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State of Celebration

Doors of discrimination keep flying open

Gotta hand it to the IRS. I don’t mean literally hand over your owed taxes — although unless you’re a valiant anti-war tax-resister doing civil disobedience, you probably should pay up, especially now that Obama is closing loopholes on tax-avoiding fat cats (no offense to felines of size). I’m saying hand some figurative credit to the Internal Revenue Service for growing a pair (that means ovaries, right?) and taking a stand for justice.

The IRS teamed up with the U.S. Treasury Department and jointly announced, much to the frothy chagrin of anti-equality homophobes, that all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, will be treated equally under federal tax law. Can I get a “woo-hoo!”? 

After decades of protesting, parading, lobbying, canvassing and coming out, the times really are a’changin’. It suddenly seems so sudden. Like the old slapstick routine where someone pounds and pushes against the closed door and then the person on the other side flings it open. Whee!

 We’re in. For federal tax purposes, at least. No matter where your marriage was performed, if you’re legally married anywhere, you’re legally married everywhere. Even if you happen to live in one of the 37 same-sex marriage-ban states, like Oregon.

Side note: We’re on the verge of overturning the Constitutional ban here in the Beaver State. Volunteers are busily gathering signatures to put a marriage equality measure on our November 2014 ballot. If you haven’t yet, please sign the Oregon United for Marriage petition at oregonsaysido.org and do your part to bend the long arc of history toward justice.

Back to our nation’s government. In the wake of the Supreme Court striking down DOMA, federal agencies are hustling to unveil their compliance plans. The Department of Health and Services is all over it. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, flexing some mighty estrogen, proclaimed she’d “ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.” That means if Wifey and I ever need to be in a skilled nursing facility, Medicare Advantage has to let us be in the same facility. Rattle your walkers, folks, this is big!

All these new equality guarantees apply to couples in legally recognized same-sex marriages based on where they were married. In oddly festive legalese, this is known as the “State of Celebration.” (Also happens to describe our state of mind.)

Here’s the deal. For federal taxes and a slew of other federally regulated programs like the military and immigration, all married same-sex couples are now considered legally married based on their State of Celebration. That’s all of us who were married, like Wifey and I were, in Canada, or any of the 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) with marriage equality, or in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington (state and D.C.). 

Alas, queer couples who want to marry but don’t live in or have the time and money to travel to one of those places are SOL. At this moment, Social Security still denies benefits based on State of Residence. And not all of us lesbian/gay /bi/trans/ queer people are even in couples. Way too many doors remain closed. Oh, we’ll definitely keep pounding. But now we expect those closed doors to keep flying open.