"Whats the big deal?", you might ask. "This has been going on forever." Well, the big deal is that in the same notice comes the bald admission that this tax does not apply to opposite sex couples. The explanatory pamphlet from health Service System of San Francisco puts it like this....if you can sift through the legalese: (emphasis mine)
Health coverage for you domestic partner, same sex spouse, and any children of that partner or spouse through a Health Service System (HSS) plan is typically a taxable benefit. Because the federal government does not recognize domestic partnership or same sex marriage for tax purposes, employer contributions to health premiums for an employee or retiree's domestic partner, and children of a domestic partner or same sex spouse, are treated as taxable(imputed) income. Moreover, employee premium contributions are taken post-tax. By comparison, if an employee or retiree is married to a member of the opposite sex, no taxable imputed income results from and employer's contributions to an opposite sex spouse's health premium costs. Also, employee premium contributions for an opposite sex spouse are paid pre-tax.
There you have it in black and white...or in this case, full color glossy....If we were a heterosexual couple we would not be taxed on our health care benefits. Now, the point of this pamphlet was to make us aware of a tax break the federal government makes available to "qualifying relatives"...which includes domestic partners and same sex spouses, as a way to offset this gays only tax. That said...
let the my rant begin...
Over time, I've heard alot of arguments against same sex marriage. I've heard gay people claim that wanting to marry is copying an oppressive heterosexual institution...I have heard straight conservatives, in their "marriage is a one man one woman' argument make the absurd claim that gay men and women are not being harmed by excluding them from marriage...both points of view largely miss the practical ways in which legal marriage does protect same sex couples and their children...this tax leveled exclusively at domestic partners and same sex couples is one of those specific examples.
To be fair the pamphlet was sent by HSS to help us apply for the "Qualifying relative" tax break which I saw as a work around for the blatant inequity that gay couples pay to the federal government just for being gay and fortunate enough to have health care insurance. HSS didn't have to do that. They could have left us on our own for figure that out. However, since they do business with the city and county of San Francisco, they made that information available and probably helped us avoid this particular tax penalty. This particular work around serves as a stop-gap measure until DOMA can be repealed and the federal government can begin recognizing the legal marriages performed in several states.
...But does it want to?
I wish the readers of this post could have been with us last night when my husband opened that letter and see the utterly defeated look on his face. This man works hard everyday to provide for not only his family...but also the children of our niece who we are fostering. To receive a letter stating that he was now liable for additional taxes because our family is a same sex family just knocked the wind right out of him. Jay is my rock...when he hurts, I hurt. To see him absorb the fact of having to pay an undisclosed amount of money because we are gay( and at the time we wondered whether this may be retroactive) just stole all the joy from his eyes...and put us both in mind that the government we live under does not value us enough to grant us the right to marry....which some refer to as "special rights'....yet it has no problem dipping in our pockets for "special revenue".
I was furious...As it stands, the last tax season our tax preparer was kind enough to inform us that had we been a heterosexual couple we would have paid $5,000 less in federal taxes. That's money that could really be used right now.
Plus...haven't we just had a national debate about the difficulties of maintaining health care insurance?!! Have we not just established that getting good quality care is not an easy thing for many people to do, to the point where much of America is uninsured?!! Yet here we are adding additional taxes to it? Its insane! I can't fathom that someone in Washington thinks this is a good way to generate revenue when alot of people are struggling to pay their mortgages or juggling credit cards to pay for everyday bills. When I talk to friends who live in Britain or Canada and try to describe our health care system they just look at me with a sad shake of the head like they are talking to a condemned man in a third world country. They can't fathom that we don't take care of our citizens and I have to agree with them. If I'm already getting taxed out the wazoo then why do I have to be taxed again on services I have already earned? This is not free market economy...this is government disconnected from the realities of the people who work hard to make a living. And whats worse...if your gay, they care even less.
Think its all hyperbole? Making unfair and simplistic comments? Perhaps...but...
Ask gay soldiers separated from the military because of "Don't Ask Don't Tell". They are now being told that they will receive only half the money a soldier would normally receive upon separation to help the transition into civilian life. This is the focus of a class action lawsuit being filed by the ACLU on behalf of lesbian and gay soldiers.
It just pisses me off. Normally in my blog posts I try to be at a little fair and balanced even though I have a clear point of view. but at this point in time I can't help but feel angry. I feel like we have been sent a clear message from the government we all live under and who our soldiers give their lives for, that we don't count.
You can work your whole life in a dangerous job protecting the public as my husband does, but if your gay we don't honor your hard work and sacrifice. You can lay down your life in a time of war...but if we find our you're gay then your willingness to sacrifice is not counted. We live and work in a society that see's our contributions to it as being of lesser value...regardless of the pretty words that may be spoken from the White House podium. All those pretty speeches have not moved us a single step forward. With Democrats trying too hard to play fair because they don't feel the fires of discrimination under their own feet and Republicans actively stoking those fires, it begins to feel like our avenues for recourse are becoming few.
In closing my rant I would like to offer that there is a time for fairness a time for working within the system. The urge to fairness should never be far away. But there is also a time for our anger. If that we not so, there would have been no stonewall riots and where would we be today without that defining moment. If we never got angry would the government have done anything for HIV/AIDS when it became clear that it was killing gay men by the scores? If not for those moments when anger turned to activism, we would not be in the position we are now...we would not even have the public voice to express this anger.
Sometimes it seems as if we are so close to attaining our goals that it makes the practice of patience seem a necessary thing. If we just wait a little bit longer...if we just give this politician or that one more time. And wait we do...we give or time and money...we lobby, phone bank, and blog...and we wait to see if today is the day when it all gets set right. When will it be enough for us that we find that anger that drove us to stand up for ourselves? The president and congress have failed...the voters of America are scared sh*tless that something horrible comes from allowing us to be equal....the one option left is the courts and they are not a sure thing at all. What is our response when they fail? What will we have left? When will it be right and appropriate to take out anger back out onto the streets again to propel us into the next chapter of our growth as a community?
Our lives matter...our families matter...our sacrifices matter. Its time to stop accepting those who treat us as if they don't.
Untill next time dear readers....