dollars a year I pay to have her on my insurance as a 'domestic partner' even though we are legally married. So the actual savings are less.

I would give that $8K up in a heartbeat if it meant federal recognition for our marriage, however. Yes, it means that much - and so much more.
posted by widdershins at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


hippybear: I think a reasonable amount of civil disobedience and tax-dodging is perfectly OK if it's the government messing with you first. I would love to see a brain drain to reward whatever countries have legally recognised sexual equality. So yeah, no loyalty seems like a good start.

If it's the case that insurance companies are still charging more after the government has given homosexuals equal status under the law, that's much trickier, but you'd think that set-up wouldn't be particularly stable.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:57 AM on October 5, 2009


Of course, this does not take into consideration the several thousand extra dollars a year I pay to have her on my insurance as a 'domestic partner' even though we are legally married. So the actual savings are less.

Exactly. There are many ways in which the lack of equal treatment for same-sex marriage is very unfair, but tax treatment isn't one of them. I mean, it should definitely be the same as for hetro couples, but at that point it's still not really all that fair so it's not much of a gain.
posted by GuyZero at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2009


There are many ways in which the lack of equal treatment for same-sex marriage is very unfair...

Such as:
The Benefits of Marriage

"Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.

Creating a 'family partnership' under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.

Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.

Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.

Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.

Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.

Receiving public assistance benefits.

Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.

Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.

Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.

Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.

Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.

Making burial or other final arrangements.

Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.

Applying for joint foster care rights.

Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.

Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Living in neighborhoods zoned for 'families only.'

Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.

Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.

Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).

Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).

Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.

Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.

Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.

Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family."*
posted by ericb at 5:39 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are many ways in which the lack of equal treatment for same-sex marriage is very unfair, but tax treatment isn't one of them.

Here in Massachusetts:
With Marriage, Gay Couples Face Tax Tangles.

Navigating Income Taxes for Married Same-Sex Couples.*
posted by ericb at 5:43 PM on October 5, 2009


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