Press

Denial of Marriage Rights Costs Same-Sex Couples in Connecticut Thousands of Dollars per Year

Date: 
March 24, 2005

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
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To download a free copy of Economic Benefits of Marriage under Federal and Connecticut Law, go to http://www.TheTaskForce.org/reports_and_research/CT_marriage.

The Audio Press Conference is available online at /press/audio_press_conferences.

"Because so many important financial rights and responsibilities—like federal income tax and Social Security benefits—are federal protections based on marital status, same-sex couples are significantly harmed by our exclusion from marriage,"said Anne Stanback, President of Love Makes a Family of Connecticut.

"Same-sex couples pay more in taxes and get fewer protections and benefits in return," said Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "These injustices aren't hypothetical. They are being inflicted right now on hard-working, tax paying Connecticut couples, often at times of family tragedy and loss."

"Religious leaders from across the spectrum of faith are saying that same-gender-loving couples have the God-given right to live lives of love and mutual respect. I can say that equal marriage rights will be of immeasurable benefit to building the stability and security of our whole community," said Reverend John Selders, Amistad United Church of Christ, Hartford, CT.

March 21, 2005 — As millions of married couples are signing and sending off their tax returns prior to the April 15 tax day deadline, a groundbreaking report released today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and Love Makes a Family of Connecticut reveals that same-sex couples face widespread economic disparities and hardships because they are denied equal marriage rights. The report takes situations commonly faced by Connecticut couples and compares the economic benefits afforded to married opposite-sex couples to those available to same-sex couples. Two same-sex couples residing in Connecticut are profiled to show the real-life costs to them and their children of not being able to marry.

Economic Benefits of Marriage under Federal and Connecticut Law is the first comprehensive analysis of the disparities same-sex couples in Connecticut face in federal and state income tax, Social Security benefits, gift tax, estate tax, worker's compensation, and line of duty death benefits. It was authored by Terence R. Dougherty, an attorney with Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP, a prestigious 168-lawyer firm based in New York City. The firm was ranked #1 in the nation for the pro bono contributions of lawyers in 2002.

One of the couples profiled in the report, Stephen Rinaldi and Andre Kreft, both in their early 50s, earn a total of about $75,000 per year and pay $2,689 (25%) more each year in state and federal income taxes than a married couple earning the same amount because they cannot file a joint return. The analysis also found that if Stephen, a Connecticut state employee, died as a result of an injury at work, his spouse by marriage would receive $2,862 per month ($34,344 per year) in workers' compensation benefits. However, because Stephen and Andre cannot marry, Andre would receive nothing.

The study takes this analysis one step further by estimating the aggregate lifetime economic detriment felt by same-sex couples because they are unable to marry. For example, the total economic liability to Stephen and Andre—aggregated over their expected lifetimes and including lost income taxes, Social Security spousal and survivor benefits—will be at least $212,176, not counting the absent investment returns on potentially saved taxed dollars. If Stephen died with a $2 million estate that was subsequently transferred to Andre, the estate tax liability Andre would have to pay would raise the aggregate lifetime economic detriment for the couple up to $751,101. If they were married, they would face none of these liabilities.

Lawrence B. and Daniel R., an additional real-world couple in Connecticut profiled in the study, have been together for 22 years and are raising three adopted children. Lawrence is the main breadwinner, and Daniel is a stay-at-home father who currently has no income and therefore may be ineligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits. Under federal law, a married spouse is entitled to receive up to half the amount of his or her spouse's Social Security retirement benefits. However, because they cannot marry, upon retirement age Lawrence and Daniel's combined monthly Social Security retirement benefit will be $1,030 less per month ($12,360 less per year) than it would be if they were able to legally marry. Additionally, if they were legally married, and Lawrence died before reaching retirement age, Daniel's Social Security survivor benefit would be $1,952 per month or $23,424 per year. However, because they can not marry, Daniel would receive nothing.

Given the passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which allows the federal government to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages performed in any state, in the short run same-sex marriages in Connecticut would not be recognized by federal bureaucracies. However, many believe DOMA to be unconstitutional, and it is possible that in the future DOMA will be struck down or repealed. It is also possible that a President and Congress more supportive of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people will afford these federal protections to married same-sex couples. While same-sex couples in Connecticut would not be able to immediately access those federal protections, if they are allowed to marry they have the potential to access these protections in the future. However, if same-sex couples are only allowed to form civil unions, under the current legal framework they will never be able to access any federal benefits or protections.

"Andre and I always knew that marriage discrimination was harmful to us and other same-sex couples in Connecticut," said Stephen Rinaldi, who along with his partner Andre Kreft is profiled in the study, "But we never realized that we were losing thousands of dollars per year and hundreds of thousands over our lifetime simply because we are gay and can not legally marry. This kind of discrimination at the hands of our own government is shameful and needs to end."

To download a free copy of the full report, go to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force publications library at http://www.TheTaskForce.org/reports_and_research/CT_marriage.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.