Thursday, April 16, 2009

How about the whole story on taxes and same-sex married couples?

Gary Gates does amazing work. He is singlehandedly responsible for the wealth of knowledge we have about same-sex couples from census data. I turn to him for data for my own work. But his co-authored Huffington Post piece today doesn’t tell the whole story about same-sex couples and taxes.

What he writes about is the unfairness of treating married same-sex couples as unmarried for purposes of federal law. Unlike GLAD’s lawsuit challenging DOMA, he steers clear of examples of same-sex couples who pay more federal income tax because they are treated as single individuals. I’m figuring that’s because he knows that for close-to- equal-earning same-sex couples, they do better being considered unmarried under federal law. The married couples who pay less in federal income tax are those who are the single-earner model, mirroring the husband-at-work and wife-at-home marriage that lawmakers had in mind when they enacted our tax code. I find it unjust that the tax system rewards such families at the expense of equal earners, whether those couples are gay or straight.

Gary Gates does mention Social Security. As I explained in an earlier post about the GLAD lawsuit, our system of Social Security survivors benefits also favors the traditional, gendered model of a single, or at least one primary, income earner. Dual income married couples pay more into the system and get less out over the course of both their lifetimes than the traditional, gendered model. Race-based critiques of Social Security point out that since Black married couples are more likely to both work and to have more equal incomes, the current system disadvantages them.

What should the gay rights movement do? Rather than complain about our lack of access to a set of laws that benefits only some members of our community, how about we work with other groups who want to reform family taxation and Social Security rules for everyone? I wrote about this last year. I'd love to have something different to report for tax day 2010.

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