One State Reverses Position on CA Marriage Decision Stay
June 2nd, 2008
Last week the Attorneys General of ten states united to request that the Supreme Court of California stay its decision to treat all citizens equal under the law until November: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. They claimed that if California allowed gay couples to marry that this would create havoc and confusion for the court systems in their own states.
Immediately one state stood out from the others.
Although not all of these states have anti-gay marriage clauses in their constitution, only one state, New Hampshire, has taken efforts to offer recognition to same-sex relationships. And New Hampshire already had taken legislative steps to direct how out-of-state gay marriages would be treated – as civil unions.
Now it seems that the havoc and confusion caused by gay marriage in New Hampshire has been cleared up. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, has now been apprised of the law in her state.
The Boston Globe reports
[O]n Saturday, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced that New Hampshire was withdrawing from the request because the state addresses the recognition issue in its civil union law.
She said under the law, New Hampshire will recognize a legal gay marriage from California as a civil union.
Ten State Attorney Generals ask California Supreme Court to Stay Marriage Decision
May 30th, 2008
The Attorneys General for the states of Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah have petitioned the Supreme Court of California to stay their marriage equality decision (place it on hold) until November. They argue that citizens of other states will marry in California and come home to sue their own state for recognition.
“We reasonably believe an inevitable result of such ‘marriage tourism’ will be a steep increase in litigation of the recognition issue in our courts,” Utah Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff wrote in the brief submitted on behalf of the 10 states.
However their argument fails on three fronts.
First, they assume that voters in November will reverse this decision. That result is not a foregone conclusion. And there is no reason to believe that these Attorneys General would be any more prepared for ‘marriage tourism’ in November than they are today; it’s hardly been a secret that the Supreme Court was considering this case. And if they aren’t prepared, then they have no right to punish gay couples for their own ineptitude.
Second, the federal DOMA provides states protection from just such a challenge. If there is any challenge, it would be to federal law, and federal law is not going to change between now and November.
Third, the California decision has not raised any new risk to their states’ entrenched discrimination. There is nothing to stop a legally married Massachusetts couple from moving to New Hampshire today and suing for recognition.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, and Jerry Brown, the Attorney General of California, agree that this issue has been resolved and oppose a stay. Marriage equality is supported by the California Lieutenant Governor, the California Senate, the California House, and a majority of the California voters.
So to you outsiders I say: Go home. You are not Californians. Your constitution is not our constitution. Your laws are not our laws. Your values are not our values. Your biases are not our biases. Stop being meddlesome busy-bodies and leave the citizens of the State of California alone.
32% of US Citizens Covered by Couple Recognition
May 29th, 2008
With the announcement by Governor Paterson of New York that his state would enact policies to recognize out of state same-sex marriages (in accordance with a court ruling), the gay citizens of the first and third largest states now can rest assured that their state government will honor their marriages.
Though same-sex marriages may (as of June 17th) take place only in Massachusetts and California, such marriages are now recognized in New York and (perhaps) Rhode Island. In total 63 million Americans, or 20.7%, live in marriage recognition states.
States that allow all or nearly all of the attributes of marriage under some other name, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Oregon, contribute another 18 million, or 5.9%. Those who offer limited recognition, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, have populations totaling 15 million or 5.0%.
In total 31.6% of US residents are able to avail themselves of protections for their same-sex families.
The sky hasn’t fallen.
Marriage Rights Around the World
May 15th, 2008
The following countries offer some form of recognition to same-sex couples:
Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, United States (Massachusetts, California)
New Zealand, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Negro), Mexico (Coahuila), Uruguay, United States (Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey)
Registered Partnership or Domestic Partnership
Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, , Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy (City of Padua), Switzerland, Hungary, Australia (Tasmania), United States (Maine, Washington, Oregon)
Other Methods of Limited Recognition
France (PACS), Germany (Life Partnership), Croatia (Law of Same-Sex Relationships), Andorra (Stable Union of a Couple), Mexico (Mexico City – PACS), Colombia (Common-law marriage inheritance rights), Israel (Limited recognition of foreign legal arrangements), United States (Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits; New York – recognition of out-of-state legal marriages)
Although recognition is in a rapid state of change, this is my best understanding of the current rights provided. Several nations are in the process of adding or revising recognition.
Paying More – Getting Less
March 26th, 2008
If you are part of a couple, you usually would benefit from filing an income tax return as a married couple. While this is not always the case, it is especially true for those couples in which one of the partners has a much lower income than the other.
Some states have decided that they value their gay citizens and seek to encourage stable families and have changed their laws so as to treat gay couples the same as heterosexual couples in their tax law. Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and Connecticut all allow for couples to file joint tax returns (this may also be the case in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington and Oregon and perhaps for some Rhode Island and New York residents – I haven’t researched every state).
But while this is to be commended and advanced in more states, it isn’t as simple as it seems. The federal government doesn’t care what the states have determined, they only recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. Thus, gay couples get to jump through hoops and make multiple tax returns. This becomes costly whenever you have a complicated return.
For example, a California couple in a Domestic Partnership has to prepare its state return as though they were a married couple. But CA tax law relies on federal tax treatment of certain situations, so this couple often has to prepare a federal income tax return as a married couple in order to apply the appropriate treatment on their state returns.
But they can’t file that federal joint return. The IRS won’t accept it. Instead they have to prepare federal returns as though they were unrelated roommates.
Add in some complexity, such as multiple state returns, and you may end up paying your accountant a much higher rate due to the extra time they incur.
If you can. Some accountants may not be familiar with the procedures at all.
H&R Block, the nation’s largest tax firm, is being sued by the ACLU because their online do-it-yourself system can’t accomodate Connecticut’s civil unions. Connecticut gay couples have to pay about $150 more and go into the H&R Block office in order to get their returns prepared correctly.
So the next time you hear some anti-gay whine about “special rights”, remind them that you pay more for your government than they do.
Reader John brought to my attention one of the stupidest and cruelest inconsistencies.
If your brother receives insurance covering his wife, it’s a tax free benefit. If you receive insurance covering your same-sex spouse, the federal government considers that to be a taxable part of your income. Yes, they actually make you pay income taxes on the amount of health insurance that you receive from your company for your spouse if you are gay.
I guess that concern about Americans without health insurance extends only to heterosexuals.
On Monday Night, Pop a Cork or Light a Candle
December 30th, 2007
Meanwhile those couples in Oregon who were expecting to join in Domestic Partnerships will have a while longer to wait. The state has a peculiar system whereby a law can be delayed in implementation if there are enough signatures collected to force a vote of the populace.
Those who opposed allowing same-sex couples have any rights similar to those granted to opposite-sex couples gathered signatures but fell 96 short of the 55,179 required to stop the law. However they were able to find a judge to put the celebrations on a hold until he can hear their complaints about possible legal signatures that were invalidated.
The surprise ruling comes four days before the law would allow gay couples to gain most of the same legal benefits of marriage. Couples across Oregon were planning to show up at county offices Wednesday to register as partners.
But U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that they will have to wait. He set a Feb. 1 hearing to decide a lawsuit challenging the state’s methods for verifying signatures on a November 2008 referendum.
Mosman said attorneys for opponents showed that the rights of voters may have been violated if their signatures were wrongly rejected. Setting the next hearing in a month reduces the harm to people who would be affected by the new law, he said.
Those who had hoped to strengthen their families will instead light a candle.
In New Hampshire champagne will flow and tears and smiles abound in midnight ceremonies planned by those who just can’t wait any longer.
Whether you will be lighting a candle or toasting in new freedoms, have a very happy, healthy and sane New Year. And resolve to do your part in 2008 to bring about equality for gay couples across the nation and around the world.
New Hampshire Governor Signs Civil Union Bill
May 31st, 2007
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D.) signed the civil unions bill into law today. Beginning in January, gay couples will gain access to some of the protections and responsibilities available to married couples. Same sex unions from other states will also be recognized.
New Hampshire joins Connecticut, Vermont, and New Jersey in providing for civil unions, with Oregon also joining the list in January. Maine, California, Hawaii, and Washington provide for more limited forms of domestic partnerships. Only Massachusetts provides for full marriage equality.
New Hampshire is the first state to enact some form of same-sex unions without a court order or the threat of one. Two years ago, Connecticut adopted their civil unions law without a direct court order, although a case was making its way through the court system.