Monday, November 23, 2009
by Billy Glover
Once again we hear voices saying, after the recent March on Washington, that the glbt community/movement needs a "leader." This seems to me to indicate a total lack of understanding of how this movement has been so successful in going from a single closeted organization in 1950, and a single lgbt publication in 1952 to the thousands of organizations and hundreds of publications and resources that we have today. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why there are so many glbt people who are unaware of just what this community and movement does have. There is lack of communication among the various elements.
It must be said that anti-gay bigots seem to know more about what is going on in this movement than we do. It is doubtful that many of us have actually thought about all the resources we have. I urge everyone to take a look at Gayellow Pages, the print verison or online version (firstname.lastname@example.org). Each group or publication is so busy trying to do the job it chose to do that they do not know what others are doing. It may be good that today we can have specialized resources, much as medicine now has "specialties," but we then face the same problem medicine is facing, a lack of general physicians, since everyone wants to "specialize" and have more influence.
But the reason we have been so wildly successful is that mostly we have all worked for the main purpose of gaining our civil/equal rights. Only in the last decade have we started specializing in having organizations for each of the areas, thus we have Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLAD, etc (as well as the ACLU) to work on legal issues. We have organizations for religious work, such as Dignity, Affirmation (Methodist and Mormon), Kinship (Seventh Day Adventist), etc. We have an organization working for youth, GLSEN, and there are groups for each profession; medicine, anthropology, law, journlism, etc.
And while most of our lgbt newspapers and magazine try to give coverage to all of our areas and groups, they don't always seem to do a good job. It seems that many editors and journalists think that we want to know more about the latest celebrity to come "out" than we do about what activities are going on in our community. How often do papers cover our libraries/archives? Do we know of the glbt book clubs? and the travel articles seem to think we would not want to know where the local gay center is in major cities, but only want to know where the closest bar and bathhouse or cafe is. We don't need a lgbt guide to tell us where a local museum is, general guides do that.
And too often when an issue is in discussion, a "specialized" group says they are not interested in it but only in their little domain-as if a religious organization has no interest in gay bars being attacked by police, or a legal organization has no interest in films that are pro or con.
There are a few efforts to get us informed on coverage of glbt issues. Daily Queer News (email@example.com) tries to give us links to what is in the news that we should be aware of. For entertainment news there is Coming Out Support Weekly (firstname.lastname@example.org). There are others. But if we don't know about these resources they can not help build communication and cooperation within our movement. And thus the hundreds of good leaders working in various organizations, local and national, will not be able to support each other.
Celebrate our diversity. There is no competition among us except to se what we can all do to educate ourselves and the public on the truth about homosexuality. There is no reason to oppose a "march' or say we must only work on a federal/national level or that we must attack an organization that has chosen to work on only one aspect.
We must practice what we preach. We have to acknowledge that there are really gay Republicans as well as Democrats. That some of us are members of PLAGAL and are pro-life, while many of us are pro-choice. There are those who are allies and work with PFLAG, many of whom have lgbt children. And there is COLAGE, for children who have glbt parents.
There is no reason those who fear the lies of the religions can not work with those who choose to stay in the religious community and try to bring about better understanding and change.
We can be proud, of each generation that has added to our work, from the founders of Mattachine, ONE/HIC and DOB in the 1950s to those at Stonewall, and those who did the various "marches" and those who join us each day. THOSE WHO MARCHED will someday be pioneers. We are all pioneers, and we must have done something right, we are slowly but surely changing the world.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
New York Times
The High Price of Being a Gay Couple
Much of the debate over legalizing gay marriage has focused on God and Scripture, the Constitution and equal protection.
But we see the world through the prism of money. And for years, we’ve heard from gay couples about all the extra health, legal and other costs they bear. So we set out to determine what they were and to come up with a round number — a couple’s lifetime cost of being gay.
It was much more complicated than we initially imagined, and that’s probably why we’ve never seen similar efforts. We looked at benefits that routinely go to married heterosexual couples but not to gay couples, like certain Social Security payments. We plotted out the cost of health insurance for couples whose employers don’t offer it to domestic partners. Even tax preparation can cost more, since gay couples have to file two sets of returns. Still, many couples may come out ahead in one area: they owe less in income taxes because they’re not hit with the so-called marriage penalty.
Our goal was to create a hypothetical gay couple whose situation would be similar to a heterosexual couple’s. So we gave the couple two children and assumed that one partner would stay home for five years to take care of them. We also considered the taxes in the three states that have the highest estimated gay populations — New York, California and Florida. We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18.
Here is what we came up with. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.
These numbers will vary, depending on a couple’s income and circumstance. Gay couples earning, say, $80,000, could have health insurance costs similar to our hypothetical higher-earning couple, but they might well owe more in income taxes than their heterosexual counterparts. For wealthy couples with a lot of assets, on the other hand, the cost of being gay could easily spiral into the millions.
Nearly all the extra costs that gay couples face would be erased if the federal government legalized same-sex marriage. One exception is the cost of having biological children, but we felt it was appropriate to include this given our goal of outlining every cost gay couples incur that heterosexual couples may not.
Our analysis is not exact science. Not every couple would get married if they could, and others would not want to have children. We also made a number of assumptions based on average costs, life spans, state of residence and gender.
Our gay family is made up of two women living in New York State in a committed partnership that lasts 46 years, until the first partner dies at age 81. We ran two sets of calculations: in the one that turned out to be our worst case financially, one woman earned $110,000 and the other $30,000. In our second couple, both partners earned $70,000. We started running the numbers when both were age 35.
We received assistance from Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, who performed our tax analysis, which required simulating more than 900 income tax returns, in part because we followed the partners for 50 years. We also decided to run all scenarios across the three states so that the results would not be skewed by different state taxes. We’ve outlined all the detail in a workbook linked to the online version of this column.
As for the emotional costs of living with these added complexities, they can’t be quantified. Frederick Hertz, a lawyer in Oakland, Calif., who works with same-sex couples, likens heterosexual marriage to being in the car pool lane. “Being part of a same-sex couple, it’s always stop. Wait. Pay a toll,” he said.
Harvey Hurdle, who lives in Philadelphia with his partner and their young son, said he was reminded of the disparities every time his Social Security statement arrived in the mail. “It’s pretty insulting,” he said. “It says your spouse would get this much. And it’s like, ‘Oh no he won’t!’ ”
In our worst case, the lower earner’s employer did not provide health insurance and her partner’s employer didn’t cover domestic partners. So the lower earner had to buy coverage on the private market, while the higher-earning partner provided coverage for herself and the two children. All this cost the gay couple $211,993 more than their heterosexual married counterparts, who were able to take advantage of the higher-earner’s family coverage.
In our best case, health coverage cost the gay couple $28,595 more. We assumed both gay partners were eligible for employer-provided coverage. The higher-earner’s employer also provided domestic partner coverage, which covered her partner for the five years she stayed at home. When she returned to work, she used her own employer’s insurance.
Even though the couple paid nearly $29,000 more in premiums than an identical heterosexual married couple, it was cheaper than using domestic partnership coverage throughout because of the onerous tax implications, according to Mr. Williams of the Tax Policy Center. A nondependent partner’s coverage is taxable income, and she can’t use pretax dollars to pay the premiums, according to Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.
All our hypothetical individuals started collecting Social Security when they were 66. Same-sex couples are not entitled to a variety of Social Security benefits, including spousal benefits (heterosexual spouses can receive up to 50 percent of a spouse’s benefits while the spouse is alive, if they are higher than their own); survivor benefits (surviving spouses can receive their deceased spouse’s benefits in lieu of their own, if they are higher); and a flat death benefit of $255.
In the worst case, the gay partner who earned $30,000 could not receive higher spousal benefits or survivor benefits from her partner’s much higher earnings record. Nor was she entitled to the death benefit. In total, the gay women collected $88,511 less in Social Security than a similar heterosexual couple. Some couples might try to buy life insurance in an attempt to replace the benefit.
In our best case, when the gay partners had largely identical incomes, neither was at a huge disadvantage because they ended up with about the same monthly benefits. So the only extra benefit a heterosexual married couple received was the $255 death benefit.
Heterosexual married couples can transfer an unlimited amount of assets to each other during their lives and at death without paying estate taxes. Everyone else, including married same-sex couples, must pay federal estate taxes on amounts that exceed the 2009 exemption of $3.5 million. Many states also levy their own estate or inheritance taxes, though same-sex couples may be shielded from those in states that recognize their unions. Our couple lived in New York, where the estate tax exemption is $1 million. And though New York recognizes marriages performed elsewhere, that recognition does not extend to state income or estate taxes.
In our worst case, the gay partner who died first in 2055 left an estate that exceeded the state’s threshold by $171,528. That meant a tax bill of $43,378, according to Ron L. Meyers, an estate-planning lawyer with a significant same-sex clientele at Cane, Boniface & Meyers in Nyack, N.Y.
Meanwhile, their identical heterosexual counterparts owed nothing.
The gay couple in our best case had a smaller estate, in part because they were careful to title their home as tenants-in-common, so only the deceased partner’s half of the home was taxable. The estate didn’t exceed the federal or state threshold. So they owed nothing.
Two women who want to have a biological child together need sperm to do it. They may need to purchase sperm from a bank and use a medical professional to inseminate one of the partners. There are also adoption costs.
The worst case here totaled $40,000. It included 12 months of sperm and insemination costs, but the big wild card was the possible need to move to a state where same-sex second-parent adoptions were legal. While this may seem extreme, couples often do it, according to Joyce Kauffman, a lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., who has worked with many of them. We estimated a minimum of $20,000 for this cost, including real estate brokerage fees to sell a home and moving costs.
In the best case, there might be no cost at all: the couple could use sperm from a relative of the partner who isn’t bearing the child or from a friend, inseminate at home and take their chances with free legal forms on the Web. Ms. Kaufman does not recommend such a cavalier approach to vital documents.
The cost for men to have a biological child would be much higher if they used a surrogate.
We assumed that one partner, in both best and worst cases, received a small pension. In both cases, the partner with the pension plan died first.
Employers do not have to provide survivor pension benefits to a same-sex spouse, but many do anyway (which would put our best case at $0). In our worst case, however, the higher-earning partner died first and did not work for such a company. So the surviving partner got nothing. A similarly situated heterosexual surviving spouse would receive $32,253 before dying herself several years later.
You generally need to earn income to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account. But heterosexual married couples can contribute up to $5,000 annually to a spousal I.R.A. for a nonworking spouse. Stay-at-home gay partners, however, cannot make these contributions. So they end up with smaller retirement accounts.
We assumed that all the couples would have either saved 7 percent of the stay-at-home parent’s previous year’s salary, or $5,000, the maximum contribution. So the gay couple with one partner who started out earning just $30,000 would have saved less (had she been legally able to) than someone earning $70,000. In both cases, that five-year gap in savings early on in the partners’ lives haunted them later because they weren’t able to benefit from decades of compounding returns.
The couple with the lower-earning partner at home ended up $48,654 behind by the time that partner died, assuming she invested in a portfolio mixed equally between stocks and bonds that returned 5.94 percent annually. The surviving spouse from the gay couple with equal incomes ended up $112,192 behind.
Instead of filing one joint federal tax return and one state income tax return, same-sex couples must file two sets of returns. In both best and worst cases, those couples paid an additional $12,300 in tax preparation fees over the 46 years they are together.
Even married same-sex couples are encouraged to create a number of documents that try to replicate the protections and rights of heterosexual marriage because their unions are not universally recognized. In the worst case, our gay couple spent $5,500 more than their heterosexual counterparts on their additional paperwork. That included a revocable living trust, which is more difficult to contest than a will, and what is known as a pour-over will, which ensured that anything left out of the trust would be included. They also each set up financial powers of attorney, health care proxies, living wills and a domestic partnership agreement.
In the best case, our couple didn’t spend any more than a prudent heterosexual couple would. Both couples created two wills, financial powers of attorney, health care proxies and living wills.
Married heterosexual couples with two working spouses with similar incomes often pay more in federal taxes than if they remained single because of the so-called marriage penalty. This occurs when a couple’s combined income pushes them into a higher tax bracket than they would have been in if they filed as singles. But some couples — especially those with a wide disparity in income or with a stay-at-home parent — usually pay less when they file jointly. They benefit from what’s known as a marriage bonus.
In our worst case, where one gay partner earned $110,000 and one earned $30,000, the couple paid $15,027 less in taxes over their lifetimes than their heterosexual counterparts.
Though the gay and heterosexual married couple had identical salaries, the married couple collected more income in retirement — a direct result of their marriage status — and thus owed more in taxes (though they still benefited from the marriage bonus). For instance, the married couple collected higher Social Security spousal benefits and survivor benefits, pension income and income derived from a spousal I.R.A. The gay couples weren’t entitled to any of these benefits.
In our best case, where the partners each earned $70,000, the gay couple paid $112,146 less in income taxes. “That is the marriage penalty rearing its ugly head,” Mr. Williams said.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:24 PM Gay City News
LGBT supporters of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cite attributes and achievements valued by other voters –– his compelling personal story as a business builder, the city’s continued success in driving down crime, the curb on indoor smoking in public spaces, an ambitious focus on greening the city.
Many also single out his advocacy for marriage equality. The mayor has made several high profile appeals to the State Senate this year to approve the gay marriage bill already adopted by the Assembly. On October 1, Bloomberg recounted for a group of gay supporters how he had, that day, called the top Democrat and Republican in the Senate and told them, “This is our number one priority.”
That’s heady stuff –– as the mayor spoke, the crowd came alive with applause and spirited shouts. There is real value in the public debate in the cumulative suasion of leaders like the mayor.
The problem is that Bloomberg’s actions regarding gay marriage have been at sharp odds with his laudable words. A disjunction between words and deeds are unfortunately all too common in the mayor’s LGBT record.
In 2005, at the same time the mayor decided to appeal a Manhattan district court judge’s pro-gay marriage ruling, for the first time he announced his support for marriage equality and pledged to lobby Albany to secure that right. That December, he told Gay City News, “When I say I’ll do something, I’ll do something.”
Yet since that statement, Bloomberg has contributed nearly $3.4 million to support the state Republican and Independence Parties, the bulk of those dollars directly funding State Senate Republican incumbents, at a time when that party’s majority refused to bring marriage equality to a floor vote. A $1.2 million Bloomberg contribution to the Independence Party last year was used to support the three most stridently anti-gay Republican senators. The mayor’s support for one of them, Frank Padavan of Queens, helped him squeak out a victory over Democratic City Councilman James Gennaro, a vocal supporter of equal marriage rights.
It’s fair to note that there are marriage equality opponents among the Senate Democrats, too, and that even after gaining the majority last November, their party did not deliver a floor vote. But it’s a good bet that had Gennaro and perhaps another Democrat or two prevailed in 2008, the two disgraceful senators who this past summer crippled a body riven by a 32-30 split would not have had their opportunity. The best information available to Gay City News indicates that without that disruption, Senator Thomas K. Duane would have gotten the marriage equality vote he seeks.
The more salient question, though, as we face November 3 is what the mayor can do to deliver Republican votes to bring the bill to the Senate floor, and on that point Bloomberg’s comments simply strain credulity. On September 17, Bloomberg told Gay City News that he “suspected” he could deliver Padavan and Brooklyn’s Marty Golden, who have both backed up their outspoken opposition to marriage equality with legislative and legal maneuvering. When the two senators’ offices were called to learn what the mayor had done to lobby them on marriage, Golden’s office did not respond. Padavan’s director of public affairs said Bloomberg had done nothing.
At an endorsement meeting on October 9, the mayor acknowledged that Padavan was not “gettable,” this time simply alluding vaguely to “upstate Republicans” whom he might bring around. Bloomberg may be, as he says, the “main funder” of the Senate Republicans, but the upstate incumbents have not accumulated the political debt that a Padavan has, so where is the mayor’s leverage?
Since the last election, Bloomberg has continued his support for the Republican and Independence Parties, donating about $500, 000, money that could return the GOP to the Senate majority in 2010, a perch from which they have consistently opposed gay marriage. Our community cannot afford that risk.
On other key LGBT issues, the mayor also talks a better game than he has played over the past eight years. He frequently mentions the continuing decline in AIDS deaths in the city, yet fails to reiterate his long-since discarded 2003 pledge to cut new infections in half. Six years later, by the city’s own data, infections remain resistant to reduction among gay and bisexual men, with transmission actually rising among young men, particularly men of color.
Asked this month why he has neglected more aggressive AIDS and condom education in the public schools, Bloomberg likened the question to divisive social debates such as evolution versus creationism. But the mayor is a world-renowned public health advocate, and he would never countenance the schools backing down from a science-based evolution curriculum. Why then did his all-star health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, now the head of the federal CDC, say, when discussing a new AIDS curriculum under development, “I don’t know that we will be able to achieve everything that you would want or I would want.”
That’s politics, not progress.
The mayor’s record on AIDS education stands in stark contrast to the positions championed by his opponent, City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., when the Democrat served as School Board president in the late 1990s.
Elsewhere, we can see where politics has trumped progress on issues the mayor now trumpets. Just weeks before the election, Bloomberg named a commission to study the issues facing LGBT homeless youth, pulling in many of the leading advocates. But in each of the four years since the City Council began appropriating money specifically targeting this vulnerable population, the administration has refused to incorporate into its budget the funding critical to providing the beds that still number only in the dozens— intransigence that City Council Youth Services Chair Lew Fidler described as “almost cruel.”
Asked earlier this year about the false arrests of gay men in video stores throughout Manhattan, the mayor insisted questions be directed to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Two weeks ago, Bloomberg said, “I’ve asked Kelly about it,” but then added, “I’m not so sure he’s doing an investigation.”
Mike Bloomberg is a CEO of a mayor –– he attracts top talent and empowers them with important missions. But some smaller issues, especially those that are thorny –– homeless LGBT youth, gay men falsely arrested –– never make it onto his radar, and other important questions –– marriage equality and AIDS education –– take a back seat to political imperatives, whether helping out GOP friends in the State Senate or letting his schools chancellor overrule his health commissioner.
Bill Thompson has a longer and stronger suit on LGBT rights issues. On every issue that the mayor claims bona fides, the comptroller was there first and holds a more unambiguous position. His advocacy for workplace fairness –– through shareholder resolutions aimed at companies in which the city pension funds invest –– has led to nondiscrimination protections and equal partner benefits for LGBT workers at nearly 75 major corporations. That is a significant accomplishment that had helped reshape American business well beyond the borders of New York.
Given Thompson’s record, it is unfortunate that the mayor has made the divisive argument that the comptroller is laying low in this campaign on the question of marriage equality in order to pull out his African-American base.
But Thompson’s limited campaign funds –– Bloomberg is currently outspending him more than 16 to 1 –– has given him a very small window for snaring public attention; unfortunately he has not used it to best advantage. It is certainly appropriate that the Democrat emphasize an issue that disturbs many New Yorkers –– the mayor’s machinations last year that allowed him to run for a third term. But “Eight Is Enough” is simply not enough of a public reassurance for voters during anxious economic times.
We have known Thompson throughout his tenure as comptroller, and have taken a favorable measure of the man and his core principles. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with him for an hour to discuss the current campaign. While his record, we believe, makes him the superior candidate on LGBT issues, we have been disappointed that his campaign has not built on his animating beliefs to better articulate a vision for steering the city at a time of great potential but also severe fiscal stress.
The mayor’s unfettered personal spending on his own campaign does real damage, but the victim is not Bill Thompson. The real losers are the voters of New York, who deserve real debates on questions for which neither our elected officials nor our somnambulant city press corps are providing clear answers.
During this campaign, we should be addressing the intractable problem of HIV transmission.
Bloomberg ought to explain why he brags about how few people live on the streets compared to other large cities, even as the census of families living in city shelters breaks records.
Thompson needs to convince voters that he has concrete ideas for smart and tough-minded stewardship of the city budget when resources are severely reduced. Both candidates must address, in detail, how they will balance the budget in a climate of falling city revenues and uncertain transfer payments from a state in even worse shape. It is easy to talk about new programs, but voters need to hear the specifics of how each candidate will go about cutting programs or increasing revenues in this brutal fiscal climate.
On the question of policing and crime prevention, how do we balance the need for public safety with the NYPD’s appalling rate of stop and frisks–– pegged at more than 600,000 a year, the vast percentage of them people of color?
The city deserves debate about whether vacancy decontrol has canceled out the progress on building new affordable housing.
Elections are about making choices, no matter how dissatisfied we as voters may be about the responsiveness of candidates to our desire for informed debate. Mike Bloomberg has not convinced us that he and his Republican allies will put the needs and aspirations of the gay community ahead of politics. LGBT New Yorkers are looking for a leader and advocate in City Hall. We urge a vote for Bill Thompson.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Friday, Oct. 16th, 3pm
Education Outreach at Flushing High School in Flushing, Queens
Saturday October 17th 2pm.
March and Rally in College Point
We'll be marching down College Point Boulevard from 20th avenue until 14th avenue.
and then holding a rally at nearby Popenhusen playground. Speakers TBA.
Directions: Take the 7 train to Main Street and then the Q65 bus from Roosevelt and Main Street to 20th ave.
Please bring signs without wooden sticks, banners, friends, and your best self.
These event are endorsed by Generation Q/the Queens Community House, the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, St. Pat’s for All Parade, Astorians United Against Hate Crimes, Gay Peruvians of the Americas, the Long Island City Alliance, the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Las Buenas Amigas, Integrity NYC, Western Queens for Marriage Equality, the Anti Violence Project, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, Queer Justice League, the International Socialist Organization, Carmen’s Place, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Project Reach, Make the Road NY.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
"We must remember that we do not have the freedom to marry, to inherit, to adopt, to share our health insurance, to learn about our history in our schools. To learn that our two greatest presidents, Washington and Lincoln were gay. We do not have the freedom to live as straight people have the freedom to live. We do not have the freedom to have our bars not raided by police and officers beating us up with such fury that we land in hospitals."
"We have not learned to fight back with the same fury with which they fight us. You do not get more with honey than with vinegar. There are over one thousand benefits from our government that straight couples get that we are denied. This is not freedom. This is not equality. America’s Bill of Rights says we are meant to be equal."
REMARKS AT DALLAS GAY PRIDE CELEBRATION
SUNDAY, SEPT. 20, 2009