Progressive companies like Google and many universities make it a point to pay their gay employees in federally unrecognized marriages more to offset the higher federal taxes LGBT Americans are forced to pay by being unable to jointly file their taxes as wedded couples. Policies like this help companies to attract the highest level talent by advertising to the world that all employees are valued within their doors.
Now for the first time ever, an American city is joining the movement by paying its married LGBT residents just for living in the neighborhood to offset those very same federal taxes which unfairly burden LGBT Americans. Cambridge, Massachusetts has announced that beginning in July, the city will pay LGBT city employees a quarterly stipend to account for taxes many are forced to pay for their partner’s health benefits.
The city, which in 2004 was the first in the nation to offer same-sex marriage licenses, currently provides health insurance benefits to the spouses of 22 city and school department employees who are married to a partner of the same sex, said city personnel director Michael Gardner. The stipend will cost the city an estimated $33,000 per year once it is fully implemented.
The federal tax costs same-sex married families as much as $1,500 to $3,000 a year that those of the opposite sex do not have to pay, officials said.
“Having marriage equality yet an unequal tax burden keeps [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] married couples on the margins, and marginalization in a lot of ways is seen as a level of discrimination,’’ said City Councilor E. Denise Simmons, who was mayor of Cambridge from 2008-09 and is openly gay.
Simmons co-sponsored an order in January asking City Manager Robert Healy to propose a plan for Cambridge to carry the burden of the “discriminatory taxation’’ on the same-sex married couples.
If you are having trouble doing the math in your head, consider this example. Cambridge resident Priscilla Lee earned $38,000 last year, but because she is not legally permitted to list her wife Marlene Beggelman or stepchildren as her dependents, Lee was taxed as if she had earned $53,000. A $15,000 discrepancy being paid by a legally married same-sex couple in the middle of a global economic recession is the type of thing our federal government should be ashamed of.
Thankfully, Cambridge is once again leading our country towards full equality for LGBT Americans.