Same sex couple benefits misses the whole point
By Steve Savant
Each American should be able to designate their beneficiaries of choice and not solely based on marriage or civil unions. Whether its tax advantages, medical benefits or hospital visitation, everyone should be treated the same. Economic equality is the issue. Actually the economy is the issue.
As if the Supreme Court didn't have enough on its plate, here’s another non-priority piece of social legislation that will cost millions of tax payers’ dollars to hear. The first U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that denying same sex married couples benefits is unconstitutional. So the Supremes are taking up that issue and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Both parties, as well as the president, continue to major on social issues and minor on the economy. When will they wake up? It’s about the economy, stupid! Unemployment is still over 8 percent and unemployment benefits are almost gone for millions of Americans out of work.
American businesses are still stockpiling enormous cash reserves even after the election hedging their bets against a double dip recession or the European economic contagion. Add to these concerns, the continuing high gas prices exacerbating the cost of goods and services and the worthless dollar that continues to plunge as OPEC charges more per barrel to make up for the dollar’s devaluation.
Some relief at the pump may come as the world economy slows down, but the price of oil needs to come down much further for the middle class and the poor to benefit. The talk of the government tapping the strategic reserves is just talk to counter the oil speculators in an attempt to keep them in check. It’s just political theater.
But as the value of the dollar continues to erode, U.S. debt continues to climbs up unabated, racing towards $20 trillion in red ink by the next election in 2016. And that number doesn’t include social program obligations that run the total tab to $72 trillion, if you use “Truth in Accounting” numbers.
But our leaders are not addressing one economic challenge. Both parties are politically positioning themselves over what? Gay rights, abortion rights, immigrant rights. In 2011, the president announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the constitutionality of the on gay marriage prohibition of DOMA. So House Speaker John Boehner convened a bipartisan group to defend it. They both pander to their electoral base, while Americans are suffering economically.
And the mainstream press is just as complicit by pushing these social issues to the front page and burying the country’s economic problems in the back page.
We live in such an open-minded society, but sometimes we’re so open minded that our brains are falling out. Our nation is experiencing a social civil war caused by moralists and progressives, resulting in a completely unnecessary war of words that’s dividing the country. The argument is masquerading itself as conservative morality versus progressive enlightenment, when it’s really economic.
Jonathan Knight, a financial associate at Harvard Medical School and the plaintiff in the appellate case, who married Marlin Nabors in 2006, said, "For me, it's more just about having equality and not having a system of first and second class marriages.” No it’s not! This is all about economics, not about a caste system. States that legally support marriage equality are inadvertently supporting a religious institution. The history of marriage is deeply rooted in religion. The separation of church and state should partition marriage as a stand alone religious ceremony and civil unions as a distinctly secular event. If a religion offers marriage to same sex couples, why is the state involved? The state is a civil institution and religion is another. One is sacred, the other secular. Co-mingling the two should be antithetical and mutually exclusive. But if we’re going to redefine economic fairness, then it can’t be limited to committed gay or married couples.
If we, as a society, extend all the marital benefits to gay couples, you must, for fairness sake, extend those same rights to common law marriages, live-in couples (related or not), and polygamists. And what of the millions of singles, who may or may not have family or close friends? All these segments of society are financially penalized, whether it comes to medical benefits, transfer of estate assets, annual federal tax filings, etc. And why are they penalized? Because they don’t fit into the definition of “two.”
One may be the loneliest number and three or more’s a crowd in a polygamist scenario, but don’t they deserve the same treatment of any benefit provided by the law? To tie medical benefits, tax advantages and 1040 filings to just married or civil union couples is to exclude everyone else that doesn’t fit into either.
If the arguments for equality center on economic benefits and personal access to loved ones, then legislate that and stay out the marriage/civil union debate.
As an example: The unlimited marital deduction under the Economic Recovery Act of 1981 should be extended beyond married couples. Each American should be able to designate one individual or entity for the free transfer of estate assets and gifts like married couples enjoy today. And just like business arrangements between two or more unrelated parties that form an enterprise and file as an entity, allow polygamists to file like a partnership.
Most married and civil union couples will more than likely designate their partners as beneficiaries. Expanding the tax code and visitation rights to all Americans, and not just married and civil union couples, is the just and equitable thing to do. We’re fighting over morality and justice of sexual orientation and marriage equality, when these issues are economic.
Each American should be able to designate their beneficiaries of choice and not solely to marriage and civil unions. This means a broader definition of beneficiaries has to be crafted to be inclusive, even to unrelated friendships that are sometimes closer than family members. Whether its tax advantages, medical benefits or hospital visitation, everyone should be treated the same.
Knowing our government, their solution will be to take away every tax break from married couples, like a frustrated parent who takes away the privileges between squabbling siblings in an attempt to be fair.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruling is going to be the talking points of the political pundits for the next couple of weeks. And it shouldn’t be. The talking points need to focus on unemployment, the national debt, fair international trade, restructuring the tax code and energy independence. Everything else doesn’t matter if the country is bankrupted.