Today, on Tax Day, we are reminded while our country continues to evolve in its views towards gay and lesbian couples, our tax code lags. Married same-sex couples must continue to cope with financial hurdles other married couples don’t have to deal with.
Businesses now routinely offer family health care benefits to domestic partners and same-sex couples who are allowed to marry under state laws, but federal tax law punishes both the businesses that offer these benefits and the employees who use them. It treats the value of these benefits as income, forcing the employer and the employee to pay extra taxes that would not apply to other couples.
Not only does this cost more for everyone, it is convoluted to administer, because businesses must keep a separate set of books for employees with a same-sex partner in order to calculate these added taxes—including payroll taxes.
Simply changing the tax code to put health coverage for domestic partners on the same footing as coverage of other family members would remove this headache for employers and ensure that all employees are treated equally and can receive the protections they deserve.
On March 26, 2003, a lawyer stood in front of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court and argued that states should not be allowed to criminally prosecute gay and lesbian people for engaging in sexual activity. At the time, 14 states still had laws on the books that made “homosexual conduct” a crime. Flash forward exactly ten years later, and the Court was considering whether Proposition 8, (barring gay couples from marrying in California) violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. What a difference a decade makes.
To say our country has undergone a rapid transformation on the issue of marriage for gay couples is an understatement. The speed and breadth of this evolution have shocked even the most optimistic advocates. Just in the past two weeks, a cascade of Senators from purple and red states have added their voices to the chorus of marriage supporters, including Rockefeller, Kaine, Tester, McCaskill, Portman, Warner, and Hagan at last count. And this week’s Supreme Court arguments were another landmark moment for the cause.
Because this progress has come at such an astonishing clip, it is understandable that many had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to issue a broad decision that acknowledged a Constitutional right for gay couples to marry nationwide. After this week’s oral arguments, that outcome seems unlikely. But that reality should not be seen as a setback — rather, it is an opportunity to continue our nation’s swift journey toward full acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
This graphic provides a snapshot of the dramatic transformation of public opinion in favor of legal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. In 1996, DOMA was thought to have ended the debate on marriage. But it seems to have been only the beginning of a more profound shift in favor of gay and lesbian couples.
You can download a pdf here, or share this image via Flickr.
This week the Supreme Court will take up two historic cases dealing with marriage for gay couples. We made a cheat sheet breaking down what you need to know about each of the cases, including a easy-to-read charts that will help clarify the many possible outcomes as the Justices ponder their decisions.
The quasi-triumphant coverage of this week’s Supreme Court oral arguments in cases related to marriage equality is making me uncomfortable. Not because I don’t want the high court to rule in a way that upholds the dignity and equal protection of same-sex couples who are or want to be married, but because I don’t think lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans fully appreciate just how tenuous things are on the court right now. The undeniable forward momentum propelling today’s hopeful enthusiasm could be the very thing that keeps the Supreme Court from going big.
The arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry (a.k.a. the Prop 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (a.k.a. the DOMA case) mark the high point of the startling transformation in public opinion in a relatively short period of time. When President Obama took office in 2009, same-sex marriage was legal only in Massachusetts (where it was approved in 2004) and Connecticut (2008). Today, marriage equality reigns in nine states and the District of Columbia. Three of them (Maine, Maryland and Washington state) said, “I do,” last November.
This is happening in tandem with an incredible swing in public opinion. In 2003, 55 percent of the American people were against same-sex marriage in the Washington Post-ABC News poll taken at the time. Last week, a new Post-ABC News poll revealed 58 percent support for marriage equality. That’s a complete flip in public opinion and marks the highest level of support ever.
All of this is fantastic. And it could lead the Supreme Court to decide to take a back seat to a political process moving in the right direction.
WATCH: Is the fight for gay marriage the new civil rights movement?
Earlier today The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart hosted a Google+ Hangout about the state of marriage in America. He was joined by the Center for American Progress’s Winnie Stachelberg, Third Way’s Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Capital Insight’s Jon Cohen and National Black Justice Coalition’s Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks.
Marriage in the Supreme Court: What Could Happen? (Hollingsworth v. Perry)
The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear two cases this term involving marriage for gay couples. This chart explains some possible outcomes for the case that challenges California’s Proposition 8: Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Court will likely hear oral arguments next week and will render a decision by the end of June 2013.
Marriage in the Supreme Court: What Could Happen? (United States v. Windsor)
The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear two cases this term involving marriage for gay couples. This chart explains some possible outcomes for the case that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): United States v. Windsor. The Court will likely hear oral arguments next week and will render a decision by the end of June 2013.
A new report released Tuesday by Freedom to Marry and Third Way, found that state legislators who vote in favor of marriage for same-sex couples overwhelmingly win voter support when running for reelection.
Based on election results in two states that passed freedom to marry laws in the 2011-2012 legislative cycle and whose members stood for reelection — New York and Washington state — the analysis, “Pro-Marriage Legislators Win Elections,” finds that pro-marriage legislators who ran for reelection won 97 percent of the time.
This is significantly higher than the national incumbent re-election average of 90 percent in 2012.