The Cost of Being Gay
Fascinating article in the New York Times on the financial aspects of the legal discrimination against being gay. I wish this information had been available during the debate on Proposition 8, and certainly hope it will be used to inspire some rational debate on real, legal issues during the upcoming campaigns in Maine, Washington and elsewhere.
I thought the discussion on tax consequences was particularly illuminating. Income taxes were the one area where straight couples were financially disadvantaged, but only if you looked at the raw amount of taxes paid. But if you look at why they pay more taxes, the reason is quite clearly the extra taxable benefits provided by government programs that prefer their marital status.
Though the gay and heterosexual married couple had identical salaries, the married couple collected more income in retirement — a direct result of their marriage status — and thus owed more in taxes (though they still benefited from the marriage bonus). For instance, the married couple collected higher Social Security spousal benefits and survivor benefits, pension income and income derived from a spousal I.R.A. The gay couples weren’t entitled to any of these benefits.
One issue the authors didn’t directly address that I would have liked to see covered in one of the hypothetical families are the dependents of military and other federal personnel who can’t disclose their true relationships. Extra housing costs, extra healthcare costs, added relocation costs (if relocation is even an option) and drastically reduced pension and employment opportunities are the issues that easily come to mind.
I do wonder though if the opponents of marriage equality are going to come back with a study of their own showing the financial impact of having no decorating skills, no fashion sense, and the inability to recognize bad music and theatrical flops. I’m sure some economist will be happy to quantify the lifetime costs of having bought avocado-colored appliances and shag carpeting.
But we also need to recall all the differences that cannot be measured financially. Spousal privilege, intestacy laws, immigration laws, etc.