Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Considering Marriage?

Becoming married within the boundaries of your state without being married federally has some unique features.

Legal recognition: Our marriage is recognized within the state of CA. It’s recognized in a handful of other states, but I don’t know what hoops that recognition requires if any. It’s invalidated in quite a number of other states. Then there are states where the status is unknown. Federally it’s in court limbo – almost recognized but not quite.

We have not traveled as a couple outside of CA since we got married. Neither of us wants to be unmarried even for a moment. There’s something intangible about marriage that changed our perspective. There’s something precious about recognition of our marriage, too. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself.

In the case of wills, power of attorney and healthcare. etc. for whenever we do travel: we would have to pay a lawyer to draw up those legal pieces of paper to cover some of the rights that marriage should give us automatically. Luckily nothing happened to me on my one trip to a state that considers our marriage against the law and against the state constitution (because, you know, our marriage is so threatening that one ban isn’t enough.)

Healthcare Benefits: For companies that provide for spousal healthcare coverage, the trouble is we are a separate tax category. Healthcare benefits for us are not taxable in the state, but they are taxable federally. Setting up this new category costs companies money and some (most?) don’t want to do that.

My wife is covered under our Domestic Partner designation even though she has never been my Domestic Partner. She is listed as my “friend” since listing her as my “spouse” is automatically rejected by their chosen options which exclude same-sex spouses. I have to send an e-mail to the Benefits department with any changes to my healthcare elections during open enrollment because they didn’t bother to upgrade that software either. In that, they are consistent with their Domestic Partner benefits – those require e-mails to update, too.

My W2 has to be examined every year to be sure these tax distinctions are made between state and federal reporting. Issuing a corrected W2 was required the first year but not the second. Last year, I sent an e-mail prior to the generation of the W2s and requested they make sure the numbers are correct the first time. That worked.

Taxes: My best advice is to get someone else to do this. At least until DOMA officially falls. Generally, state taxes are filed as married, federal taxes are filed as single. However these forms are interdependent. So that means filling out forms for both married and single to know what to put in the linked boxes.

Then there’s the added complication for community property states. The feds decided that had to be taken into account but they weren’t sure how, especially since not all community property laws are the same. So it’s up to us to interpret our laws and decide how to split up our income and deductions. An interpretation that is subject to their approval/rejection.

Because they themselves don’t know how to look at our federal tax forms – married, filing single, taking community property laws into account – we have gotten odd results from our filings. Still waiting for them to figure out one of the latest issues so we can get the next issue straightened out. I have a feeling this won’t be completed until DOMA falls and we re-file as married for the past several years.

Be prepared to be audited because this whole mess raises their red flags. And don’t count on e-filing. It won’t always let you because of the required number discrepancies. This last time, my wife could e-file but I couldn't.

The vote for marriage equality this week was amazing. It gives me great hope that the end is in sight after all. That's a lot considering I never thought marriage would be available to me in my lifetime.


stacy said...

Sarah, thanks for writing this. I too was pleased in seeing the votes for marriage equality. I like that President Obama endorsed it, too. Feels like a huge step.

But there are all sorts of rights and conveniences heterosexual married couples take for granted. I think it's a shame this all has to happen state by state, and I hope at some point there's a vote for marriage equality on a federal level.

Chris Eboch said...

Thanks for sharing the specifics. It helps clarify why this equality is so important, and not just for moral reasons.

My husband and I got married more for practical reasons than emotional ones, but I too found that actually being married was something special and it makes me happy.