As April 15 approaches, my family will be celebrating the unbelievable: paying more taxes. Many straight couples file their taxes under the burden of the "Marriage Penalty" and now same-sex couples -- like myself and my wife -- find ourselves in the same boat. We will be paying more taxes, and enjoying the resulting equality, with pride.
Last June's Supreme Court decision declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional will bring some estimated $400,000 in taxes back to the plaintiff Edie Windsor. Same sex couples across the country celebrated this watershed ruling by applying for marriage licenses to take advantage of the more than 1,000 federal benefits to which they are now entitled.
Over the past year, however, same-sex couples have discovered that along with federal benefits come federal obligations. In fact, many same sex couples and their families will be paying more taxes now that their marriages are recognized. When my family files our taxes accounting as a married couple, we will owe the government almost twice as much in taxes as we did when our marriage was not recognized.
While no one wants to pay more in taxes, we will approach the upcoming tax day not with trepidation, but with pride. Paying more taxes means that my family is being treated equally under the law and that peace of mind is priceless. For instance, I know that my partner of more than 15 years -- should something happen to me -- will avail herself of equal social security benefits. This was unheard of before June 27.
As we try to understand the changes to the tax code and the best path forward for LGBT families living in both states that recognize same sex couples and those that do not, the LGBT Bar's Online LGBT Tax Resource recently launched to provide valuable resources to tax preparers and tax litigators. The Resource is a consortium of pro bono attorneys, accountants and tax experts, actively involved in tax law. It offers a series of webpages to assist tax industry professionals and individual taxpayers in preparing returns and fully understanding tax laws.
This first-of-its-kind undertaking, a joint project between the LGBT Bar and BNY Mellon and White & Case LLP, is a comprehensive list of filing regulations and policies in all 50 states for LGBT couples. It can be used by tax preparers and payers alike and is the first resource of its kind for the LGBT community.
We encourage all families like ours to reach out to an experienced LGBT family law practitioner before deciding if a legal marriage is in the best interest of your family.
I married my wife, Sharra Greer, on the first day it was legal in Washington, D.C. On that day, we felt like we were disappointing members of the press when they asked why we were simply dressed in black suits, sipping coffee and reading the paper as we stood in a long line at the Registrar of Deeds as "Couple 22" to be married. Unlike our California counterparts, who were in full wedding attire, my now-wife and I -- like many other couples in the District -- were more interested in the legal standing of marriage rather than putting on a big show.
Yet, more than that, marriage is a deeply personal expression to celebrate the years of (hopefully endless) infatuation, the long evenings with friends and family over the dining room table talking politics and enjoying each others' laughs. Marriage, and the recognition of that commitment by our families and friends, is the glue that holds us together during the trying times that every couple faces. And that was before we adopted twins!
Filing taxes that comport with the intricate web of tax laws is the primary way the average American interacts with the federal government. Thanks to the incredible victories our community has achieved in the past year, my family is now part of that annual tradition.
Despite it being more than seven months after the rulings, many lawyers still have yet to unpack all of the intricacies the repeal of Section 3 of DOMA has created. We do know that, for the first time, many same-sex couples are being treated equally, with both financial benefits and burdens. The LGBT Bar's Online LGBT Tax Resource is a step forward in that direction. We've brought together the best legal and financial minds in the country to help couples in the 33 states where marriage equality is not yet the law navigate their state taxes. The Resource's comprehensive list of state tax laws, and other important information, is now available online at LGBTBar.org/Tax.
In 2014, my lawfully wedded wife -- who for the first time is recognized by the federal government -- and our two beautiful twins are looking forward to celebrating our equality in the eyes of the law, even if, at this time next year, our wallets may feel a little lighter.
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