This week, dear readers, I bring you one of the least sexy, most unromantic topics on the planet: taxes. No, you haven’t accidentally clicked on the wrong link and been diverted from AfterEllen.com to some boring tax policy website. In light of this week’s tax deadline (aka my least favorite day of the entire year), I think it’s appropriate that we talk about taxes, and more specifically about same-sex marriage and taxes.
If there’s one thing that I hate even more than paying taxes, it’s being gay and paying taxes. As if forking over 20 to 30 percent of your hard-earned cash doesn’t suck enough, gay people are basically forced to fund a government that still denies us basic civil rights like equal marriage. If this were some purely theoretical inequity, it would still bother me – because that’s the kind of girl I am. It’s bad enough that lesbian and gay couples have to suffer the indignity of checking “single” on their tax forms when they are, in fact, married (and have the rings, the wedding album and lackluster sex life to prove it). What’s even worse is that actual gay couples are losing actual money (thousands of dollars, in some cases) because they can’t legally file joint tax returns – and that makes me absolutely irate. If you don’t believe me, check out this story about a married Massachusetts couple who owe an extra $10,000 to Uncle Sam this year because they can’t file jointly.
For the record, I think it’s utterly ridiculous to tax people differently based on their relationship statuses and completely unfair to penalize single people of any sexual orientation. But the fact of the matter is that the IRS gives a break to heterosexual people who are married. So, if a same-sex couple is committed, financially interdependent, and has gone to the trouble to (probably) travel to another state to get legally married, then they should get the exact same treatment. I mean, these are bona fide marriages that are legally recognized by one or more U.S. states, and it’s about time we started getting some of the more than 1,000 federal perks that come along with being married. It’s not like we’re asking to be allowed to have raunchy “gay sex” in public or petitioning to add “Homosexuality 101″ to elementary school curriculum. We’re asking to file joint tax returns – a small concession that I hardly think will undermine the stability of the country.
That’s why I was tickled pink when I read that some married lesbian and gay couples are standing up to Uncle Sam and going ahead and filing jointly anyway. Gay rights advocacy group Equality Florida has spearheaded the “Refuse to Lie” campaign, which encourages same-sex couples who are married to ignore the government mandate that they file taxes as singles. Equality Florida’s Executive Director Nadine Smith had this to say in a recent press release:
As long as we quietly comply, our friends, neighbors, families and co-workers have no idea what is being done to us in their name. As long as we are silent, they won’t understand how humiliating, dehumanizing and plain wrong it is to force legally married couples who are gay to lie and deny our spouses.
Among the brave ladies taking a stand this year is Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Kendall and her wife Sandy have been together for almost 20 years and have two children together (that’s pretty darn married if you ask me). They’re risking $5,000 by bucking the antiquated tax law, but Kendall says it is worth it. Here’s what Kendall told the New York Times:
As a lawyer and a legal advocate for the LGBT community, I am often in a position to advise people to exercise great caution and to comply in most cases with the letter of the law, even when that means denying who we are. This is my small way of saying, where we can, we are not going to play the game anymore.
The IRS is not an organization particularly well known for its empathy or tendency to comprehend nuance. So, if you’re considering taking a stand and filing a joint tax return with your wife this year, know that there may be negative consequences in the form of steep fines or a dreaded audit. If those are risks you’re not willing to take, check out a www.RefuseToLie.org, which offers some alternatives that allow you to make a conscientious objection while still adhering to the law. For example, you can check “single” on your tax return, but then include a letter explaining that you are legally married, but unable to file as such because of the (stupid, idiotic) Defense of Marriage Act. It doesn’t sound like much, but saying something is better than being silent, right?
Are you going to “Refuse to Lie” on your tax return this year?