Monday, May 01, 2006

You Cannot Get Married and It's Gonna Cost Ya Too

On Saturday Andrew Sullivan posted an interesting statistic on his blog: the marriage rate among gays in Massachusetts is around 17%. He then went on to speculate that this may be a distorted (upward) percentage due to pent-up demand and that we will probably have to wait awhile to get a more accurate picture of the actual number of gays and lesbians who are taking advantage of the right that everyone but them enjoys.

I for one was a bit surprised by the statistic. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I truly thought the numbers would be higher. I guess I felt that what Massachusetts had done was so momentous and so groundbreaking that there would be thousands of gays and lesbians waiting at the doors of city hall at the crack of dawn on the day the law went into effect.

On Sunday one of Andrew’s readers had an interesting response to this statistic based on his own personal experience. He made the point that Gay Marriage would need to be recognized on the federal level in order for it to truly offer gays and lesbians the same rights and protections that we heterosexuals are granted when we get married. His email to Andrew:

A fairly obvious point you didn't make in your post: I don't think the comparison can ever be made about marriage rates for gay couples in Massachusetts (or any other state that grants gays the right to marry) unless there is full recognition of such marriages on the federal level. Even if I could marry under state law - the lack of federal recognition means the institution for me is still a second class affair. Important tax and other federal benefits are missing.

In my own case, my partner and I are selling my house here in California - and I will have more than $600,000 in gains. We've been together 4 years. If I gifted him half the house - he would be taxed. A couple who could have married however, would get a $500,000 flat excusion for gains under the tax code. As a single, unmarried man I get only a $250,000 exclusion - meaning that I am paying in just this one instance more than $100,000 penalty in taxes that a married couple would not have.

Very painful to think about. Less rights than any straight person - and a heavier tax burden. So much for the guarantee of equal protection under the law.

So as it stands right now, gays and lesbians are not only penalized emotionally because of whom they choose to love, but they are also punished financially. And this will never change until gay marriage is recognized on the federal level. This is wrong. This is unfair. This is un-American. This is immoral. And we need to argue just as vehemently as the other side does on why it is immoral to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry. Here are a few arguments to start with (I know there are many more):

  • It is immoral to deny a whole group of Americans the right to marry because some people believe it is wrong based on their religious beliefs.
  • It is immoral to penalize gays and lesbians by making them pay more taxes because we have denied them the right to get married and by extension the tax advantages that come with marriage.
  • It is immoral to deny the children of gay and lesbian couples the same protections (such as child support should a union dissolve) and benefits (such as health insurance) that children of heterosexual couples automatically receive because their parents can get married.
  • It is immoral for any one group of people to feel so morally superior that they feel entitled to deny rights to another group of people because of whom they choose to love.
  • It is immoral to deny the country the social stability that would come with allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
  • It is immoral to use God or the Bible to justify making some people lesser human beings unworthy of equal treatment and rights.

I believe Americans by and large are fair people, but we must put a human face on this issue. Stories like the one above are exactly the kind of stories Americans need to hear before they make a decision on where they stand on this issue. It is much harder to deny someone the same rights and protections you enjoy if you know that the consequences of that denial are going to be severe and unfairly punitive. It’s a whole lot easier to discriminate against a fuzzy boogieman concept like the homosexual agenda than a real live human being with hopes, dreams, goals and worries that are scarily similar to your own. Share

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