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04/12/2007

DOMA ≠ Carte Blanche To Discriminate!

by Jeremy Hooper

Bio PhotoAs tax law currently stands, an employer's contribution of the health insurance premium for an LGBT employee's domestic partner is considered wages and is counted as taxable income (unlike heterosexual employees, whose contributions for their spouses are excluded from their taxable income).  So Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) has introduced a bill that would remove this tax inequity, so that LGBT domestic partnership relationships will recieve the same benefit that their committed hetero peers receive with their own employer-provided health insurance.

Picture 18-5Sounds good (if not mundane and complicated), right?  Well, the Family Research Council doesn't think so, with Tony Perkins (or whoever writes his stuff) saying today in his "Washington Update" column:

The bill is a glaring violation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in that it confers benefits on unmarried partners that are legally reserved for married couples. Despite McDermott's assertion that the current law is "unfair," the reality is that the tax code doesn't discriminate against domestic partners--any more than the institution of marriage does. The law simply asks that those who are seeking the benefits of marriage meet the requirements of marriage. Speaking of blatant attacks on DOMA, elected officials made a little known change in House rules last month. For travel that involves Hill Members or staff, the definition of "relatives" who can accompany them has been expanded from "child" or "spouse" to "relative"--which includes domestic partners. In other words, the federal government is recognizing--and the taxpayers are subsidizing--homosexual couples. Although proponents argue that it doesn't violate the letter of the DOMA law, it certainly violates the spirit of it.

Okay, well first off: DOMA is a steaming pile of discriminatory cow dung, so those who challenge it should do so without apology or hesitation.  However, it is the (misguided) law of the land, so we will move on from its noxious ways for a second and tell how like DOMA or not, Rep. McDermott's bill violates it in no way, shape, or bias.  For you see, DOMA does three things:

1. Says that individual states do not have to recognize a same sex marriage, even if the marriage was recognized in another state.

2. Prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for any purpose, even if the marriage was recognized in one of the 50 states (see Massachusetts).

3. Makes us want to vomit.

However, this bill has not one thing to do with marriage!  Domestic partnerships are a whole other system, and domestic partnership benefits are a common offering of America's leading companies.  What this is about is that those couples who are NOT free to marry BECAUSE of things like DOMA, yet are free to enter a legal domestic partnership and receive these benefits, as seeing their incomes taxed in ways that place on them an unfair financial burden.  So not only do they have to deal with the offensive fact that they have to have their love recognized in ways dissimilar from Joe the married account rep, they then have to deal with an extra bit of disparity in terms of this tax inequity. 

Mr. Perkins (or his writer) argues that this proposed bill "confers benefits on unmarried partners that are legally reserved for married couples."  However, that is complete and utter bullshit, as domestic partner benefits are a completely legal, legit offering that are intended to offer unmarried couples many of the same protections.  Companies who offer these benefits because they recognize its the right thing to do -- and it should be noted that over half of all Fortune 500 companies now offer SP benefits -- do not intend for these employees to be treated differently.  Mr. Perkins is incorrectly presenting health insurance benefits as if they are only linked with marriage (The law simply asks that those who are seeking the benefits of marriage meet the requirements of marriage).  But again, these DP insurance programs are not a "benefit of marriage."  They are a benefit, period.  By removing the tax inequity, the government would not be recognizing them as marriage benefits; they would still be recognizing them as legal domestic partner benefits, but in a more fair and just manner!

These social conservatives always argue that they aren't discriminating and that they're not anti-gay, because they know that "marriage protection" and "pro-family" are far more marketable terms and concepts.  However, this is a clear demonstration of just what a deceptive bit of hogwash that code-wording truly is.  Here we have a man who is shunning the idea that the government should recognize not marriages, but rather domestic partnerships, in more fair ways.  He admits that the "institution of marriage" discriminates against gay couples, yet he still is fighting to keep domestic partnerships -- a bone thrown to rights-seeking gay couples wishing to protect their families -- as unequal as they possibly can be.  He is completely misconstruing DOMA to make it sound like it's designed to keep the federal government from so much as acknowledging that gay couples exist within the 50 states!  It's enraging! 

However, in a way we feel like we should thank Mr. Perkins (or his writer).  After all, as this current wave of bias continues to fall out of favor, these social conservatives get even more desperate to stay relevant, and they start to fully reveal their truly biased hands (like Mr. Perkins does above), it's surely only a matter of time before the American people start to catch on. While a majority of citizens do seem to enjoy wool being pulled over their eyes for certain periods of time, once they realize they are not themselves sheeple, but rather thinking humans, they always come around to what is truly decent and right.  And as "taxing" as these past few years of "pro-family" prominence have been, it will only make the duplicitous house of cards' inevitable collapse that much more sweet!

DOMA Doomed? (2nd item) [FRC] 

**A separate piece on this matter has been posted today by Focus on the Family.  In it, Zachary Gray of the Gibbs Law Firm -- which it should be noted is a Christian-focused law firm whose head, David Gibbs, is part of the family that controls the Christian Law Association -- refutes the bill from a business standpoint by saying:

"If I'm an employer and I pay you with after-tax money, that hurts my bottom line much more deeply," he said. "What's going to happen is employers are going to start saying, 'We're just not going to bother. We're just going to pay you a salary and you can go get your own.'"

Because seriously -- What line of logic is more worthwhile than the "Ooh sorry, your relationship isn't as worthy of my cost as that of your heterosexual coworker" defense?

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Your thoughts

"Because seriously -- What line of logic is more worthwhile than the "Ooh sorry, your relationship isn't as worthy of my cost as that of your heterosexual coworker" defense?"

I think you're missing the point, here... it isn't meant to be defending it to those who are wronged. It's trying to make those who aren't being wronged fear that giving things to those who are will take it from themselves...

Legitimate piece of game theory, really... most people don't give a rats' what other people get if it doesn't affect them... and most people will try to make things fairer, even if it hurts them - up to a point.

Example: If there exists $100, in two $50 notes, and you tell a man he can take one, he will. If a second man comes up, and you tell the first man that him taking the other note will make both spontaneously combust, he will generally try to stop the first man - even though he wouldn't have bothered without the threat on his own.

The quote at the end of your article is Mr Gibbs trying to tell the straight community that their notes will combust. It isn't rational or logical, but if people can't work that out for themselves, they're not going to listen to you, either...

My own two cents: If America would divert some of it's tax dollars to the public healthcare system, a lot of the problem would be solved without even having to *touch* these issues...

Posted by: Anon | Apr 13, 2007 1:51:17 AM

Hey anon (1:51). I actually think we are in total agreement. Of course he's trying to use a scare tactic to convince FOF readers that they will suffer. That is their game. Our game in pointing out their ridiculousness is not to convince those who will NEVER agree with us. It's to present new ideas for those who may be on the fence (and who may search about these topics on the Internet).

Posted by: G-A-Y | Apr 13, 2007 11:19:12 AM

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