Monday, January 02, 2012

Marriage Equality-- Common Sense


3 deranged GOP homophobes... and one is a closet queen himself!

I believe in equality, but in marriage... not so much. I mean if people want to get married, by all means let them. It doesn't interest me; never did. But I don't believe that the power of the state should reward one group of people and penalize another, and that's exactly what refusing to recognize gay marriage does. It comes down to an economic issue.

When I first stared asking progressive candidates for their positions on marriage equality, most, especially in the hinterland, said they favored civil unions. Now almost all say they favor marriage equality. That's progress. And it happened because of economics. CNN Money covered it a few days ago in a feature entitled Same-sex spouses lose big on taxes. It's one of the best arguments for repealing DOMA yet.
Same-sex spouses are paying as much as $6,000 a year in extra taxes because the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriage, according to an analysis conducted for CNNMoney by tax specialists.

While marriage provides tax benefits for many heterosexual couples, same-sex families don't enjoy the same perks because they are not allowed to file their federal returns jointly.

The imbalance persists despite increasing acceptance of gay marriage as a legal right. More than 12 states now grant full or partial marriage rights to same-sex couples, and a recent Gallup poll showed-- for the first time-- that a majority of Americans favor gay marriage.

But not the federal government, which is constrained by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Even as more same-sex couples are able to file jointly at the state level, they are still forced to file as single when submitting federal returns to the IRS.

This means they can't combine their income and deductions to take advantage of lower tax rates. It's also harder for them to qualify for certain tax breaks because the credits phase out sooner for single filers.

"It's costing these families thousands of dollars a year, as well as the emotional pain and suffering," said Ken Weissenberg, a partner at accounting firm EisnerAmper who is in a same-sex marriage himself.

Why gay couples pay more: To zero in on the tax bill gap between same-sex families across the country, CNNMoney asked H&R Block to crunch number comparing same-sex and heterosexual families according to a variety of scenarios.

One scenario involved families with one spouse earning $100,000 and the other spouse staying at home with the family's two kids.

In the same-sex family's case, the working spouse files as "head of household," and the stay-at-home spouse is considered a "qualifying relative."

Say that couple reported no other income or deductions. In that case, the same-sex household's federal tax bill is $15,199, which includes tax the head of household must pay on health insurance premiums to cover the stay-at-home spouse. That's $4,543 higher than the straight couple's liability.

Why? Because the "head of household" designation comes with some disadvantages.

Filing as "head of household" instead of "married filing jointly" exposes more income to a higher tax bracket. Plus, standard deductions, which are given based on the filing status to taxpayers who don't itemize deductions, are lower for a head of household than they are for married couples filing jointly.

And then there are the kids. When a child tax credit is claimed, the gap between same-sex households and married couples can grow even wider.

The heterosexual couple in H&R Block's example is able to claim the full $1,000 child tax credit for each kid. But the credit phases out sooner for families claiming "head of household." So in this case, the cost of being unable to file jointly comes out to $6,043 for same-sex households.

...Other factors driving up the bill: It's not just income taxes that are costing same-sex couples more.

Many same-sex spouses don't qualify for the same marital exemptions given to other families for inheritance taxes and gift taxes. In addition, same-sex households receive lower tax exclusions for capital gains on the sales of a home (unless the home is jointly owned and each spouse qualifies for the exclusion).

All of this is not only costing same-sex couples more, but it's a paperwork and compliance nightmare.

Same-sex families who live in states where gay marriage is recognized typically have to fill out up to four separate returns-- including mock federal return-- to cover both their state and federal taxes. Plus, hiring a tax preparer to take on these more complicated returns tends to be significantly more expensive.

So what's the objection to fixing this? Homophobia, pure and simple. The institutionalization of bigotry. Almost every single Republican Member of Congress scored a zero in 2011 in ProgressivePunch's analysis of roll calls that impact the lives of the LGBT community. There were 30 roll calls in the House last year that were included. The best any Republicans managed-- Justin Amash (MI), Nan Hayworth (NY) and Richard Hanna (NY)-- was a dismal 50%. 10 other Republicans, mostly libertarian types, didn't wind up in the zero category. The rest of the caucus did-- zero for their LGBT constituents. And there were also a few Democrats who joined them in the overtly homophobic posturing. These are zeros:
Mark Critz (D-PA)
Larry Kissell (D-NC)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)

Most recently, anti-gay fanatic Virginia Foxx, also from North Carolina, but a Jesse Helms Republican, introduced an amendment to the Pentagon's budget that would require the Pentagon to back the GOP's anti-gay agenda. Even 6 Republicans found it too extreme to support, but the 19 worst homophobic bigots among the Democrats, Shuler in the lead as usual, crossed the aisle and backed Foxx. Even more outrageously, when the Democrats voted on Patrick Murphy's amendment in 2010 to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell it passed 234-194. Five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor, but Shuler led 26 conservative bigots into Boehner's arms. Most of those 26 have either retired or been defeated or have announced they're retiring next year. It's up to the Democratic primary voters in western North Carolina to hold Shuler accountable-- for this and all his other Republican votes.

Blue America has a page dedicated specifically to replacing the most virulent and toxic homophobic fanatics in Congress with men and women who support equality. The most recent addition was Cecil Bothwell, the legendary North Carolina civil libertarian and economic populist, who is challenging Heath Shuler in the upcoming primary. There will be plenty more names added to that list this year, but take a look now and consider helping these candidates fight homophobic bigotry in their districts, in North Carolina, Wisconsin, California, Florida and Iowa (yes, Iowa... we're going after anti-gay sociopath Steve King).

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At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't have time to read the article but come on now which one is the closet queen.

I was guessing the one on the left since all lefties are pinkos and gay. Didn't she play the lady with the dragon tattoo?


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