Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Domestic Partnership Benefits

I added my husband to my health plan last week, and I received a nasty little surprise on my paycheck. While employer-provided health care benefits for one's family are exempt from taxation by the federal government, health care benefits provided to domestic partners are fully taxed. [Update: the Human Resources Council has a thorough exposition of this particular tax law.]

Because the federal government does not recognize my marriage, my husband is treated as a third party--and moreover, because we cannot file jointly, all that extra "income" gets piled into my (higher) tax bracket. All told, that will cost us an extra $2000 in federal income tax each year. (By the way, McCain's plan would provide no tax credit for domestic partnership benefits.)

The Human Resources department at my company assured me that the benefits provided to domestic partners were the same as those provided to spouses, but they neglected to mention the effective cost would end up being more than double. I am of course still grateful that my company offers any domestic partnership benefits at all--most employers do not--and it is still cheaper to insure my husband through my employer than for him to find coverage on his own. But forgive me for not cheering right now.


Raised By Republicans said...

That's awful! I share your outrage!

LTG and Seventh Sister, surely this is a violation of the equal protection clause.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Depends on whether you think gay relationships deserve any recognition at all, of course. By the way, here's a cute No on 8 spot, made as a parody of Apple's Mac vs. PC commercials.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Oh, and here's another one in the same vein. I love the sleazy "Yes on 8" guy looking at the attractive "California Constitution" woman and saying lewdly to his pal, "I'm totally gonna amend her."

The Law Talking Guy said...

RBR, that little word "surely" is actually decades of litigation away from being true.

Dr.S - that is horrific. You should check the California state tax status. While the feds can charge you extra, the State of California cannot (this week...).

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is very important that you write to your Representatives and Senators about this. They can and will fix this in the next session of Congress under some version of ENDA, but they need encouragement from people like you who will explain the problems to them. I had absolutely no idea about this issue, and I'm fairly clued in. Most legislative staffers probably have no idea, but would be happy to champion a tax break!

Dr. Strangelove said...

I will write my Representatives and Senators about this. The Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act of 2007 (H.R. 1820) was introduced last year, but never made it out of committee. And unfortunately, ENDA specifically excluded benefits from its purview: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a covered entity to treat a couple who are not married in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits." (And "marriage" in the next section was referred to DOMA, just to be clear.)

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, so much for separate but equal with regard to civil unions vs marriage.

USwest said...

This is going to be a gradual process unfortunately. And it makes be sad that Dr. S and his husband will have to fight each battle seperately along the way. This is particularly sad because in a time when so many are without health care, this is a way to cover some more folks at no additional cost to anyone but the couple in question.

Other potential hangups: social security benefits and pension benefits, possibily life insurance benefits, etc. Anything that is regulated by the Feds will be a problem when the right to marriage exists only in a few states.

This is the problem with the "states rights" argument to anything. If there isn't a federal protection, then there will be problems.

USwest said...

BTW: this is the type of thing that people don't think about when they oppose marriage for gay and lesbian couples. This is the type of thing that Civil Unions do not address or fix. That is the point I was trying to make with my boyfirend. Marriage is a one stop shop for so many additional benefits and protections that we straight folks take for granted and don't even think about.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Of course, this just points out that permitting marriage at the state level is only half the game. We need the federal protection too. DOMA must be repealed.

Pombat said...

WHAT?!!! Seriously, WTF???!!!

-spluttering in indignation a la Jon Stewart-

Ok, apologies for coming late to this thread - busy week - finally replied to t'other health one too.

This? This is ridiculous! Like you say, it's all very well and good that you're getting benefits, especially since some other even-more-backwards employers wouldn't offer them at all, but to not get the same tax break as straight marrieds, even though you ARE married?!

Actually, the first thing that gets me about this is the fact that your HR people did not tell you about the taxes, leaving you to get that nasty little surprise, even though it is their job to tell you about things like that (and why can I not use the u tag to underline things? I like underlining when I'm being indignant!). I trust you've let them (and their bosses) know how they've failed in their responsibilities on this issue?...

I'm with USWest, I hate that you and Mr.S (or does he have a blog name we should use?) have to go through each and every one of these battles / nasty surprises when, if the world was sane, you could just have your marriage actually recognised by everyone, and it'd all be fine.

What's the likelihood / process for getting DOMA repealed anyone?

Oh, and re writing to Representatives and Senators on this - it's not just important that Dr.S writes to them, it is important that EVERYONE on this thread writes to them - quantity has a quality all of its own after all, and it's never going to hurt for people who are not directly impacted by something unjust to still be complaining to their politicians about it: no clearer way to let them know just how big a voter base they're dealing with on issues. I do like those No on 8 spots though - very good!

Slight segue to the earlier Worst Mailer Ever thread: USWest - how does your oft discussed boyfriend react to a basic argument of whether voters being able to take away rights is a good or a bad thing (especially in the context of them therefore being able to take away rights he holds dear) ? And how does his position on that basic argument hold when presented with his Yes on Prop 8 stance? Just looking for other ways to persuade him!

Dr. Strangelove said...

Pombat: I have advised by a certain Law Talking Guy that I should have a polite word with HR after the election once we know where this all stands. So I will. While in general it is not their obligation to inform me of the tax implications, since I applied for spousal benefits and was--without a single word or query--downgraded to "domestic partnership" benefits instead, I think they should have explained the difference. They at least should have told me why they were not going to list my spouse as my spouse, instead of doing it surreptitiously and waiting for me to notice it on my regular update sheet.

As for USWest and her boyfriend... I am gratified and quite moved to know they talked this issue over at great length and on such a personal level. While of course all of us on this blog appreciate your arguments fully, in the case of USWest's boyfriend--as it is for many people--I imagine it just comes down to an emotional response... And so the only "argument" that will ever succeed is on an emotional level as well.

I have mentioned on this blog before that in truth I did not support gay marriage five years ago--I figured it was too much, too soon, and an unnecessary battle to fight. But two things changed my heart. The first was seeing all the happy couples in San Francisco, then in Massachusetts. I got really choked up seeing those ceremonies. Then shortly thereafter, my then-boyfriend proposed to me... And then it hit home and I suddenly realized what all the fuss was about. Now it seems so obvious!

I figure USWest's boyfriend's heart is in the right place, so eventually he will come around. I know we are right, and I trust that will win out if we are patient. I believe we can and should demand respect, but we cannot extract it. It really bothers me when people (like those who wrote this Worst Mailer Ever) accuse our opponents of being fearful or hateful or prejudicial... Because while some folk are that way, there are a lot more people--like USWest's boyfriend--who I am quite sure honestly feel no fear or hate or prejudice towards gays or lesbians. What we are really fighting against here are the ghosts and shadows such long-departed emotions have left behind.

Pombat said...

Yeah, I s'pose with just a few days left until the election (which is a public holiday down here incidentally), LTG's right about leaving the "polite" words for afterwards. There should be many of them though, since as you say, they downgraded you without even mentioning it, which is just plain rude if nothing else (and you know how Poms hate blatant rudeness!).

I'd never really thought about it until we all started discussing it on here, but I think I've always been pro-gay marriage - it's just another thing in that big grab bag of equal rights for everyone / human rights that I have always known I've been for. I've never thought of myself as pro-whatever, or a feminist (although I am), and so on, I've just always called people out when they've said something -ist/-phobic, or acted in that way (whilst occasionally checking that I'm not being like that either). One of my favourites being "I'm not (being) ...-ist, but so-and-so group all always ..."

You are of course very right when you say that respect cannot be extracted, only rightfully demanded, and also that labelling people as fearful/hateful/prejudiced doesn't help - if anything, that's likely to increase the numbers of people in those categories. I just get so very frustrated when people who have absolutely no good or rational reason to object to something, and cannot fully explain why they object, still do - I guess I'm in the "can I shake it out of them?" group! :-)

And yes, it's clear that USWest's boyfriend, by the very fact that he will discuss Prop 8 in detail (not to mention that USWest is dating him), is a smart guy, and will therefore almost certainly come around one day. It's just a pity that that day will likely have to be a big emotionally charged gay wedding, to illustrate just how right gay marriage can be.