It seems like every time there is new momentum for marriage equality or another LGBT civil rights issue, "gay rights groups" are criticized for their "laser" focus on marriage equality. Sometimes, it takes the form of "Hey, there are other things we should also focus on". Other times, its more of an underhanded attack on "privileged" white, gay men who are reaping all of the benefits of gay rights activism. Some of us who've actually been the victims of job discrimination, hate crimes, bullying, and social or family rejection for our sexual orientation take exception to being called "privileged" or "racist," especially by upper-class, straight, white people trying to play hall monitor on the internet.
We like to call this a reality-based community, but we tend to do that only because we believe in evolution and celebrate criticism of religion. For some reason, it is acceptable to attack the gay rights movement and accuse its leadership of "white, gay male privilege" without actually backing any of those claims up with evidence. For example, in this diary, Is marriage equality good for the whole community or mostly just gay white men?, the author claims that
Who benefits the most from marriage equality is, unsurprisingly, the people who already benefit the most in our cultureBut he provides no evidence to back up his assertions. He doesn't describe the 1100+ benefits of marriage and provide evidence that they disproportionately benefit gay white men. For that matter, he doesn't define the term "benefit" -- social benefits, monetary benefits, relative benefits, etc. How can this kind of fact-free attack on the gay rights movement be tolerated at a community that likes to call itself "reality-based"?
So forgive me for injecting some actual data into this conversation.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) -- in the interest of full-disclosure, the HRC is not one of my favorite LGBT rights organizations -- identifies 1,138 separate rights, benefits, and protections of marriage under federal law.
Who benefits more from Social Security -- the haves or the have nots? Given that the haves want to gut SS, I'm guessing that it is not them. Well, this is what the HRC says about Social Security and Marriage Equality.
Social Security provides the sole means of support for some elderly Americans. All working Americans contribute to this program through payroll tax, and receive payments upon retirement. Surviving spouses of working Americans are eligible to receive Social Security payments. A surviving spouse caring for a deceased employee’s minor child is also eligible for an additional support payment. Surviving spouse and surviving parent benefits are denied to gay and lesbian Americans because they cannot marry. Thus, a lesbian couple who contributes an equal amount to Social Security over their lifetime as a married couple would receive drastically unequal benefits, as set forth below.Again, who would rely more on Social Security benefits, an affluent, child-less white, gay male couple with nice retirement accounts? Or a lower income lesbian couple with children?
Family Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
Family #1: Married husband and wife, both are biological parents of the child
* Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
* Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
Family #2: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was the biological parent or adoptive of the child
* Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
* Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
Family #3: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was not the biological parent nor able to adopt child through second-parent adoption
* Not Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
* Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
Now let's look at taxes.
Tax on Employer-Provided Health Benefits to Domestic PartnersLet me give you the example of hypothetical couples A and B. Couple A are two upper-middle class gay men, one a college professor, the other a health care manager. Their combined incomes total $110,000 a year and they both have health insurance through their respective employers. Neither of them pay taxes on their insurance benefits.
In growing numbers, both public and private employers across the country have made the business decision to provide domestic partner benefits in order to promoted fairness and equality in the workplace. For example, as of August 2003, 198 (almost forty percent) of the Fortune 500 companies and 173 state and local governments nationwide provide health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. Federal tax law has not kept up with corporate and governmental who take advantage of it are taxed inequitably.
As policymakers have put an increasing emphasis on delivering health coverage through the tax code and as the cost of healthcare has once again begun to skyrocket, the current inequities in the tax code have placed a burden on the employers who provide healthcare coverage to domestic partners and on the employees who depend upon these benefits to provide security for their families.
1. Burden on Employees
Employers who provide health benefits to their employees typically pay a portion of the premium – if not the entire premium. Currently, the Code provides that the employer’s contribution of the premium for health insurance for an employee’s spouse is excluded from the employee’s taxable income. An employer’s contribution for the domestic partner’s coverage, however, is included in the employee’s taxable income as a fringe benefit.
2. Burden on Employers
An employer’s payroll tax liability is calculated based on their employees’ taxable incomes. When contributions for domestic partner benefits are included in employees’ incomes, employers pay higher payroll taxes. This provision also places an administrative burden on employers by requiring them to identify those employees utilizing their benefits for a partner rather than a spouse. Employers must then calculate the portion of their contribution that is attributable to the partner, and create and maintain a separate payroll function for these employees’ income tax withholding and payroll tax. Thus, the employers are penalized for making a sound business decision that contributes to stability in the workforce.
Couple B is a gay male couple. One is a restaurant manager, the other is a bartender. Their combined income is $55,000 a year. The manager's company provides same-sex partner health insurance benefits. But because the couple is not married, the manager has to pay taxes on the partner's health insurance benefits. And the manager's company has to pay higher payroll taxes for extending those benefits.
If same-sex marriage is made the law of the land, which couple will benefit more from not having to pay taxes on the insurance? Couple A or couple B?
Inequitable Treatment of Children Raised in LGBT HouseholdsMarriage equality isn't just about old, crusty white gay dudes saving tax dollars because marriage lowers taxes on their estate, income from the sale of their home, or their retirement benefits. (And I concede the point that these changes will disproportionately benefit upper-class gay couples who are overwhelming white and male.) But marriage equality is about so much more than those legal changes that primarily benefit the wealthy. It's also about families, about children. And guess who is more likely to have kids: Lesbians
Recent data shows that at least 1 million children are being raised by same-sex couples in the United States. The Code contains competing definitions of “child.” Certain provisions of the Code defining child penalize for the marital status of their parents and caregivers.
1. Earned Income Tax Credit
Eligibility for the earned income tax credit (EITC) is based in part upon the number of “qualifying” children in the taxpayer’s household. See 26 USC § 32. The definition of qualifying child under this provision includes only a child who is the taxpayer’s (a) biological child or descendent; (b) stepchild of the taxpayer; or (c) adopted child. Certain children of lesbian and gay couples are disadvantaged by this provision. For exampled, a taxpayer and their partner domestic are jointly raising the partner’s biological child. The taxpayer works full-time and the child’s legal parent stays home to care for the child. The state in which the taxpayer resides does not permit them to adopt through second-parent adoption or to marry the partner and become the child’s step-parent. This working family is therefore ineligible for an adjustment of the EITC, and therefore has decreased the resources to devote to the child’s care.
2. Head of Household Status
Heads of household, as defined by 26 U.S.C. § 2, are eligible for an increased standard deduction that, among other things, provides taxpayers with increased funds to care for their dependents. The “limitations” section of this provision explicitly denies the benefit of head-of-household status to taxpayers supporting non-biological, non-adopted children. Thus, a gay or lesbian taxpayer who supports his or her partner’s child (and who is ineligible to adopt the child) has fewer post-tax dollars with which to support the child.
3. Child Tax Credit
Taxpayers meeting income eligibility requirements are entitled to a credit against tax for qualifying children in their households. This provision limits the child tax credit to children who meet the relationship test set fourth in the earned income tax provisions, § 32(c)(3)(B). As set forth above, § 32 does not include children of a taxpayer’s domestic partner if the children are not related to the taxpayer biologically or through adoption.
All three of these inequities have the effect of penalizing families who choose to have one parent in the work force and the other caring for the children full-time. In addition, they disadvantage such couples and their children by limiting the choice of which parent will be a full-time caregiver. Although similarly situated married couples may choose which parent will fulfill that role without consequence, lesbian and gay couples, as well as other unmarried couples, face negative tax consequences for the same decision.
Perhaps that is why marriage equality is more of a priority for gay WOMEN than gay MEN:
It's hard to argue that the LGBT rights organizations are prioritizing men over women for making marriage equality their central focus when it is in fact women who are more concerned about marriage equality than men. In fact, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, two of the four plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry hardly fit the stereotype of wealthy gay men:
Kris Perry and Sandy Stier have been together for a decade and are the parents of four boys.Or perhaps we should make the other two plaintiffs, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, the face of gay, white male privilege:
Both are in public service -- Kris leads an early childhood health and education agency and Sandy works for a county health department. When not busy with work, they are busy with the usual parent activities like school meetings, soccer games and band practice.
"We've never been activists," Kris says. "We simply want for each other and our children the same rights as other American families."
And here's a fact well-known in the gay community, but perhaps not so much outside it. The prominent gay-rights groups actually OPPOSED this lawsuit when it was first filed. They thought it was "premature", a view I actually shared. I thought that Boies and Olson were being vain and selfish. I was wrong, and so was Gay, Inc.
So far, I've provided evidence that gay marriage isn't just about wealthy men, but I haven't addressed race. And here, it is more difficult to find data. I wasn't able to find a survey that addressed attitudes toward civil rights issues in the LGBT community with the results broke down by race. But I did find something that should pause to those who call marriage equality a white, gay male issue. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) did a survey on 588 LGBT families to document their perceptions of their childrens school environments. They describe their efforts to recruit a nationally representative sample and this is what they found (PDF):
Table 1 shows the racial/ethnic composition of both samples, as well as information about the family racial/ethnic make-up from the parents’ survey. Although the vast majority of parents were white or European American, about 40% of the reported family racial compositions were multiracial—about 16% of the families represented had white parent(s) and a child of color, and about 14% of the families represented had two parents, one of whom was white and one of whom was a person of color.
Yes, the majority of LGBT parents are white, as are the majority of children of LGBT parents. But if you break down the numbers 47% of the families included at least one non-white parent or child. Given the benefits of marriage for these families that I've outlined above, these data do NOT support the contention that marriage equality is a white, gay male issue.
These are facts the author of this--and other diaries I've seen here on Daily Kos--would have discovered with a simple Google search. None of these are academic sources hidden behind scholarly journal pay walls. Of this information is freely available on the internet.
White, gay men are not the enemy. Bigots are. And elitists gays are. And yes, they are disproportionately white and (probably) male. In fact, I would submit that it is the gays and lesbians at the top of the income scale who've been most insulated from institutional discrimination. Sexual minorities at the top of the SES ladder were voting Republican long before GOProud became popular because they benefit more from lower taxes benefiting the rich than they would from civil rights reforms which would benefit the entire community. Hence Dan Savage's recent criticism of Mary Cheney's sudden marriage equality activism.
If you are going to criticize the gay rights movement for being inattentive to certain issues, please do so. Believe me, I have my issues with Gay, Inc. But in a "reality-based community", your criticism need to be based on facts, not emotion. And these efforts to divide the LGBT community by race and gender need to stop.