Legally Married and Legally Fired

— by CAP Action War Room

The Fight For Equal Rights For LGBT Americans Does Not End At Marriage

We’ve been talking a lot about a certain Supreme Court case over the past month, with the Affordable Care Act under attack for a second time. Next up, the Supreme Court will hear another important case in April on whether to legalize marriage for committed same-sex couples throughout the country. While proponents of equality are hopeful for a historic decision to finally ensure marriage equality nationwide, regardless of the outcome, the fight for LGBT equal rights will not end in June. One aspect of that fight is securing basic non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.

While the fundamental right to marry the one you love has been extended to Americans in over thirty states, we still have a ways to go in enacting meaningful anti-discrimination laws across the country. As the graphic below demonstrates, LGBT Americans are still vulnerable to discrimination in many other ways. And click here to learn more about all the protections that LGBT Americans don’t have.

LGBT-Discrimination

BOTTOM LINE: While the Supreme Court may soon rightly decide that marriage equality is constitutional, the fight for fairness and full equality will not be over this summer. Congress and the States need to act to ensure equal protections for LGBT Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Just Like Me? NOT! Amodei Is Deaf, Dumb and Can’t Read!

DiscriminationSome time ago, I wrote to Rep. Mark Amodei regarding DOMA and various bills proposed by GOP members of Congress seeking to  restrict the marriage franchise.  I specifically stated that I believe that marriage is a contract of law and as such it should be available to all human beings, be they male + male, female + female or male+female couples.  I conveyed in that letter that I consider marriage a civil right.  I also told him in my letter that if he was of the belief that marriage should NOT be available to ALL couples, but instead allowed only between ONE man and ONE woman, then he should find the intestinal fortitude to introduce a bill into Congress to remove all discriminatory marriage-related tax incentives and benefits from our US Tax Code.  It is inappropriate for Congress to impose discriminatory tax codes on certain members of our society.  I also stated that if it’s only to be between ONE man and ONE woman, then they should outlaw divorce and not allow widows or widowers to marry as they’d already used up their “ONE.”

A number of bills have been proposed.  HJRes51 proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to enshrine discrimination of against an entire class of U.S. Citizens:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein),

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This joint resolution may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment’.

SEC. 2. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

The following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

`Article–

`Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.’.

Yet another bill, HR2834, proposed which marriages would be eligible for benefits:

Declares that, in determining the meaning of any Act of Congress: (1) “marriage” includes a marriage, domestic partnership, civil union, or any other similar legal union between two individuals that is recognized by a state, the District of Columbia, a territory or possession of the United States, or a federally recognized Indian tribe; and (2) “spouse” refers to either member of such a legal union. (Currently, “marriage” is defined only as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, while “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.)

Under the definitions outlined in HR2834, my late husband and I would not have been considered husband and wife, as we were not married in a “State,” the District of Columbia,  a U.S. Territory, or on Tribal grounds.  We were married in the Bahamas. That was another point I raised in my letter to Rep. Amodei.

Well, I finally got my response from Rep. Amodei’s office.  Clearly, he, and the member of his staff (sp) who drafted the response below, are incapable of comprehending that someone in his district would be “FOR” the principle of marriage equality and thought I must have erred in my assertion that marriage should NOT be restricted to just ONE man and ONE woman.  Here’s the copy of his letter (the only modification to this letter is the removal of my address from the letter before posting it here):

Amodei-DOMA

HHS announces first guidance implementing Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.  This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”

“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”

Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan are entitled to care in, among certain other skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), the SNF where their spouse resides (assuming that they have met the conditions for SNF coverage in the first place, and the SNF has agreed to the payment amounts and other terms that apply to a plan network SNF).  Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have faced the choice of receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse, or dis-enrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan which would have meant paying more out-of-pocket for care in the same nursing home as their same-sex spouse.

Today’s guidance clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples.  The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.
###

Same-Sex Married Couples Finally Get Some Certainty

Treasury and IRS Announce That All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes; Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples

IR-2013-72, Aug. 29, 2013

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26 Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.

Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status.

Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.

Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.

Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.

How to File a Claim for Refund

Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for income taxes should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for gift or estate taxes should file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. For information on filing an amended return, see Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, available on IRS.gov, or the Instructions to Forms 1040X and 843. Information on where to file your amended returns is available in the instructions to the form.

Future Guidance

Treasury and the IRS intend to issue streamlined procedures for employers who wish to file refund claims for payroll taxes paid on previously-taxed health insurance and fringe benefits provided to same-sex spouses. Treasury and IRS also intend to issue further guidance on cafeteria plans and on how qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored arrangements should treat same-sex spouses for periods before the effective date of this Revenue Ruling.

Other agencies may provide guidance on other federal programs that they administer that are affected by the Code.

Revenue Ruling 2013-17, along with updated Frequently Asked Questions for same-sex couples and updated FAQs for registered domestic partners and individuals in civil unions, are available today on IRS.gov. See also Publication 555, Community Property.

Treasury and the IRS will begin applying the terms of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 on Sept. 16, 2013, but taxpayers who wish to rely on the terms of the Revenue Ruling for earlier periods may choose to do so, as long as the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not expired.

Ohio Plans Unspeakably Cruel Appeal Of Dying Man’s Last Wish

By Ian Millhiser on Jul 25, 2013, ThinkProgress

John Arthur is dying. He is in the terminal stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease and has entered hospice care. Arthur is also gay, and in a 20 year relationship with a man named Jim Obergefell. Because the couple’s home state of Ohio will not allow them to marry, Arthur and Obergefell recently flew to Maryland together and were legally married on the tarmac — just weeks after the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality decision in United States v. Windsor. Arthur was unable to rise from his hospice bed.

In his final days, Arthur wants to honor his commitment to his husband. He wants his own death certificate to list Obergefell as his “surviving spouse.” And he wants to die knowing that his partner of 20 years can someday be buried next to him in a family plot bound by a directive that only permits his lawfully wedded spouse to be interred alongside him. And, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that Arthur should indeed have the dignity of dying alongside a man that Ohio will recognize as his husband.

And now, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) wants to take that dignity away from Mr. Arthur. The day after a judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio to list Arthur’s husband as his “surviving spouse” on his death certificate, DeWine announced that he would appeal this decision and try to strip a dying man of his final wish.

There are marriage equality cases with sweeping national implications. This is not one of them. The judge’s order is limited exclusively to Arthur and Obergefell. Indeed, as the judge explains, “there is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by the issuance” of an order requiring Ohio to acknowledge the two men’s marriage. “No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

There are also marriage equality cases where a great deal of money is at stake. But this is not one of those either. In Windsor, plaintiff Edith Windsor sought $363,053 in estate taxes she was forced to pay because the federal government would not acknowledge her marriage to a woman. Arthur, by contrast, hardly has an estate to tax. He and his husband had to raise donations to cover the cost of their flight to Maryland.

Yet, while Ohio has nothing to gain from refusing to comply with the judges’ order, Arthur and Obergefell have a tremendous amount to lose. Thanks to DeWine’s appeal, Arthur will spend his last days unsure whether he and his husband can someday lie together in his family burial plot. The two men’s final moments will be poisoned by uncertainty over their lawsuit. And Obergefell will likely be forced to spend his first weeks as a widower caught up in discussions with his lawyers about the litigation itself. The couple also could lose their case. Most of the judges on the appeals court that will hear their case are Republicans.

There is a common refrain among marriage equality’s opponents that discrimination is necessary to remove some kind of “threat” equality poses to straight couples’ marriages. This case is a put up or shut up moment for these voices. Who, exactly, will divorce because Ohio will acknowledge one gay couple’s marriage? What strife will result when Obergefell someday is laid to rest next to Arthur? Where is the wife that will leave her husband because Arthur died alongside his? Who does DeWine think he is serving by filing this appeal?

Someday very soon, Obergefell will go home, lie in an empty bed, and confront for the first time the prospect of a life without his husband. In that moment of loss, he believes he will find some comfort if the State of Ohio acknowledges that he feels the same pain that he would have felt if he were married to a woman. That’s what DeWine wants to take away. And it will gain the people of Ohio nothing.

Update

A spokesperson for DeWine clarifies that he does not intend to appeal this temporary order because, the spokesperson says, such an order is not generally appealable. Nevertheless, DeWine also plans to “continue to defend Ohio’s constitutional amendment and law banning same-sex couples from marrying and banning the state from recognizing such marriages,” according to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner.

In other words, while DeWine does not plan to appeal the judge’s recent temporary order, he still plans to put up a full legal fight against Arthur and Obergefell’s right to be permanently recognized by Ohio as husbands.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.