Those who aren’t gay probably don’t realize that one of the inequalities between gay couples and straight couples has to do with health insurance. While this has been slowly changing, for the most part gay couples cannot be on each other’s health insurance without a financial penalty. When I first started teaching in the NYC Department of Education, Christian and I got a domestic partnership from the city so that he could be on my health insurance, which also had dental and vision. Unfortunately, though, the “extra” benefit was taxed as if it were extra income. The extra tax we had to pay was more than if Christian was on his own health insurance … a lot more. This doesn’t happen for straight married couples as the government sees them as a “family” and gay couples … well, are not. Straight couples who are on one spouse’s health insurance do not get taxed in the same what that Christian and I – and thousands of other gay couples – did.
Last night, the House passed their health care reform bill and:
Supporters of gay rights have long been trying to change the tax treatment of health benefits provided by employers to the domestic partners of their employees. In effect, such benefits are now treated as taxable income for the employee, and the employer may owe payroll taxes on their fair-market value.
Under the bill, such benefits would be tax-free, just like health benefits provided to the family of an employee married to a person of the opposite sex.
Representative Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, who proposed the change, said it would “correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”
Joseph R. Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, said federal tax law had not kept up with changes in the workplace.
“I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits,” he said. “But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with the benefits.”
M. V. Lee Badgett, a labor economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said employees with domestic partner benefits paid $1,100 a year more in taxes, on average, than married employees with the same coverage. (New York Times, 11/08/2009)
This is a small step forward. Lately, I’ve been rather pissed off at Obama and the Democrats. They take our campaign contributions and our votes and keep telling us that it’s just not the right time for equality. This isn’t full equality, but it gives me a little faith in Democrats. Too bad it is a small thing buried in a big bill. They don’t have to go too far out on a limb with this one since the Republicans will have more than enough to cry foul with. This provision will be ignored.
I’m happy for equality, but I’m not happy that my equality is happening in such small steps and in ways that are not public. It feels like fighting for my equality is something the Democrats are ashamed of.