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  • 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.

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    January 08, 2008

    Kissing babies the Obama way

    Posted by: Chris

    Cjx07 This just in from Lavi Soloway, a long-time legal advocate for gay immigration equality and a blogger himself:

    After his speech [yesterday] in Claremont, NH, Senator Obama made his way along the front row of the audience. He stopped when he reached the spot where I was standing. He smiled broadly and beamed as he reached (at his own playful insistence) for Lily and held her in his hands.

    I explained to him that I had brought Lily with me this morning to New Hampshire so that we could witness in person the Senator's historical campaign. I told him that I was a single gay parent, and as such it was important for me that he knew that.

    He kissed her on the forehead and said to me: "I am proud of you." He was completely natural, and had clearly moved the audience. They were nuts about him. I predict a landslide tomorrow.

    Photos of Obama with Lily (like the one above) have since shown up on several freelance photographer websites.

    (Photo by CJ Gunther of the European Pressphoto Agency)

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    December 06, 2007

    GNW 5: Lesbian mommie madness

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Jpcalderon1 America's top gay model dishes on Janice Dickinson: QUICK LOOK: The third season of “Janice Dickinson's Modeling Agency” debuts this week. Last season, Dickinson practically held J.P. Calderon in her arms as the camera-ready stud... (MORE)
    2. Huckabee Huckabee warns gay marriage threatens civilization: QUICK LOOK: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has enjoyed a surge in recent Republican primary polls, says in an interview with GQ that gay marriage is a threat to civilization... (MORE)
    3. Mouloodzadeh Gay Iranian earlier spared is executed for teen sex: QUICK LOOK: Makvan Mouloodzadeh was executed in Kermanshah Central Prison at 5 a.m. this morning, Iranian time. Neither Mr Mouloodzadeh's family or his lawyer were told about the... (MORE)
    4. Michaelguest Gay ex-ambassador quits Bust State Dep't in protest: QUICK LOOK: Michael E. Guest, a tall, soft-spoken man with salt-and-pepper hair, looks every bit the diplomat. At the young age of 43, at the start of the Bush administration, he... (MORE)
    5. Pennywong New Aussie P.M. names first out gay cabinet minister: QUICK LOOK: A former rock star and a lesbian barrister are among the Australian prime minister-elect's new ministers. Kevin Rudd, a former diplomat, has broken with party tradition... (MORE)


    • Lesbian mom defends push for child support from sperm donor: QUICK LOOK: A lesbian in England who had children with her partner thanks to a friend who donated sperm hit back at his claims that he is being unfairly asked to pay child support. Firefighter Andy Bathie, 37,... (MORE)

    File this one away under battles where we gays are on the wrong side. A friend agrees to donate his sperm to a lesbian friend and her partner in London, and all involved are clear that there'll be no ongoing legal obligations or responsibilities. Still, the father is nice enough to stay somewhat involved in the lives of the boy and girl he sired. The lesbian moms don't object, agreeing that it's good for the children to have a father figure.

    Now that Terri Arnold has split from her partner, she's successfully sued her friend, Andy Bathie, for thousands of dollars in monthly child support. "What people don't understand is that they have only heard one side of the story," insists Arnold. "He was a father to the children, a dad. He played a father's role for two years of their, well, my daughter's life," she added.

    A similar case out of New York is just as disturbing. A Nassau County man donated sperm to a lesbian friend and all involved agreed verbally that he'd have no ongoing legal responsibility for the child. The donor did agree to put his name on the child's birth certificate, so a father would be listed, and sent occasional gifts and cards over the years.

    Now the lesbian mom has successfully sued for child support, to help the 18-year-old pay for college. The donor's "interactions with the child over the years he man's interactions with the child over the years had a patriarchal nature," according to the lesbian's lawyer. "It's still a parental relationship."

    The abuse of trust and the system is absolutely outrageous, and if it becomes a trend could discourage generous sperm donations. The only positive effect could be to encourage those who plan in virtro fertilization to enter into legal agreements that spell out their ongoing responsibilities, if any. But it's sad that's even necessary.

    These cases are almost but not quite as disgusting as biological lesbian moms who use anti-gay laws to try and screw their ex-partners out of any visitation rights after a breakup. At least the deadbeat mom in London is getting public heat for her outrageous decision. It's too bad all the identities have been kept anonymous in the Nassau County case.

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    December 16, 2006

    Bush avoids getting Keye'd

    Posted by: Chris

    Cheneypoe President Bush narrowly avoided getting "Keye'd" this week when People magazine asked him about news that Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter, his expecting a baby along with her partner Heather Poe.  In a 2005 interview with the New York Times, the president said, "I believe children can receive love from gay couples, but the ideal is — and studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."

    Asked by People about whether the news from Cheney, who managed her father's re-election campaign in 2004, had changed that view, Bush sidestepped.  "Mary Cheney is going to make a fine mom, and she's going to love this child a lot," he said, according to a transcript of the interview. "And I'm happy for her."

    The mere fact of Cheney's 15-year relationship with Poe has wreacked havoc on social conservatives for years now, because their abstract rhetoric about gay people takes on an especially harsh tone when applied to a living, breathing gay person — especially one with whom they have such close ties.

    Mayakeyes Just ask Allen Keyes, the erstwhile GOP presidential candidate who jumped in the 2004 Illinois Senate race against Democrat Barack Obama.  In an interview during the Republican National Convention that year with Sirius OutQ, Keyes called homosexuality a form of "selfish hedonism."  Asked whether that meant Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist," Keyes fatally failed to sidestep. "Of course she is," he replied.  "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

    In the ensuing media furor about calling the veep's daughter such a name, Keyes only stepped deeper into the doo-doo, telling the Chicago Tribune that if his own daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her that she was sinning and should pray.  That came across harsh even in the abstract, but made Keyes look even more heartless a few months later, when his "own daughter," Maya Marcel-Keyes, came out publicly — at a Valentine's Day rally for Equality Maryland, a gay rights group.

    Of course, Keyes gets integrity points for at least being consistent in applying his abstract views to even his own flesh and blood.  But the larger point about self-righteous divisiveness isn't lost on many people in the "mushy middle" on gay rights, even when someone like George W. tries to distances himself from his own rhetoric.

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    December 06, 2006

    Mary Cheney Is Expecting

    Posted by: Chris

    Mary_cheneyheather_poe_1 Mary Cheney, the vice president's lesbian daughter, has announced she is pregnant and expecting in last Spring, the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" reports today:

    It's a baby boom for grandparents Dick and Lynne Cheney: Their older daughter, Elizabeth, went on leave as deputy assistant secretary of state before having her fifth child in July. "The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild," spokesman Lea Anne McBride said last night.

    Cheney, 37, was a key aide to her father during the 2004 reelection campaign and now is vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL. Poe, 45, a former park ranger, is renovating their Great Falls home.

    News of the pregnancy will undoubtedly reignite the debate about gay marriage. During the campaign, Mary Cheney was criticized by gay activists for not being more publicly supportive of same-sex marriage. Her father said people "ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to" but deferred to the president's policy supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Cheney herself called the proposed amendment "a gross affront to gays and lesbians everywhere" in her book, "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life," which was published in May.

    Cheney has described her relationship with Poe -- whom she took to last year's White House dinner honoring Prince Charles and Camilla -- as a marriage. The two met in 1988 while playing ice hockey and began dating four years later. They moved from Colorado to Virginia a year ago to be closer to Cheney's family. In an interview with the Post six months ago, when asked if she and Poe wanted children, Cheney said that was a "conversation I think I should have with Heather first."

    In November, Virginia voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions; state law is unclear on whether Poe could have full legal rights as a parent of Cheney's child. The circumstances of the pregnancy will remain private, said the source close to the couple. This is the first child for both.

    As frustrating as Cheney's reticence to speak out on gay rights has been, she makes a pretty powerful case for tolerance just by living her life as part of a very public family with conservative Republican credentials that are unquestioned.  Mary Cheney's family has embraced her partner, their relationship and now the idea of a child being born and raised by them — all without jettisoning their conservative Republican world view, or being jettisoned by other conservative Republicans.

    They love their daughter, and they accept her for who she is and want to be a part of her life.  Most members of my own conservative Republican family have never gotten that far, refusing to meet or even talk to anyone they consider part of my "gay life," including an ex I was with for eight years. Faced with the prospect that my partner and I might have children, I was told, "I would hope a judge somewhere would prevent that."

    So while we shake our heads at all that Mary could have accomplished if she'd been a little more aggressive defending her family within the Republican Party, let's be thankful for the example she and the Cheneys are setting for other conservatives.

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    October 16, 2006

    And babies make four

    Posted by: Chris

    After arriving in Rio on Saturday following a nightmare trip from Washington, I was so excited that my partne and I could spend time with a good friend from law school and his partner, who was celebrating his 40th birthday here. Two other friends from school came along as well, along with the partner's parents and (straight) brother.  But the highlight of the weekend was meeting their adorable baby daughters — twins the couple adopted at birth 14 months ago.

    Twodads_1 As I saw the two daddies dote on their two daughters, with the loving support of their extended family and friends, I thought how ridiculous it is that conservative politicians are still scapegoating gay parents  as the third rail argument against allowing gays to marry.  In fact, on Sunday, as we visited with my friends' family, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was appearing on video uplink to hundreds of evangelical Christian churches across the U.S., using the issue to rally the troops to the November ballot box:

    "The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children,” said Romney during a brief but peppy speech from Boston during a forum hosted by the Family Research Council. “The child’s development is enhanced by the nurturing of parents of both genders. Every child deserves a mother and a father."

    Many gay activists consider that sort of rhetoric to be "demonizing" or "bashing" gay parents, but most gay parents I know are keenly aware of the need to provide role models for their kids from both genders.

    Follow the jump for a video glimpse into the future:

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