Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And This Is Why We Are Moving To Maryland...

After the Supreme Court overturned the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, certain benefits were extended to married same-sex couples regardless of their state of residence. President Obama said at the time that there were two possible standards for determining marital status, place of residence and place of ceremony. he hoped that the latter definition would be used, extending marital protections to legally married couples regardless of where they currently reside.

And this is in fact the standard many agencies have been using. For example, the State Department recently began issuing visas to married same-sex couples, and DHS stopped deportation proceedings against legal spouses regardless of their state of residence.

But an article in the Washington Blade demonstrates that this is not what is happening for every agency.

For example, the Social Security Administration is putting a hold on applications where the applicants do not live in a state with marriage equality. Likewise, married couples will still have to pay state inheritance taxes should one spouse die if they live in a state without marriage equality. And the family medical leave act may not apply to couples who don't live in marriage equality states.

All of these issues can be dealt with by a simple policy change, and hopefully it will happen soon. But it isn't there yet. This affects us directly. We are currently residents of Virginia, which has a constitutional ban on our marriage. So if I died, my wife couldn't claim my body and make burial decisions for me. She would have to pay inheritance taxes on our home, and she would not be able to claim my social security.

And this is why we are moving to Maryland. With any luck, we will close on our new home in a couple weeks and soon thereafter be able to establish Maryland residency. And Virginia will have lost two taxpayers.

And we are the lucky ones. Because we work for an agency based in D.C., it is easy for us to say fine, we will just move across the border. Others aren't so lucky. Their jobs tie them to place, whether by virtue of being unable to work at the same job in another location or unable to afford to move.

We need to fix this for them. For the country. So we can all be full citizens.

1 comment:

Rev Wes Isley said...

Just some thoughts, for what it's worth. My partner passed away last year, and so I've had some interesting experiences regarding all of these. Of course, everyone has to make the decisions that best fit their lives.

Don't assume that your spouse would pay inheritance tax if you died. In my case, both my partner and I were on the deed, so it was treated differently. I was already an owner, so no tax. Also, inheritance tax is typically a very high threshhold, something in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (would need to check that). If you happen to be very wealthy, then yes, tax would be likely (as in the case that helped overturn part of DOMA). But if you're roughly middle class, your unmarried partner would be fine. And life insurance beneficiaries aren't taxed or liable for any debts, so your partner would be ok there.

On the other hand, if you actually get married, your spouse could be responsible for any debt left after you die. Here's the double-edged sword. My partner left quite a bit of debt, but fortunately, I'm not legally responsible nor was my name connected to it in any way. In some cases, however, a married spouse may have to legally pay off a deceased wife/husband's debt, even if they had nothing to do with accumulating it.

Best advice is to pay off all debt, have life insurance and, in your will, don't list anything specific such as furniture, jewelry, etc. If it's listed, it automatically becomes part of the state and may have to be sold to pay off any debt. And while it would have been great to have legal recognition of my 18-year "marriage," I think in the end, I will be better off financially because I was technically "single."

Anyway, enjoy Maryland!