My Marriage of 20 Years Might Be Legal!
Where were you when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA?
Last week’s ruling against 1996’s heinous Defense of Marriage Act was so historic for gays and lesbians that most of us will remember exactly where we were when we learned the news.
I was at home on Wednesday when, fittingly, I got a call from my daughter, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia. She was on speakerphone with my wife, who was visiting her in Charlottesville.
My daughter’s excitement was palpable. “I don’t even have the words, Mom,” she said.
This was quite uncharacteristic for such a precocious wordsmith, particularly on this issue. In 1999, as an eighth-grader at Bala Cynwyd Middle School, she had written an impassioned letter to then-Sen. Arlen Specter, urging him to support the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“As the child of two lesbian women, I have firsthand evidence that gays and lesbians love each other no less than male-female couples,” she wrote. “Why shouldn’t their love be legally acknowledged? My parents have always been as loving, caring and supportive as any heterosexual couple would be.”
Fourteen years later, my daughter’s reverie has become federal law. Well, but not for her parents. God bless the Supremes. You suck, Pennsylvania.
My disgust with the Pennsylvania state legislature’s primate-driven fear and loathing of all things homosexual makes it impossible for me to bask in the rainbow generated by the federal ruling. Or, more important, in the benefits.
My wife and I were married in 1993 in Philadelphia by a Reconstructionist rabbi. Even if we were to re-marry in, say, New York, one of the 13 states that recognizes same-sex unions, we would not be entitled to the full range of 1,000-plus federal benefits automatically given to heterosexual spouses in such areas as Social Security, taxes and immigration, according to the ruling.
That is because we reside in a state that does not recognize gay marriage. The IRS, for example, determines federal tax status based on state of residence, which means that only same-sex couples who live in gay marriage-friendly states would be recognized as married.
Some Pennsylvanians have gone to drastic measures to circumvent such inequities. ABC News recently reported on a gay man from central Pennsylvania who adopted his partner of 44 years to avoid a 15 percent state inheritance tax. As a family member, the surviving partner will be taxed at only 4.5 percent. (A surviving spouse is taxed at 0 percent.)
Let me be clear: Under no circumstances do I wish to be my wife’s mother.
The good news is that many such federal practices are now in flux. A statement on the IRS website says it is reviewing the DOMA decision and will “move swiftly to provide revised guidance in the near future,” working in conjunction with the Departments of Treasury and Justice.
Let’s dream, for a moment, that the IRS, in its infinite wisdom, decides to recognize same-sex married couples who live in gay-phobic states like, say, Pennsylvania.
For me, that would mean significant savings in my federal income tax. For starters, I could file as head of household — which I am, financially speaking. But because the IRS sees me as a single individual, I have been denied this particular heterosexual advantage.
In the final analysis, the recognition of same-sex marriage is far more than a dollars-and-cents issue, of course.
The emotional importance of the Supreme Court’s decision cannot be overstated. But without the endorsement of the state I have called home since 1979, I feel like an unwelcome visitor.