Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Twist On Same Sex Marriage Some Didn't See Coming

Recently, New York State became the 6th state to legalize same sex marriage. One of the votes that helped push it over the edge was by Republican State Senator Mark Grisanti, who made this statement to explain his vote:
[snip] With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.” [snip]

What a powerful comment, and I am glad he was able to come to that position.

But now there are starting to be some consequences in those states that sanction same-sex marriage. The New York Times reported that several major companies are now asserting that those who currently have domestic partner benefits need to get married in order to keep those benefits:
[snip] Corning, I.B.M. and Raytheon all provide domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners in states where they cannot marry. But now that they can legally wed in New York, five other states and the District of Columbia, they will be required to do so if they want their partner to be covered for a routine checkup or a root canal.

On the surface, this appears to put the couples on an even footing with heterosexual married couples. After all, this is precisely what they have been fighting for: being treated as a spouse. But some gay and lesbian advocates are arguing that the change may have come too soon: some couples may face complications, since their unions are not recognized by the federal government.

“Even with the complications, many people will want to get married for the reasons people want to get married,” said Ross D. Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “But from our perspective, to hinge something as important as insurance for your family to what is still a complicated legal matter for same-sex couples doesn’t seem to be a fair thing to do.” [snip]

The issue with same sex marriage and the federal government is that those of us who have domestic partner benefits are taxed on them as income, as opposed to heterosexual couples, who are not. That is the difference to which Mr. Levi is referring.

I may be missing something, and feel free to tell me if I am, but I am not sure why he is characterizing the push by these companies for people to get married in states where they live work in order to secure these benefits is unfair. Or maybe I just don't accept his argument.

Like the following argument for how this change could affect adoption:
[snip] When it comes to adopting a child, couples may run into trouble if they are trying to adopt from a place that restricts same-sex married couples from adopting. Having one parent adopt while still single may be easier. “If you want to be able to answer honestly in paperwork, multiple interviews and background checks, then you won’t want to get married,” Ms. Taylor said, adding that many foreign countries ban adoptions to same-sex couples. [snip]

Wait - this seems like a red herring to me. If someone is single when they are adopting - as in, not in a relationship - what difference would it make if they found someone after the fact? I think what she is saying, though, is that the person can CLAIM to be single if they aren't legally married, so they can adopt. But that is not being honest anyway, so I am not sure why this changes things.

And then there is the immigration issue:
[snip] He said that there were a variety of reasons — legal, financial and personal — that companies should keep the domestic partnership option at least until gay marriage was recognized at the federal level. Legally speaking, getting married could create immigration issues or it could potentially muddy the process of adopting a child. In some instances, he added, an employee may work in a gay marriage state but live in a neighboring state that does not recognize the marriage. The couple may want to wait to marry until they can be legally wed in their home state.

“There are certainly reasons why a couple may not wish to marry,” added Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at Lambda Legal. “People with certain immigration statuses might want to think very carefully before getting married. There are some types of visas that are meant to be temporary, and if you get married to someone who is a citizen, it could flag your renewal application and reflect your more permanent decision to stay.” [snip]

But doesn't that apply to ANYONE? If someone is here on a temporary visa, finds an American with whom they fall in love, won't the outcome be similar?

Here's the thing - my partner and I had hoops through which we had to jump in order for me to be on her insurance. We have to pay more in taxes as a result. And there are some changes that occurred when she changed companies in our insurance, like that the only way I could have dental insurance was if I saw a dentist in California where her company is based. It is unfortunate for obvious reasons, and obviously heterosexual couples don't have that issue, but there you are. Still, even though it was not legal, we did have a commitment ceremony 14 years ago, and would gladly go to a Justice of the Peace to get legally hitched if we had the opportunity (which is likely to be some time for SC).

All of that is to say, I cannot shake the feeling that some of these folks want their cake and to be able to eat it, too. They pushed for this in these states, they got it, and now when some major companies are saying they have to play by the same rules, they are balking. It isn't like the companies aren't giving them time, or making concessions for issues like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but still, there are concerns:
[snip] At least for now, these companies seem to be in the minority, though it is unclear whether more employers will follow their lead. Eastman Kodak, based in Rochester, said it would continue to offer domestic partner coverage to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

“My impression is that there has been lots of discussion about dropping domestic partner coverage when marriage is first opened up to same-sex couples, but very few employers actually end up taking this step,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, legal director at the Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation law and policy issues. “Some employers initially believe that it is fairer of them to impose the same marriage requirements on all employees, regardless of sexual orientation. But then employees and others explain that employees with a same-sex life partner remain in difficult circumstances due to the continuing federal discrimination.”

Whether same-sex couples marry, they will still be responsible for paying federal income taxes on the value of their partner or spouse’s benefits since they are not recognized by the federal government as an economic unit, unless the person covered is considered a dependent. Couples will not owe those taxes at the state level in places like New York that recognize gay marriage. [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)

And that is a difference - if the companies offer partner benefits regardless of sexual orientation, then sure, keep it that way. But if the benefits are offered because same sex people were unable to get married at that time, but can now, it only seems fair.

And along these lines of same sex marriage, my sister sent me the following video yesterday. I thought there were some pretty good signs. Cracked me up. I hope you find the humor in them, too:

I may be too black/white about this, but if companies are already progressive enough to offer these benefits out of a sense of fairness, are giving people a year to get married, I am not sure what the difference is. But that's just me.

What do you think? Should the companies that already provide partner benefits for their same sex employees require that they get married if they are able to be eligible for these benefits if that is the requirement for their heterosexual employees? What about the immigration and adoption issues? I'd love to hear what you think. Copyright © 2011 by Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy


Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

Agree with you.

Grow up and get married. or give up the bennies.

A year is long enough to get one's affairs in order.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

That's pretty much what I thought, SYD. I don't get the back peddling now. You either want the same rights or you don't. And I just do not see what the Federal Law has to do with the benefits issue, anyway...

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

I should add, to be clear, the federal rights to which they are referring are the many benefits to which we are not eligible. That IS an important issue, and one on which we need to continue fighting.

But, that said, if a company in your state wants to have one standard, you want those benefits, and have the ability to fulfill them, then fulfill them.

PuppyDogMom said...

You really can't have it both ways. If you want marriage legalized, then you take what comes with it. If same sex marriage was legal in Wisconsin (if things continue to go as they have here, I fully expect same sex relationship to be outlawed), then I would expect that equality means exactly that.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Puppy Dog Mom, that's what I think, too. Yes, it is an issue with us having to pay taxes on benefits, and not getting some benefits, but I still say, if it is legal in the state, and the co. provides benefits for married couples, get married already.