Obama takes additional heat from the gay communityApr 16th, 2012 | By Kentucky Guardian Contributors & Staff | Category: National News
U.S. President Obama is taking additional heat from gay and lesbian couples. Nationally he has been denounced, condemned, and called a liar after refusing the sign an executive order preventing gay and lesbian discrimination for companies who accept federal contracts.
Now, Administration officials in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are taking another run at the U.S. Administration, as well as citizens:
Tom Bourdon and his husband Jimmy have been legally married for seven years and are raising two children in a home they jointly own in suburban Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004.
But this weekend, as they finish up their taxes, filing a joint state return as a married couple, they will have to essentially lie to Uncle Sam about the most essential aspects of their life. They will file two separate tax returns and “divide up” their two children — Lukas, 2, and Maya, 6 months — so that they can claim child-related exemptions, deductions, and credits.
Married same-sex couples cannot file jointly, and instead must misrepresent themselves as “single” on their federal tax forms, sacrificing the $1,000 deduction for married couple
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted by Congress in 1996, does not legally recognize their marriage and so the couples can’t take advantage of any of the tax breaks afforded other families in the United States.
“It feels really strange to be forced to lie,” said Bourdon, 36 and director of the LGBT Center at Tufts University.
“Ethically speaking, we are doing what we are supposed to do and at the same time be accurate,” he said. “It’s a Catch-22. The government forces you into it and there’s no way around it … but we are literally not recognized.”
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, convened a committee to defend the act, in spite of President Barack Obama’s directive to the U.S. State Department to no longer uphold the constitutionality of the law.
“It is regrettable that the Obama administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy,” Boehner said in a statement to the Washington Post. “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”
“In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people.” – Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (2009 statement when the Commonwealth sued the U.S. Government)
Two million American children are being raised in families where either an adult or a couple is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the U.S. Census. They are part of the changing cultural landscape where only 69 percent of children live with married heterosexual parents.
The federal government provides families with important tax credits and deductions — worth about $133 billion — to help them raise their children, according to the report.
The Tax Foundation estimates an average-income family gets about $16,781 in tax relief each year.
The report estimates that the LGBT families can be shortchanged anywhere between $1,490 and $6,209 a year, compared with heterosexual families.
“LGBT families raising kids have an unfair burden, simply because of what their families look like and who they love,” said Emily Hecht McGowan, director of public policy at the Family Equity Council.
“The law has many unintended consequences,” she said. “Kids are getting hurt by these laws.”
U.S. Census data reveals that same-sex parents are most likely to raise children in Mississippi, followed by Wyoming, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina. In about half of those states, an estimated 1 in 4 children live in poverty.
Same-sex families also have difficulty securing legal ties to their adopted children in many of these states, posing an additional economic and emotional burden. The IRS requires a child to be biologically related or legally adopted to declare tax credits.
In 2010 U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal rights and benefits to lawfully married Massachusetts couples “offends” the notion of states’ rights as enshrined in the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A Justice Department spokesperson said that Obama administration was “reviewing the decision,” and had not yet decided whether to appeal to defend a law against same sex marriage that President Obama says he opposes. Tracy Schmaler, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said by e-mail they are also reviewing the decision.
U.S. District Court Judge Tauro, nominated to the bench by President Richard Nixon, ruled that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution “by intruding on areas of exclusive state authority, as well as the Spending Clause, by forcing the Commonwealth to engage in invidious discrimination against its own citizens in order to receive and retain federal funds in connection with two joint federal-state programs.”
The decision will have immediate benefits for gay couples in Massachusetts, as well as ripple effects around the nation. Any state that recognizes gay marriage or civil unions, the federal government must also recognize.
Now the the Obama Administration is fighting the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Tauro, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the issue. Over the past 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has restricted the authority of Congress and the President to interfere in the jurisdiction of the states.
An estimated 49 percent of LGBT people live in states with laws banning marriage, and 37 percent live in states with constitutional bans on any form of relationship recognition.
Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington state are poised to enact laws doing the same.