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  • « January 2009 | Main | March 2009 »

    February 27, 2009

    The 90% tax bracket

    Posted by: Andoni

    Tax brackets

    There is consternation in some quarters this morning because President Obama's budget proposes to raise the top income tax bracket on people who make more than $250,000 per year to 39.6% from the current 35% . I'm not one of the worried ones.

    I'm old enough to remember the 1950's when the top income tax bracket was 90%. Yes, 90%. It got reduced to 70% in the 1960's. During both these periods, between 1950 to 1970, the economic growth for the country and individuals, rich and middle class alike, was excellent.

    Since WWII, the top bracket has gone from 92 to 77 to 70 to 50 to 33 to 28 to 31 to 39.6 (Bill Clinton) to 35 (George W. Bush). When graphed, this sort of looks like an oscillating curve trying to find its proper equilibrium. Clearly the trend has been downward, but in trying to achieve the right top tax rate for growth but also for government responsibility in being able to pay for things, maybe we have gone to far -- overshot.

    Obama is simply proposing to go back to the Clinton tax rate, and the Clinton years were some of the best economic years this country has ever seen. In trying to find the sweet spot between what will stimulate growth, but not be irresponsible, maybe 39.6% or somewhere near there is a good place to be. Certainly 35% didn't turn out that well, did it?

    Time, of course, will tell where the best spot is. But right now, count me as not worried about Obama's tax increase.

    February 26, 2009

    Stimulus bill discriminates against gays

    Posted by: Andoni

    Discrimination

    We are a gay family. I'm the breadwinner and my partner is a full time student. His tuition is one of the biggest items in our family budget, and it certainly is a drag in these tough economic times. So you can imagine my elation when I heard President Obama describe the $2500 tax credit in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the purpose of helping families offset the cost of tuition for education.

    Then I started looking into this. I contacted my accountant, my Congressman and various gay organizations to see exactly how my family could participate in this provision of the stimulus bill. The answer is, we can't.

    It appears that the definition of family in this bill is not defined broadly enough to include LGBT families. Without a broader definition of family, the tax credit would have to claimed via the normal mechanism of filing for it on the1040 federal income tax return form. But by law, our relationship is not recognized by the federal government, we cannot file jointly and I cannot claim him as a dependent, even though he really is. This #%@##!

    It isn't as though it's impossible to include gay families in legislation. After 9-11, the fund that was set up to re-imburse families for their loss in the Twin Towers collapse was written broad enough so that partners of gays could also be eligible for the money. Congress knows how to do this. Why didn't any of our Democratic friends in Congress or our LGBT organizations think of gay families in the stimulus bill? What are all those lobbyists for if not to protect our interests as laws are being made?

    Of course the fastest and most efficient way to get equal treatment for our families is for the federal government to recognize our marriages and civil unions.

    I've written a letter to President Obama asking him how my family can participate in the $2500 tax credit for education. I'll keep you posted if I get an anwer.

    February 24, 2009

    Civil unions WILL lead to marriage

    Posted by: Andoni

    Aaa see no

    Something that the far right realizes that seems to be outside of the grasp of many our leaders in the gay community is that once you have a national civil unions law, it is only a matter of time before you get marriage equality. Separate but equal is not a sustainable position in this country. It will be easier to go from civil unions to marriage than from nothing to marriage. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, gets it. In responding to a compromise national civil unions Op Ed in last Sunday's New York Times, co-authored by a fellow leader of the religious right, Perkins warns that "once a civil unions law is in place, denial of marital status would be almost impossible to defend."

    The right realizes this, our leaders don't.

    Many proposals have been made advocating ways to achieve civil unions nationally, especially since it is President Obama's official position to have full civil unions for gay people. Federally recognized civil unions would mean civil unions in all 50 states. All couples would have to do is go to a state that offers civil unions to get hitched, then return to their home state. Federal couples' benefits in all 50 states is a big deal. These would include things like social security survival benefits, joint tax returns, partner immigration rights.. over 1100+ very substantial rights and benefits.

    Federally recognized civil union proposals have been elucidated here, here and here.

    Civil unions can be accomplished because 75% of the public supports the idea.

    In private emails from leaders in our community, I have been told that I have it all wrong, that the best way forward is to hold out for marriage equality. I strongly disagree.

    Right now it's like standing on the side of the road waiting for a bus and the bus keeps passing me by. The bus won't stop to let me on. If one day the bus stops and tells me that I can get on but I have to agree to sit in the back, I would gladly do it. Once on the bus I know I will be able to fight my way forward until I get a seat in the front. It's much harder to get a seat in the front of the bus if you're not on the bus at all. If I'm still standing on the side of the road, I seriously doubt that the bus will one day stop and offer me a seat in the front of the bus. It didn't happen that way for the African Americans; what makes us think it's going to happen for us?

    From a public relations (selling the public) point of view (as well as I believe in court), it's much easier to argue that a national separate but equal institution for gays is un-American-- both historically and constitutionally. Separate but equal has been stigmatized in the US and the public will get it after a very few years. However, trying to convince people or the court that we should be allowed to marry when the starting point is having nothing (no recognition at all) is be a tougher sell.

    This is a no-brainer folks, and I'm starting to get angry at our leaders who won't pick up on Obama's civil union idea. Obama clearly sees the way forward and is trying to lead us to that next step, but our leaders seem oblivious to it.

    h/t Andrew Sullivan

    February 23, 2009

    Dustin Lance Black, award winning speech

    Posted by: Andoni

    If an Oscar were given for best acceptance speech while receiving an Oscar, Dustin Lance Black would win my vote. Black, who won the Academy Award for for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," brought tears to my eyes with a brief description of his own personal struggle of being gay in a hostile world, then gave hope to millions of young gays by paraphrasing Harvey Milk, asking them to love themselves and assuring them that very soon they would have equal rights federally across this land.

    February 22, 2009

    Another civil unions proposal

    Posted by: Andoni

    NYT

    Both Chris and I have each elucidated on ways to take take advantage of President Barack Obama's explicitly stated support for full civil unions on the White House web page to score a giant leap forward for gay rights. Chris' post on this topic is here and mine here .

    The Washington Blade also did a story exploring how Obama's civil union proposal might be implemented.

    So far, however, no such bill to recognize civil unions is on the radar screen at HRC (Human Rights Campaign) or the offices of any of our three openly gay elected Representatives, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin or Jared Polis.

    But the civil unions idea keeps rolling along. In today's New York Times, David Blankenhorn, a religious conservative, and Jonathon Rauch, a gay marriage advocate, have teamed up in an Op Ed to make a specific proposal on how to move gay marriage forward -- in the form of civil unions. The key to passage of this bill which recognizes gay marriages as civil unions is a compromise with the religious community exempting it from having to recognize these unions and also giving them a wide exemption from any anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation. Just as Chris and I proposed, it defines civil unions as any same sex marriage or civil union legally performed by a state.

    It is heartening to see the mainstream media picking up on Obama's civil unions and coming to the same conclusions Chris and I have. Also, since the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) already gives religious institutions an exception (this bill would broaden it), I can live with the proposal in today's New York Times.

    There are several issues that must be considered before this bill is introduced. The main one is that if this is the compromise position, it would have to introduced with enough co-sponsors (or counted votes) in the Senate and the House that it passes as is, without amendment. Normally, such a bill would start out as a marriage equality bill, and end up like this after the compromise. If we start with this bill and work it through the normal channels of the House and Senate, the compromise wouldn't be worth too much.

    My second main concern is that we would have to get our own left wing on board. There are people in our community that are for "marriage or nothing" and would try to kill this, even though it moves us 3/4 of the way to the prize and would recognize gay marriages from MA and CT.

    I'm encouraged that Obama's willingness to support full civil unions is generating ideas on how to take advantage of this and move gay rights forward.

    Now I have to ask, where are Barney, Tammy, and Jared.....and, of course, HRC. Being the leaders of our community bears some responsiblity to ..... well, actually lead.

    February 18, 2009

    Capitalism won (I think)

    Posted by: Andoni

    Capitalism

    As you may remember, after the long struggle to prove which system worked better, capitalism or communism, capitalism finally won in the late 1980's. This was mainly the result of the Soviet Union falling apart and the exposure that their communist system was totally bankrupt - top to bottom. The world had been observing these two competing systems for over 50 years and when the curtain was finally removed in the East, most countries decided that the free market, capitalistic system was the one to follow.

    How did communism ever become a viable alternative to capitalism in the first place? Karl Marx founded the theory of communism and in 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution gave it a home where it struggled for traction -- until the Great Depression. After the 1929 stock market crash and the economic collapse that occurred in the 1930's, communism had the evidence it needed to demonstrate the brutal failure of capitalism. During this period as more and more countries looked at both capitalism and communism, they  freely chose communism because capitalism clearly wasn't working. In fact a main fear of the Franklin Roosevelt Administration during the Depression was that there would be a communist revolution in the United States because of the failure of capitalism. To ward this off, FDR instituted many socialistic programs such as Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, etc to keep the people happy and away from thoughts of a communist revolution.

    Now capitalism is having a bad time again. The ugly side of free markets is visible to the entire world.

    So here's my thought experiment for today:

    What if the current economic meltdown had occurred in the late 80's instead of now. Would the majority of nations have decided that capitalism won ... and decided to follow the free market model?

    I believe that at a minimum the conclusion would have been that a totally free market system with almost no government oversight or control was not the model to follow.

    So did capitalism really win -- permanently? Did the world render a verdict before all the evidence was in? Now as our curtain is being removed and more and more free market failings keep being revealed, what does the world think? Also of note is that the United States is becoming more and more socialistic to help avert a total collapse.

    So who really won the war between socialism and capitalism? I think only time will tell.

    February 17, 2009

    ABA endorses UAFA

    Posted by: Andoni

    Separated families

    The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) keeps rolling along. The good news is that yesterday the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting UAFA. It was the first time UAFA came up before the ABA body -- and it passed on the first try. This is just one of many influential organizations that have now endorsed UAFA.

    UAFA was re-introduced on Thursday by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate. Just three days after introduction UAFA already has 81 co-sponsors in the House and 16 15 in the Senate. These impressive numbers will continue to increase, but we can help them increase faster if we contact our Senators and Congresspeople.

    Congress begins anew every two years, so UAFA had to be reintroduced and as a result was assigned new legislation numbers. In the House it's now H.R. 1024 and in the Senate, S. 424.

    If you want UAFA to continue its momentum, we need to keep calling our elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Explain why it's so important for you. Tell your legislators that it's the fair and equal thing to do. Multiply your effect, by getting your relatives and friends to call and write as well. This year I got my three nices and sister to lobby their Senators and Congressman, as well as all my "fiends" on my email lists. If we all enlist our friends and relatives, this bill can be passed this year.

    Here is a web site to find your elected officials along with contact information, in case you don't know who they are. If UAFA is to pass this year, we all need to get working.

    UAFA would allow the US citizen half of a gay couple (where other is foreign born), to sponsor his/her partner to live in the United States. This is simply granting gay couples the same right to sponsor their partner that opposite sex couples have.

    February 15, 2009

    The Week on GNW (Feb. 8-13)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. New AIDS approach disrupts DNA to fight infectionNew AIDS approach disrupts DNA to fight infection: QUICK LOOK: California biotechnology company Sangamo BioSciences Inc. (SGMO.O) said on Monday it will start human testing of a new approach to treating the AIDS virus that involves... (MORE)
    2. Son of anti-gay black minister arrested in gay stingSon of anti-gay black minister arrested in gay sting: QUICK LOOK: The son of Potter’s House Bishop T.D. Jakes turned himself in to the Dallas County Jail on Thursday on an indecent exposure charge stemming from an incident at a southern... (MORE)
    3. Gay couples protest at marriage bureaus across U.S.Gay couples protest at marriage bureaus across U.S.: QUICK LOOK: Same-sex couples seeking to wed showed up at marriage license counters nationwide Thursday to highlight a right they don't have in 48 states, part of an annual protest... (MORE)
    4. 'Milk' is only the latest of Hollywood's great gay forays'Milk' is only the latest of Hollywood's great gay forays: QUICK LOOK: Much already has been said, written and blogged about the merits of Sean Penn's performance as Harvey Milk. About his uncanny channeling of Milk's nasally eloquence,... (MORE)
    5. Gays gather in Tiananmen Square for Valentine's DayGays gather in Tiananmen Square for Valentine's Day: QUICK LOOK: Chinese gays and lesbians took to the streets on Saturday hoping Saint Valentine's Day would help them attract support for same-sex marriage in the conservative society... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Wis. teen accused of using Facebook for sex blackmailWis. teen accused of using Facebook for sex blackmail: QUICK LOOK: An expelled high school student was accused Wednesday of a pattern of manipulation and deception using the social networking site Facebook to coerce male schoolmates... (MORE)
    • Boston cop alleged to have escorted porn stars to clubBoston cop alleged to have escorted porn stars to club: QUICK LOOK: A Boston police officer has been reassigned to desk duty pending an internal affairs investigation of reports that he used a police cruiser without authority to escort... (MORE)
    • 'So Macho' preacher hits back with bus ads for God'So Macho' preacher hits back with bus ads for God: QUICK LOOK: A fundamentalist preacher who unsuccessfully stood for public office has paid for adverts to be placed on buses proclaiming the existence of God. George Hargreaves challenged... (MORE)
    • U.K. woman divorces husband over virtual gay sexU.K. woman divorces husband over virtual gay sex: QUICK LOOK: A wife in Derby, England, has dumped her computer-mad husband for having virtual sex with another MAN on his laptop . . . while he was in bed with her. Lisa Best woke... (MORE)
    • Lesbians arrested at San Antonio mall for kissing: QUICK LOOK: Jessica Garcia intends to prove in court that security officers at Rolling Oaks Mall unfairly targeted her and her girlfriend when they were arrested in December on trespassing and other charges... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    In France, more straights opting for civil unions over marriage

    Posted by: Andoni

    Sarkozy

    Well here's a twist. In France more and more straight couples are opting for civil unions instead of marriage. And in France, when you say marriage, you are talking about an institution that is a civil marriage by the government, not the religious entities that most marriages have become in the US. So in France, your choices are civil marriage or civil unions.

    France's civil union law was created in 1999 because gays were not allowed to marry, and they didn't want gays to be able to marry. However, in crafting the new law, which was understood to be for gays, the legislators left the language vague about gender. (Maybe this was because of the strong European Union rules requiring gender neutral and sexual orientation neutral language in new legislation -- they didn't want to trigger any challenges.)

    Now, after 10 years, one third of all straight couples getting "hitched" in France, opt for civil unions instead of marriage. The number of civil unions has grown annually from 6000 in the first year of the law, to 140,000 in 2008 --- with 92% of the civil unions last year involving straight couples.

    The main reason seems to be that a civil union offers about the same rights and benefits of marriage, but is easier to get out of than a marriage.

    A few weeks ago I proposed that the gay community in this country should move forward aggressively, pursuing both marriage equality where possible and civil unions every place else, so as to cover as many gay couples with rights and benefits as fast as possible -- in all 50 states. With tongue in cheek, I added that after a while, straights might want the law expanded to include them too, especially the ones who advocated of the separation of church and state. Little did I know that the trend of straight couples toward civil unions had already started in France.

    The most important point I would like to make is that it is terribly humorous and ironic that the French created civil unions to protect the institution of marriage..... and now civil unions are undermining marriage because people are opting for them instead of marriage. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

    So possibly the lesson for our country is that the best way to protect the institution of marriage is not to deny people marriage by creating a separate but equal system, but to allow gays to marry.

    February 10, 2009

    Gay media woes hit close to home

    Posted by: Chris

    Avalon I wrote recently about how economic woes have accelerated the difficulties facing the media industry in general and gay media in particular. Window Media, the company I co-founded back in 1997 and where I headed up editorial operations for more than a decade, has been no exception.

    Windowpubs2 The latest news, reported in Gay City News -- a longtime competitor to Window's New York Blade and HX Magazine -- is that Avalon Equity Partners, the New York-based venture capital firm that has funded Window's growth since 2001, has been put into receivership by the Small Business Administration. The SBA took the drastic step after Avalon failed over a period of time to maintain adequate reserves relative to the $38 million the SBA has put into Avalon.

    The SBA will now take steps to sell off the assets of Avalon to satisfy its debts and to return as much money as possible to the fund's investors. It's unclear the impact that will have on the gay publications that are owned by companies that, while in Avalon's portfolio, are not owned outright by the VC firm.

    Although the term "Window Media" is often used to describe the whole range of publications related to Avalon, the company Window Media LLC owns only the Washington Blade and Southern Voice newspaper in Atlanta. A number of original investors in Window, most residents of Atlanta, retain their ownership in Window, as do I and as does William Waybourn, my co-founder. So while Avalon owns a controlling interest in Window Media, the Blade and SoVo are not "assets" of Avalon, per se.

    Windowpubs1 The same is true of other publications in the Window Media "family," including those owned by Unite Media LLC: David Atlanta magazine, the South Florida Blade (formerly Express Gay News), and 411 magazine in Fort Lauderdale. Also, Unite entered into a joint ownership arrangement with HX Media that publishes HX, the New York Blade and previously published the New England Blade (formerly In Newsweekly) and HX Philadelphia. Then there's Genre magazine, which may well be owned outright by Avalon.

    Much has been written over the years about whether the consolidation of gay media titles was a positive development for the publications or the communities they serve. The reality has varied greatly, depending in large part by the staff at each publication, the source fund doing the aggregating, and the communities themselves. In some cases, consolidation saved publications that would have otherwise folded, or at least preserved them for a number of years longer than they would have. In many cases, consolidation resulted in greatly improved editorial quality. In some cases, unfortunately, consolidation has meant an unrelenting focus on the bottom line, without regard to the way in which editorial quality and commitment to community are integrally important to the economic health of these publications.

    The news about Avalon is still fresh, although the receivership actually occurred way back in August 2008, and there will be more no doubt to report. At this point, it's unclear whether the troubled status of the money source behind these eight gay publications will trickle down or not. I'll let you know more when I do.

    The Week on GNW (Feb. 1-7)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Court rulings on gay couple benefits question DOMACourt rulings on gay couple benefits question DOMA: QUICK LOOK: Brad Levenson and Tony Sears spent Thursday fielding congratulatory calls from gay rights supporters around the nation for their success in getting a federal judge to... (MORE)
    2. Liverpool teen killed in his home because he is gayLiverpool teen killed in his home because he is gay: QUICK LOOK: A gay teenager was battered to death in a homophobic attack by a man armed with a hardback history book, a court heard. Gavin Alker shouted homophobic abuse at Michael... (MORE)
    3. Embattled gay Portland mayor explains why he stayedEmbattled gay Portland mayor explains why he stayed: QUICK LOOK: On January 4th, Sam Adams became the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. He symbolized a new generation of post-gay politicians -- a leader whose sexuality... (MORE)
    4. Obama asks Pentagon to study policy on gay serviceObama asks Pentagon to study policy on gay service: QUICK LOOK: The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support... (MORE)
    5. U.S. diplomats urge Clinton to change gay policiesU.S. diplomats ask Clinton to change gay policies: QUICK LOOK: About 2,200 Foreign Service officials co-signed a letter sent this week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to address inequities in how her department... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Radcliffe thrilled when gay men crush out on himRadcliffe thrilled when gay men crush out on him: QUICK LOOK: In an exclusive interview, Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe talks about being adored by gay men, the “stupidity” of Prince Harry, and why he wants to give Sasha and Malia... (MORE)
    • Del. supreme court rejects custody claim by lesbian exDelaware high court rejects custody claim by lesbian ex: QUICK LOOK: The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that a lower court judge erred in granting a lesbian joint custody of her former partner's adopted daughter. The justices said in... (MORE)
    • NYPD charged with false arrests of gay men at adult video stores: QUICK LOOK: Anger is building against the police department in the wake of an increase in arrests of gay men for prostitution at Manhattan adult video stores. Last week, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined... (MORE)
    • New AIDS approach disrupts DNA to fight infectionRepeated exposure in oral sex may neutralize HIV: QUICK LOOK: Some HIV-negative men in long term relationships with HIV-positive men have an antibody response in saliva which may inhibit HIV infection, report Swedish researchers... (MORE)
    • London cabbie charged with assaulting virgin lesbianLondon cabbie charged with assaulting virgin lesbian: QUICK LOOK: A woman has told how she woke in the back of a London black taxi to find the driver 'on top of her' - moments after telling him she was a virgin and a lesbian. The 27-year-old... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3

    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

    February 09, 2009

    Should the military choose a felon over a gay guy?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Gay Soldier

    "And to choose a felon over a combat-proven veteran on the basis of sexuality is defeatist. Ask any squad leader," counsels Owen West, a straight veteran in an Op Ed in today's New York Times. His piece lays out one of the best lines of reasoning I have seen on repealing the 'don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy enacted by Congress in 1993.

    He advises Obama not to make repealing DADT into an argument about civil rights and equality, as President Clinton tried to do in 1993, but rather concentrate on helping the military and advance a line of evidence that repealing DADT is what's best for the military. He cites the example of after the integration of the military in 1948, during war time (the Korean War) even the generals acknowledged that recruiting across America's socio-economic specturm produced the best force.

    I hope the White House reads this piece. Maybe we should send it to them.

    February 06, 2009

    It's UAFA time again

    Posted by: Andoni

    Binat 2

    Immigration Equality has just announced that the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 (UAFA) will be introduced into the House of Representatives by lead sponsor Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on February 13. Because it's a new Congress this legislation must be re-introduced anew.

    Last year this bill had 118 co-sponsors. The goal is to get all those co-sponsors back and then some, to make a good showing when the bill is introduced. So action is necessary. Please find out the name of your Congressperson, then call them by going through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224- 3121 and ask your representative to co-sponsor this legislation. If your Congressperson was a co-sponsor last year, ask them to become an original co-sponsor this time by calling Congressman Nadler's office by February 12 to add their name.

    Here's the spiel when you talk to your representative:

    "The US government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born life partner for immigration. Because of this, we face the terrible choice of separating from the person we love or leaving our country. As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country. Please co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 before February 12. Thank you."

    It was very encouraging to see Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese reference UAFA in today's Washington Blade as one of the legislative priorities they hoped to work with President Obama on and see passed in the near future.

    February 04, 2009

    Gays -- still criminalized

    Posted by: Andoni

    Loving gay couple

    If you thought the Supreme Court decision declaring the anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional ended the criminalization of gays for simply loving another person, think again.

    For gays in relationships, here is something not very pleasant to think about, especially now when tax problems are haunting a number of high profile public officials. Married straights can legally pass an unlimited amount of money, financial help, assets, benefits, services, etc. from one partner to another. Gay couples, however, cannot. Gay couples (and because the federal government does not recognize such marriages, even gays married in MA) can only pass $11,000  worth of cash, financial support, benefits, etc. from one partner to the other. Anything more than that is a taxable event (either as a gift tax on the donor or income tax on the recipient). And if you don't pay the taxes, it's a crime.

    So the simple act of loving another person and doing for them what any straight married person would do for their partner can make you a criminal.

    This is especially pertinent in these hard times when one partner may be totally supporting the other.

    In a heterosexual marriage where one partner stays home and is supported by the partner who works, there is no tax problem. Such a situation can easily produce more than $11,000 worth of benefits moving from the working partner to the non working spouse. The value of mortgage or rent payments, food, car, insurance, clothes, utilities, etc. can easily surpass $11,000. Gay couples, however, in the exact same scenario, are breaking the law by taking care of their partner and not paying taxes on those benefits.

    Is this fair? Absolutely not! But it's true.

    There is a striking parallel here to the situation of old when in some states heterosexual sodomy was legal, but gay sodomy was not.

    This potential tax problem doesn't only occur with stay at home partners. It can also happen when both spouses begin a relationship sharing expenses equally, but then one gets sick or loses a job.

    Would any prosecutor or an IRS agent pursue gay couples for this type of tax violation or am I describing a non problem? Well for most of us the sodomy laws were non problems as well, unless of course you had an overzealous prosecutor who wanted to make a name for himself or score a political point. And at a time when government appointees are getting extra tax compliance scrutiny, it may only be a matter of time before a gay appointee faces this situation.

    The basic problem, just as with the sodomy laws, is that anyone at any time can bring this infraction up to use against you.

    A second problem is that this is not good for the psyche. Knowing that society's rules say that when you form a family and do the same loving, supportive things that a "recognized" married couple does, but your loving actions are illegal, this is not a great feeling. In fact, it's a terribly depressing feeling.

    For the most part, breaking tax laws won't get you jail time, you simply have to pay the penalties and back taxes. But, just like after a plea bargain for a sodomy solicitation charge, it sure can short circuit a promising career in a hurry -- just ask Tom Daschle.

    Do any of Obama's gay appointees have the type of tax problem I describe? I don't know. But the very fact that some schmuck has the ability to use this unfair part of the tax law against any one of us at any time should give all of us pause. In fact, it should give us motivation to fix this problem fast.

    This tax predicament is just another good reason why our relationships should be recognized at the federal level as soon as possible. And if we can't have that, Congress should pass a targeted bill that addresses this couples' issue in the tax code. The best solution, however, is gaining the 1100+ federal benefits that opposite sex couples have all in one bill, not 1100 separate bills.

    No gay couple that I know pays gift taxes or income taxes on net transfers of money or financial benefit from one partner to another. We are all potentially vulnerable at any moment if someone wants to make an issue of it. Just as the sodomy laws used to hang over our heads, these tax laws are also waiting to be used against us. We should move to fix the situation as soon as possible.

    February 02, 2009

    The Week on GNW (Jan. 25-31)

    Posted by: Chris

    Here are the five biggest stories from Gay News Watch over the last week:

    1. Iceland names world's first openly gay prime ministerIceland names world's first openly gay prime minister: QUICK LOOK: Iceland has announced a new government that will be headed by the modern world's first openly gay leader. Johanna Sigurdardottir was named new prime minister by the country's... (MORE)
    2. Support for civil unions could be a minefield for ObamaSupport for civil unions could be minefield for Obama: QUICK LOOK: President Barack Obama’s support for legislation to provide all of the federal rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples joined in civil unions and other legally... (MORE)
    3. U.S. diplomats urge Clinton to change gay policiesU.S. diplomats urge Clinton to change gay policies: QUICK LOOK: About 2,200 Foreign Service officials co-signed a letter sent this week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to address inequities in how her department... (MORE)
    4. Obama asks Pentagon to study policy on gay serviceObama asks Pentagon to study policy on gay service: QUICK LOOK: The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support... (MORE)
    5. Gay church volunteer airs more Haggard accusationsGay church volunteer airs more Haggard accusations: QUICK LOOK: For more than two years, Grant Haas kept a secret from those he considered his family. "It's a lot of pain, a lot of mistrust with that church," reveals the former volunteer... (MORE)

    And here are a few of the most popular from the last week:

    • Hipster NYC rent boys find success in frigid economyHipster NYC rent boys find success in frigid economy: QUICK LOOK: It’s one of the oldest stories in New York City. For many, the word “escort” conjures images of decadent trysts between beautiful women and influential politicians or other members ... (MORE)
    • Grandparents angry over gay couple adopting two children: QUICK LOOK: Church leaders in Scotland hit out at social work chiefs today over claims that a couple were "forced" to give up their grandchildren for adoption by two gay men. The grandparents wanted to care for... (MORE)
    • Beckham's teammates touch bum as lucky talismanBeckham's teammates touch bum as lucky talisman: QUICK LOOK: David Beckham is used to getting a lot of attention both on and off the pitch. Just maybe not quite this friendly. The 33-year-old football ace was seen getting groped... (MORE)
    • Chinese zoo holds wedding for male penguin parentsChinese zoo holds wedding for male penguin parents: QUICK LOOK: A pair of gay penguins are so loved-up they have been given a wedding service by their Chinese zookeepers. The besotted male birds turned out to be such a great parenting... (MORE)

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    These were the five stories on Gay News Watch with the biggest buzz over the last seven days, along with some of the most popular stories from the last week. You can also view the stories with the biggest buzz factor from the last month or year, and the most popular from the last month or year.

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