Monday, December 27, 2004

Got Scot?

In the transition in Massachusetts marriage law, same-sex couples get state tax breaks this year, but still have to file old-style, single federal forms. With no U.S. law recognizing their marriages, they fall under an odd set of tax regulations.

Fundamentally, they have to create two separate federal income-tax filings. One is the basis for their derived state taxes, and the other set for the U.S. ones.

Likewise, benefits, such as health insurance for a spouse are pre-tax and tax-free in Massachusetts, where the couples are married. The Feds keep them taxable.

No one seems ready to file jointly with the federal forms and start the legal action.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Poor Mouthing Benefits

According to an Associated Press article datelined 12/18/04, some big employers are initially refusing to add same-sex spouses to federally regulated health-care plans. These include Caritas Christi Health Care, General Dynamics and FedEx.

General Dynamics has 3,000 Massachusetts employees and finances its plan itself. Other self-insured companies in the same situation have added same-sex spouses married in Massachusetts. These include Gillette, National Grid USA and UniteHere (a labor union).

An attorney for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Michele Granda, said, "There are some good legal reasons why we might be able to challenge..." In a hint of GLAD's position, she wrote in a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, " Employers who choose to treat some married employees differently from other married employees are discriminating, plain and simple. Those who do the right thing are to be commended."

At the state's second-largest utility, NStar, a same-sex married couple will file a grievance against the denial of benefits. They are union members who say this violates collective bargaining agreements.

The other side of the coin is that some employers who offer benefits to same-sex spouses are phasing out coverage for unmarried same-sex couples in Massachusetts, now that marriage is legal. A Globe article reports that these include "IBM Corp., Raytheon Co., Emerson College, Northeastern University, the National Fire Protection Association, Boston Medical Center, Baystate Health System, and The New York Times Co., which owns the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Older Boston Marriage

The euphemistic Boston Marriage received new life a few years ago in a David Mamet play of the same name. Historians, sociologists and others may find irony in the current same-sex marriage trends in Massachusetts.

Lesbian couples living together certainly did not start in May 2004. In my own childhood, I knew them and of them even in classic Southern cities such as Danville, Virginia, the last capital of the Confederacy (literally). Yet rather than a Santa Fe Marriage or a Danville Marriage, the unsanctioned same-sex unions apparently entered the language with the Massachusetts connection because one figured in Henry James' The Bostonians. That famous novel had a lesbian couple as its main characters, although by modern sexual and political standards it is quite tame.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Repent in Leisure

Complications from Massachusetts same-sex marriage will surely bubble up very soon. So far, local judges have managed to avoid the thorniest issue.

In today's Boston Globe, columnist Brian McGrory cites the first few divorce cases after the legalization. There aren't many, but the potential problem is there. Courts in other states should turn down divorce requests from same-sex couples. Otherwise, they are recognizing same-sex marriage in their states.

The possible example he includes was of two men who married in Gloucester in the first week same-sex marriages were allowed. One lives in the Boston area and one in D.C. A Massachusetts judge took jurisdiction of their divorce filing, avoiding the problem.

However, Richard Iannella, the Suffolk county register of probate, predicts that will not always be the case, particularly if the couple both live out of state. As McGrory writes:

Under his reading of the law, any couple living out-of-state at the time of their divorce is required by Massachusetts statute to seek the divorce in the closest jurisdiction. But other states will refuse to recognize gay marriage, meaning they won't grant a divorce.

Because one party lived in Washington, Iannella sought a judge's guidance before pushing ahead with the filing. The judge accepted jurisdiction, but in other cases it may not be so clear.

So there aren't many. As predicted, the initial same-sex marriages were mostly long-term couples who have a high chance of staying married. It only takes one exception per state to kick resulting divorce proceedings into court, as it only takes a single married couple moving to another state and suing for recognition of their marriage there.

Certainly to be continued...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Tabla Rasa

Slate has a nice piece on the denial of the Largess petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in its jurisprudence section. The No Big Whoop article by Lyle Denniston has links to other analysis and points out the lameness of the arguments. The conclusion is that this is to be continued in Massachusetts and maybe in lower federal courts.