Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why every committed gay couple should marry regardless of where they live

Gay Marriage Bands
So you live in a state that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage. If it did, would you marry your partner? If the answer to that question is “yes” then you should seriously consider going out of state to wed. If you answered “yes” and you have children then it is irresponsible not to get married.

There are very few things that I know to an absolute certainty. One of those things is that we are all going to die. Some people perceive it as finality. Others look forward to that non-stop tea dance in the sky. Either way, at some point we are all done for. Sound advice is to save like you are going to live forever and plan like you might die tomorrow.

All property left to a surviving spouse passes free of estate tax. I.R.C. §2056(a).

Shortly after death survivors grieve. Consuming excessive amounts of food and alcohol are optional. Eventually they deal with economics. U.S. v. Windsor was all about those realities. Included in the assets of the estate  might be a spouse's pension. Depending upon how the pension was funded, payments might be only partially taxable or not taxed at all. There are basically two types of pension plans that we might leave our loved ones.

Pension PlanSome people have defined benefit plans which have fallen out of favor. Only about 10% of the Fortune 500 still offer defined benefit plans to new employees. However, many civil service jobs provide these. With this type of retirement plan, an employee's pension is determined by a formula that usually includes salary, years of employment and age at retirement. These are the plans that are affected by recent guidance from the US Department of Labor. Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage have pitched a fit over the new rules. As is often the case, neither anti-gay hate group really understands the issue. But I digress.

An employer is not required to offer pensions. However, once they do then those pensions are governed by ERISA which is administered by the Department of Labor. In brief the department's guidance relates to the status of same-sex spouses. A spouse is now defined as anyone legally married regardless of their state of residence. This is important because a surviving spouse typically continues to receive their husband's or wife's pension. In other words, this is another very good reason to marry. Even if you live in some awful place like Oklahoma or Mississippi, there are real advantages to getting hitched.

Most people who have pensions are enrolled in defined contribution plans. Each employee has an individual account to which contributions are made. These funds are invested and the accounts are credited (or debited) with the investment profits or losses. Upon death, the assets of the retirement account become part of the deceased's estate. Again, if the beneficiary is a surviving spouse, he or she does not have to pay inheritance taxes. Just about anything that legally keeps your money out of Uncle Sam's pockets is usually a good idea. Indeed, a surviving spouse can usually even roll over a 401K or IRA into their own pension plan.

It should be obvious that the above is a gross over-simplification. Estate planning should be the province of a disinterested professional adviser. The point that I am trying to make is that surviving boyfriends and girlfriends have a compromised interest in the estates of their partners when compared to a surviving spouse. The children of unwed partners are at a considerable disadvantage if one partner dies.

Other than securing our estates:

When gay couples travel out-of-state to marry, they do the gay community an enormous service. By demonstrating to others, in places that don't offer marriage equality, that we are husbands and wives and that we sometimes have children we send a powerful message. We don't need the approval of Florida or Texas or any other marriage discrimination state to obtain many of the legal benefits of getting married. We are legally married and we will refer to our spouse as “husband” or “wife.” We create acceptance by conditioning people with the reality.

GOPer governors and mayors claim not to like taxes very much but they love tax revenues. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is doing us a big favor. He is hoping to turn Minnesota's marriage law into a tourism opportunity. To promote marriage tourism, he has been visiting places like Chicago, Denver and Milwaukee.  Eventually, it has to sink in that marriage discrimination has a real cost. Mayor Rybak is not doing this for his health.

The bottom line to all this is that, if we want the right to marry, then we need to exercise our right to marry.  As more of us marry we demonstrate that allowing us to do so has no consequences to anyone else.

If you are committed to each other, what are you waiting for?


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