03/14/2010

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The Cost of Being Gay This New York Times article discusses the cost differences of same-sex couples in terms of federal benefits and taxes. Federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships, even if the state a couple resides in does recognize the relationship, and give the same-sex relationship legal status. Same-sex couples with with one spouse whose employer offers benefits for the other spouse are in terms of the federal tax law required to report the spouse's benefit as taxable income. This is not the case if the couple were heterosexual. There are also very distinct differences in terms of things like social security benefits. Same-sex couples do not receive the social security death benefit; nor, if one person makes more than the other, can the lower-income earning spouse receive benefits based on the income earned by the higher-salaried spouse. This is not the case with heterosexual couples. The article calculates a "life-time cost" of being being in a devoted single-sex relationship for a hypothetical lesbian couple in a relationship that lasted 46 years. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs. These numbers will vary, depending on a couple’s income and circumstance. Gay couples earning, say, $80,000, could have health insurance costs similar to our hypothetical higher-earning couple, but they might well owe more in income taxes than their heterosexual counterparts. For wealthy couples with a lot of assets, on the other hand, the cost of being gay could easily spiral into the millions. I know elderly same-sex couples who have been together for 40+ years. They have to file income tax separately. One of the women stayed home for twelve years to raise the other woman's children from a previous relationship, while her spouse earned an income. She has no right to her spouse's retirement pension, or social security benefits. She and her spouse were restricted to the lower amount allocated for non-married people for her spouse's IRA. A heterosexual couple can contribute more money to an IRA based on their status as a couple, even if only one of them earns income. Had they been working when same-sex partners were covered by some health insurance partners, that insurance would be taxed as income, though it isn't for heterosexual domestic partners or married couples. Isn't it is merely sound fiscal policy for the federal government to essentially treat same-sex relationships that are recognized by the individual states as they treat heterosexual relationships in terms of income tax, estate taxes, social security benefits, health insurance, medical savings accounts, and retirement investment? Think of the increased income from couples who can suddenly invest more in long-terms savings like IRAs and 401s, and medical savings plans, and the benefits of the "marriage penalty," wherein couples filing jointly pay more than they would filing separately, if one person makes substantially more than the other. It also seems to me to be the right way to treat people who have earned income and pay taxes. Originally published: http://thatgayblog.com/article/cost-being-gay
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Dan Savage: Please Shut Up David Badash notes on the The New Civil Rights site That Dan Savage is more than a little hypocritical: Dan Savage is using anti-gay slurs to insult the same people who are targeting the LGBTQ community. And that is unacceptable. He's talking about Dan Savage, the queer sex-positive journalist at Seattle's The Stranger, using pejorative names for QLTBG folk as insulting labels for non-queers. More specifically, these are the titles of two Dan Savage blog posts this week: "Ken Cuccinelli Is a Fag." "Transgendered Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna Betrays His Community." Note, first of all, that Savage is using both fag, and transgendered (n.b. technically, the usage is transgender, a noun rather than an adjective) as pejoratives, as insults. Savage is using them as negative terms, rather than the any of the neutral acceptable uses within queer subcultures. I note, by the way, that Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna isn't a transgender person. Granted, McKenna is an an ignorant self-absorbed ass, since he's trying to sue because President Obama signed the health reform bill, but McKenna is a basic run-of-the-mill heteronormative WASP politician, and is, at worst, shockingly predictable. The problem is the way Savage refers to both Ken Cuccinelli and McKenna. It's very clear from the context that Savage is using transgendered and fag as negatives, as terms of approbation. This suggests not only that Savage has issues with self-loathing and hypocrisy, but that his vocabulary is sadly lacking. And no, it doesn't matter that Savage self-identifies as a fag; what matters is that the worst insult he can muster for Ken Cuccinelli is "fag." And, no, Mr. Savage, you don't get to do that. You really don't. You've pretty much managed to walk back the progress self-identified out fags and transgendered folk have made in helping to reclaim, or at least remove some of the negative associations of the words, by heaping negative connotations back on the words. This is not appropriate behavior for anyone, but it's especially inappropriate for someone who identifies as a writer; English is the most copious language to ever exist on Earth. A writer should do better than fall back on conventional hate speech. A queer writer must do better than use heteronormative assumptions to attack opponents. Dan Savage is damaging his credibility, and that of the community he claims to represent. Originally published: http://thatgayblog.com/article/dan-savage-please-shut