Marriage Act unfair or necessary?

Moderated by Rick Badie

The U.S. Supreme Court stands poised to decide the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Today, a gay civil rights advocate calls the law discriminatory, outdated and unfair, particularly for same-sex married couples during tax season. A supporter of the federal law deems it necessary to preserve an “ageless institution.”

Commenting is open below.

DOMA: Unfair and outdated

By Jeff Graham

While the core value of the fight for marriage equality is about the right to marry the person you love, the legal commitments that come with this right are very real to the hundreds of thousands of loving couples who are currently being discriminated against under federal law. According to the General Accounting Office, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) restricts same-sex couples from accessing the benefits, rights and privileges housed in 1,138 federal statutory provisions.

To marry, a same-sex couple must travel to a state where it is legal — the closest of which, for Georgia couples, is Maryland, 700 miles away. If the couple lives in Georgia or any other state that doesn’t recognize marriage equality, they could spend up to $10,000 in legal fees to establish some of the rights that come with a civil marriage license.

Once the couple is married, discrimination continues. If an individual wants to add his or her same-sex spouse to their employer-provided health insurance plan, that additional coverage is not tax-exempt as it would be for an opposite-sex couple. Instead, these benefits are treated as though they were additional wages, adding a tax burden that averages more than $1,000 per couple per year.

As a result of DOMA and IRS regulations, same-sex couples must navigate a maze of tax laws other couples do not. When a legally married same-sex couple files their tax returns each year, the burden of filing for that couple is heavier than for their opposite-sex friends and actually requires them to lie on their federal tax forms.

For example, a same-sex couple who was wed and lives in Vermont, a state where their union is legally recognized, must file their federal returns individually and their state return jointly. However, in order to properly file a joint state return, they must also complete a dummy joint federal return. To file a federal return, they must lie and state that they are single. They are also ineligible for certain tax benefits and claims specific to marriage.

Another important tax issue that faces same-sex couples is the one at the heart of the DOMA case. When a person dies, that person’s assets are transferred to the spouse without being subjected to the estate tax. When the couple is the same sex, as was the case with Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, the surviving spouse is hit with an estate tax for the transfer of assets. In Windsor’s case, the tax was $363,000 — a fine she was forced to pay to stay in the home she shared with her wife formore than 40 years.

The term “marriage” certainly has emotional and religious connotations for many people. Under DOMA, it has significant legal ramifications. The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. These denied benefits make it clear that DOMA is outdated, unfair and unconstitutional.

Jeff Graham is executive director of Georgia Equality.

Upholding ageless institution

By Kay Godwin

Centuries ago, Aristotle wisely challenged the social re-engineering plans of his teacher Plato. He cautioned, “Let us remember that we should not disregard the experience of ages.” As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the Defense of Marriage Act, Aristotle’s wisdom resounds through time.

Aristotle rejected Plato’s idealistic “Republic,” which would have remolded traditional families, embraced eugenics, and rearranged the entire order of society, creating a cascade of ethical dilemmas from the loss of private property to multiple state-arranged “marriages” to incestuous relationships. Aristotle understood that such experimentation came at great cost. Radically altering the norms of society has consequences, intended and unintended.

Whether today’s experiment with same-sex unions is contained at the state level or not, such experiments extract an enormous price from society. Wherever marriage is redefined to require the inclusion of same-sex unions, the law will denigrate traditional marriage and will penalize those who insist that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Competing claims about marriage will never exist in harmony, and the battleground will be in our day care centers, schools, churches, civic organizations, workplaces and all our government institutions.

Should DOMA fall, it will pit state against state. Though some states will maintain the traditional definition of marriage, if federal law allows a counterfeit definition to include same-sex “marriage,” then states like Georgia would still be required to subsidize the federal costs in states that have embraced the new practice. If same-sex unions were to have the force of federal law behind them within the tax code and government programs, there is little that could prevent the federal government from mandating that all our civic and social institutions, or even private businesses, make accommodations in parallel fashion.

As is already being observed in states that have redefined marriage, people who express the view that marriage is exclusively for a man and a woman will find that their freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be judged as pernicious forms of marriage discrimination.

Non-profits that uphold the exclusive claim of marriage between one man and one woman will risk their tax-exempt status. Public employees who reject the idea of same-sex marriage will be forced to undergo sensitivity training or risk being fired from their jobs. Business owners may risk being sued if they refuse to bake wedding cakes or print invitations or take pictures for same-sex ceremonies. Public schools, all of which take federal funds, may be forced to incorporate instruction about same-sex marriage against the religious convictions of parents.

DOMA rightly recognizes marriage as the ageless institution created between one man and one woman. Those claiming marriage equality for same-sex partners are making an unjust claim on territory that is not theirs. This is evident because the claim can only be had at great expense to others and the whole of society. Americans should consider the dangerous consequences of redefining such a fundamental institution as marriage. We disregard such costs at our peril.

Kay Godwin is co-founder of Georgia Conservatives in Action.

28 comments Add your comment

wayne

April 11th, 2013
10:47 pm

Marriage has been “redefined” hundreds of times. Abraham, Joshua, King David, King Solomon all had multiple wives. Christians “redefined” that, but kept the definition intact as it related to a wife being property, a chattel to be treated as a mule. Then, it was redefined so that a woman could own property, and again to allow her to get a divorce and again to allow her to vote and again and again and again………

Dave

April 11th, 2013
9:01 pm

Substitute “black people” where appropriate in Ms Godwin’s piece if you somehow feel she’s making some sense. Fear of the “other’ is natural but it shouldn’t rise to the level of law.

WAR EAGLE

April 11th, 2013
6:07 pm

I am sick of being told what I can and cannot think about a situation. Case in point: If we allow GAY Marriage, why not Polygamous marriage? You have both gay and straight in that- one couple can be two women and the other a man. We don’t allow people with low IQ’s to marry. Should they now be allowed? You make one exeption, than many others will claim the same. I take offense to the GAYS who call everyone a homophonbe when there is an opinion different than theirs. Just like ablack person calls someone BIGOT when someone thinks differently than them. We are not homophobes- YOU Mr/Ms. GAY are Hetero Phobes and HYPOCRITES!Everyone is entitled to their opinon unitl Teleprompter and Obama take away the first amendment. Be aware, if Obama gets his way and Sharia law is implimented, YOU, Mr. and Ms. GAY would be put to death for your disease- GAYism. You see, over in those countries, they consider GAY ism a mental disease and the Islamists do not permit that in their society. Besides, do you really need to have a press conference to announce when one of you has come out of the closet? Do you really need a parade? Do you see any STRAIGHT parades? NO! So stop drawing unneeded attention to yourselves. The reason there were no laws/amendments concerning marriage way back when the Framers founded this country, was b/c everyone was STRAIGHT. Obviously, a mutant gene came along and made “non straight people.” Bottom line, join society, and stop being pests! You’re almost as bad as the NAACP!

Clay

April 11th, 2013
4:59 pm

Marcie,

” The gay community has already shown us the future they have in store for the unsuspecting.”

I’m sorry… please explain? There is a point being missed or a point your not making with this statement.

Clay

April 11th, 2013
4:58 pm

Raisin,

I’ll admit I try not to throw out bigot as a word, because I want people to talk more productively. However, I have little sympathy for your backlash from it either.

The opinion against gay marriage is not a moderate opinion by any means, even if it is popular with some social groups.

The government is refusing rights to some people that are granted to others. It is easy to have those rights and hold a opinion and not think of yourself as a bigot, but in Edwards case he is one of the people who have those rights withheld from him. I don’t blame him one bit for calling someone a bigot that argues he doesn’t deserve the same rights…. that is essentially is what bigotry is. His credibility is just as good as yours. I realize that is inconvenient for opponents, but hey… its reality. You don’t have to be mean-spirited or aggressive to argue for government that upholds prejudices and bigotry against others.

ideas,

I’m sorry your argument is downright misleading and unfair. This debate is about gay marriage between only two people that love each other very much and are committing their lives to each other. IT IS NOT about incest of polygamy ‘nor are those the same thing. It is not about anyone’s sexual conquest desires to be with more than 1 person as you presented it.

If you have to use that red herring argument to make a point, then you don’t really have a good point to make in the first place.

As far as your point about procreation… Gay people are getting together and falling in love and committing themselves with or without legal marriage. Granting gay marriage will do nothing to alter the current status-quo on how many people pro-create or don’t. However, it would open them up to legal benefits that allows them to financially and legally build their lives together as others can.

Marcie

April 11th, 2013
3:14 pm

Good arguments for and against.

“As is already being observed”

Which is exactly why we shouldn’t move forward to redefine marriage. The gay community has already shown us the future they have in store for the unsuspecting.

HRPufnstuf

April 11th, 2013
2:23 pm

I am retired from the Army, and my partner was an invisible spouse for my last 11 years of service. I missed out on health benefits coverage and a whole lot more because he didn’t “exist.” This is one more reason DOMA needs to be struck down so our spouses can be recognized and afforded the same benefits. Liberty and justice for ALL, not some.

SAWB

April 11th, 2013
2:20 pm

The mistake you are making is that this should not be a debate about the morality of homosexuality, but a debate about whether the Government should be regulating victimless private actions. In other words the Government should regulate pedophilia, so you can’t marry an underage Granddaughter, but if you want multiple wives why should the Government care. It is a slippery slope to allow Government too much power to regulate these issues.