I haven't gotten my domestic partnership yet and it's already giving me a headache.

By Marshall Collins of Springfield, Oregon. Marshall says: "I am a 24 year old, lifelong Democrat. I live with Andrew, my partner of 5 years."

The holiday season is coming to a close, the gift giving and over-eating are finished and my partner just added me to his company provided health benefits. All should be going well until we got a lovely notice in the mail.

Because we are not married in the eyes of the federal government the insurance that is provided for me will count as taxable income on his federal tax return. We didn't even think about the fact that company provided insurance is only non-taxable when it is provided to a 'spouse' or dependent children. To us, his company is on the ball when it comes to equality, rights and doing what is fair. To the IRS, my partner is using his company benefits to insure a stranger.

To further complicate matters when we register as domestic partners in January under Oregon's new Family Fairness Act, the insurance benefits will not be taxable to the state. This means that his state returns will show an annual gross income of about $3500 less than his federal returns and we still don't have an answer of exactly how this extra income is going to show up on his W-2.

For the first time in our 5 years together the two of us will be paying someone else to do our taxes and hope and pray that they can figure it out and that we don't find ourselves hauled in for an audit in 2008.

While we are overjoyed at being able to have our relationship recognized in this state and will forever appreciate the hard work that was put into getting this law passed we can't help but feel a little frustrated.

How many more complications and gray areas will we encounter in the next few years due to the parity between our state laws and our federal laws? How long will it take companies in Oregon (mortgage firms, banks, auto/home insurance companies) to match their policies to our laws here in Oregon and will some of the new rights we are supposed to enjoy be void due to conflict with federal statute? And finally, will the complications be worth it because they serve the cause of true marriage equality in the U.S?

Comments

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Guess what? Now there's a whole new headache available for you! (Re: previous post.)

  • (Show?)
    To the IRS, my partner is using his company benefits to insure a stranger.

    To be fair, the IRS isn't necessarily viewing you as a stranger... just that you're not a spouse. An unmarried hetero couple would face the same obstical. That doesn't take away from your main point, but it does need to be said. There are hetero couples out there who, for whatever reason, refuse to get "married" and therefore are in the same boat that you and your partner are. I know one such couple who have been together for nearly 40 years.

    Personally, I strongly agree with Jeff Merkley that "marriage" ought to be up to whatever religious institution wishes to sanction such and that the government ought to be limited to sanctioning civil unions for everybody, which is how the French do it. There a couple wishing to marry has to first get what amounts to a civil union sanction from the local government entity and then they have to go find a member of the clergy and get "married."

  • genop (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The reality is that until the "civil union" legislation survives the legal challenges, at minimum consider a basic estate plan which includes; Wills, General Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Powers of Attorney with a Directive to Physicians. These are all available to you regardless of your orientation. Designate a beneficiary on life insurance policies and retirement plans, along with any accounts if desired. For real property, designate joint ownership as "tenants by the entireties with right of survivorship", which is the equivalent to ownership by a married couple. Locate a reputable attorney to assist you.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Locate a reputable attorney to assist you.

    You're right, but he shouldn't have to do that.
    It's clearly an undue burden (those lawyers ain't cheap).

    The state is constitutionally required to provide benefits equally, regardless of what some yahoo in a pew thinks, and "marriage" was declared a "basic civil right" back in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down legions of familiar, also religiously inspired laws and amendments banning relations that crossed racial lines.

    Merkely (and I assume Novick?) is (are?) also right: Civil unions for everyone.

    And THEN, if you'd like your relationship "blessed" by an unmarried, sexually repressed, scientifically illiterate guy in a collar, or some bearded misogynist, go for it. Freedom of - and from - religion, and equality of opportunity for all. These are some solid, worthy American ideals.

    (and would involve fewer lawyers!)

    Crazy thing is, we got married in Canada - really married, due (in Canada, South Africa, many parts of Europe, Massachusetts) the same legal rights and benefits as straight couples.

    These places offer equality of opportunity for ALL families, and their Christians are less nasty and mean-spirited (or there are, quite thankfully, fewer of them!)

    Years ago, we also went the pricey lawyer route. So we weren't about to pay $60 to Multnomah County for "marriage lite" next week to begin with. ("civil unions" aren't recognized in other states/countries, for one thing).

    The problem here is, once again, no surprise, RELIGION. Oregonians with "faith" (unfounded belief) in supernatural entities who tell them (in dreams?) that other people are bad and wicked and don't deserve the same constitutionally guaranteed rights and benefits that they enjoy.

    "People of faith" suck. And so do the politicians who encourage them. And so we musat wait (and pay lawyers) - again - for Oregon to live up to American ideals of equality, now happily practiced in more advanced, less religious regions of the world.

  • Marshall Collins (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Thanks to everyone for their comments. My partner and I have already assembled some legal papers to protect us but we were told my a lawyer friend of ours that while these will provide some protections they are: challengeable (is that a real word?) in court and while a court may find them legally binding they can be tied up in costly litigation whereas a DP or marrige is much harder to challenge. Also, I think I need to explain that this was written sometime ago when the temporary injunction was considered a longshot. We, along with many other couples, went to sleep last night with heavy weight on our hearts knowing that today we would be spending a portion of this morning contacting our family and friends to let them know what happened and that our plans for next week have been postponed. While I do feel that the examples and questions that I posed are relevent, today we are not asking questions but instead standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this state in hopes that our strength and resolve will carry us through to the end of this lawsuit (and possibly the 2008 election).

  • (Show?)

    Editor's note: This guest column was written before the Friday night decision. Obviously, that decision throws everything up in the air.

  • (Show?)

    "Personally, I strongly agree with Jeff Merkley that "marriage" ought to be up to whatever religious institution wishes to sanction such and that the government ought to be limited to sanctioning civil unions for everybody, which is how the French do it."

    Non-sequitur shill aside, I'm disturbed that Merkley wants to take my marriage away, instead of simply supporting the idea of same-sex marriage as Steve Novick does. Far easier to extend rights to more people, than take them away from everybody. And I think many fewer people would support marriage for nobody, than marriage for everyone.

  • (Show?)

    "Merkely (and I assume Novick?) is (are?) also right: Civil unions for everyone."

    Ahem: Merkley wrong, Novick right--MARRIAGE for everyone.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Ahem: Merkley wrong, Novick right--MARRIAGE for everyone.

    I actually don't care what it's called - just as long as it's equal. The rights and benefits awarded by the state should be the same for all families (that constitutional guarantee of equal protection).

    But no "separate but equal crap" - i.e., state offer of civil unions for lesbians/gays, but marriage for straights. From the state, it's the same for everybody. What you do with your priest, rabbi, or imam is your own business (and that's where you can get those supernatural "blessings" from Zeus, Mohammed, Jesus, etc...)

    (The term "marriage" would certainly make it more transportable, and is a much easier move.)

  • (Show?)

    Merkely (and I assume Novick?) is (are?) also right: Civil unions for everyone.

    No, Bill... only Merkley. Novick apparently doesn't see or understand the Church/State implications of continueing the legal institution of "marriage," so he advocates legally opening "marriage" up to everyone. While I easily empathize with his apparent motives, the legal institution of "marriage" is the one area where the line between Church and State is fuzzier than any other (IMHO). And I don't believe the State has any more business meddling in religious rites than Churches have meddling in civil rights.

    Merkley's position wouldn't deny gays the right to get married at all. What it would do is to redraw the line of seperation, which I strongly believe is to our mutual benefit as citizens.

    A number of denominations have formal policies that allow performing marriage rites for gay couples as well as hetero couples. I believe the UCC and Unitarian-Universalists both hold such policies (although I'm open to correction and/or additions to the list). So, don't let anyone try to fool you with the cannard that the only way for gays to get "married" is by changing the legal definition of "marriage."

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Did TJ just call someone a shill?

    I've also long thought the state should decouple itself from the church, providing the paperwork and civil protections to all and letting private institutions handle the marrying. No one would lose their marriages.

  • (Show?)

    "Merkley's position wouldn't deny gays the right to get married at all."

    Actually, it would deny EVERYONE the right to get married.

    The state is not meddling in religious rites, not least because marriage was a social contract before it was a religious one. The state is offering civil benefits known as marriage.

    What is being advocated here is similar to suggesting that instead of letting blacks drink at fountains, we get rid of ALL fountains and have everyone drink at "Benson Bubblers" instead. Or instead of letting whites and blacks get married to each other, we got rid of all marriages and instated "happy committment time" licenses instead.

    The state process of issuing marriage licenses is not broken; in fact it works pretty well. The flaw is not in administration, but scope. The simplest remedy to a scope issue is to change the scope (ie, allow everyone to get married).

  • (Show?)

    "I've also long thought the state should decouple itself from the church, providing the paperwork and civil protections to all and letting private institutions handle the marrying. No one would lose their marriages."

    How do you figure? Everyone who was married, would no longer be married. If no one loses their marriages, there would be no decoupling.

    I think what you're trying to say is that you'd lose a marriage but gain a civil union---but you'd definitely lose your marriage, because there wouldn't be any.

    And the word "shill" was used as a verb.

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    No, that's not what I'm saying. You'd just get your marriage from somewhere other than the state. Grandfather clauses are nifty things, too.

  • (Show?)

    Did TJ just call someone a shill?

    LOL - yeah, the irony is pretty hard to miss.

  • (Show?)

    "You'd just get your marriage from somewhere other than the state."

    If you have a religious faith, perhaps. Right now you don't need a religious marriage to get a civil marriage. What you are proposing appears to be a requirement to find someone ELSE to marry you, in order to receive marriage benefits. Which seems unnecessarily complicated. Government gives out marriage benefits now, just not to everybody. Why would you not do the obvious fix and extend them to everybody?

  • (Show?)

    "LOL - yeah, the irony is pretty hard to miss."

    Apparently so was the correction of the original poster's misapphrehension.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, it would deny EVERYONE the right to get married.

    ROFL - that spiked Kool-Aid is seriously interferring with your ability to reason, TJ.

    The proof is in the pudding, as they say. That French couples get married every day, after having first obtained a strictly civil sanction, pretty much debunks your wild-eyed assertions that the sky would fall.

    What Merkley is advocating is akin to how it's done in France except that, unlike them, he is advocating the removal of any orientation bias from the civil side of the equation.

  • (Show?)

    What you are proposing appears to be a requirement to find someone ELSE to marry you, in order to receive marriage benefits.

    Only if one is seeking "marriage benefits" in the spiritual realm or afterlife. In this life all legal benefits would be granted with the civil union and whatever spiritual benefits a couple wishes to seek can be pursued with the appropriate clergy/shaman/whatever, as Oregon Bill alluded to earlier.

  • (Show?)

    "That French couples get married every day, after having first obtained a strictly civil sanction, pretty much debunks your wild-eyed assertions that the sky would fall."

    Unless the French are still issuing marriage licenses, you're quite obviously wrong. Since you seem to admit that they no longer issue them, how are people still married according to the French government? They're not; they now have civil unions.

    What Merkley is advocating is simply a way to avoid admitting that he doesn't support same-sex civil marriage like his opponent does.

    Does anyone have at least the NAME of the 9th Circuit cite?

  • (Show?)

    "Only if one is seeking "marriage benefits" in the spiritual realm or afterlife."

    Or the political one, since governments will no longer grant benefits to people who are married; only those who have obtained a government civil union can get them.

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I can't tell if my comment got held as "spam" or if I just didn't hit Post or something. Anyway, no, everybody can keep their marriages, it's just that the state isn't doling out that label. Also, grandfather clauses work well.

  • (Show?)

    Also, grandfather clauses work well.

    Yep. The grandfather clause is a perfectly routine, well-established and long-used legal mechanism, particularly here in the United States.

    As the relevant Wikipedia entry puts it: "A grandfather clause is an exception that allows an old rule to continue to apply to some existing situations, when a new rule will apply to all future situations."

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    That was weird. My own comment wasn't showing up for me.

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    TJ, I think you're being intentionally dense.

    "What you are proposing appears to be a requirement to find someone ELSE to marry you, in order to receive marriage benefits."

    As said before, no, I'm not. There would be no legal/civil "marriage benefits" because "marriage" will have been outsourced to private institutions. Instead, the benefits will be had by all, equally.

    "Since governments will no longer grant benefits to people who are married; only those who have obtained a government civil union can get them."

    Again, grandfather clause. In fact, that's not even the limit of easy solutions to this issue that's troubling you. How about: Got a marriage? You've got a domestic partnership, too.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
    (Show?)

    TJ, in case you didn't see it on the other thread, the cited case was identified by Marc Abrams:

    The cited case was Cenarrussa, 342 F.3d 1073 (9th Cir. 2003)
  • (Show?)

    I've said for a while that our problem is that we've rolled the civil and the religious into one package. In other counties it is not out of the norm to have two ceremonies - a quick civil ceremony that is often attended by only close family/friends and then the larger religious ceremony. One gives you all the legal benefits. The other blesses the union under the religion the ceremony is performed under.

    In combining the two together, we've brought the civil marriage to mean something religious. As such, the majority of people in this country are unwilling to allow marriage to mean anything but a union between a man and a woman. Maybe in a few more generations that'll change. But right now it's not changing, and in the meantime people are being denied their rights.

    Once you separate out the two, you have the majority of the country in favor of same-sex unions. It's only a small segment of the population against it, and those are so against homosexuality that they're against any rights for anyone except heterosexuals. It's the word "marriage" that they object to, and it's because they see it as a religious thing, not civil.

    I don't feel that separating the civil and the religious takes away my marriage. I've been married more than 10 years, and I'd be just as married after the two are separated as I am now. And even better, my same-sex friends will finally be able to enjoy the same rights as me and my husband.

  • (Show?)

    James, in the search for easy solutions, you overlook the easiest one--change nothing about marriage; just let everyone have one.

    My point is otherwise simple--if you cease to offer civil marriage licenses, those who wish to have won't be able to get one. The grandfather clause doesn't help me if I get divorced or widowed and wish to remarry.

    Let's approach it from a different angle: what is it about civil marriage that's broken? I get that there's a philosophical disconnect, but practically speaking, what's the issue? It ain't broke; why try to fix it? Isn't it leagues easier to simply expand it?

    Oh, and thanks for the cite!

  • (Show?)

    Can someone point me to a source on Merkley's position on this stuff? Personally, I haven't seen an explicit discussion by the Speaker on his views on this issue - and frankly, I don't know what they are.

    Folks here are assuming they know his position. I'm a pretty dedicated Merkley observer, and I've never heard him make the statements he's being credited with here.

    (That is, except on Loaded O, by a Novick supporter who reported what she thought she heard him say to her at a party. Which is fine, but isn't the same as a hard quote from the Speaker.)

    Or maybe I just missed it. Would love to be corrected.

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I think we're all going off of Portlandia's account of a conversation with Merkley.

    And while I'm fine with scrapping DPs and making it marriage for everybody, I actually prefer it the other way.

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I'm confused, though, by what TJ would want, should he divorce and remarry. You get the legal aspect from the state. If you want an endorsement of some spiritual or other significance, you can seek the ritual of a private institution. What is it that TJ is seeking that would not be available?

  • (Show?)

    I'd be seeking a civil marriage, is what. Which is to say that I want to retain what I already have, and which needn't be fussed with in the slightest in order to also grant civil marriage to same-sex couples. Failing an identifiable problem with the system, I think logic strongly argues for simply expanding it. Nothing to grandfather or rename, just start saying yes instead of no.

    As for Merkley's position on same sex marriages, he was given ample opportunity to say plainly that he favored them, as his opponent does. He demurred. Kari tries his best to cast doubt on the account given, but it has stood now without clarification or comment by the campaign. If the information and/or conclusions are in any way incorrect, I encourage and appreciate the effort to clear the record. But the account was detailed and specific: rather than civil marriage for all, Merkley supports civil marriage for none.

  • (Show?)

    I think logic strongly argues for simply expanding it. Nothing to grandfather or rename, just start saying yes instead of no.

    I think Jenni's comment above argues rather persuasively that it makes more sense to disentangle the rite of marriage from the right of civil union. Simply expanding it might be more politically expedient, but that doesn't make it either preferable or logical.

    Frankly, it seems to me that continuation of the existing State-sanctioned "marriages" plays into the argument proffered by the far reich - that this country was founded on Christian principles. They're wrong, of course. But why should progressives meekly acquiesce for the sake of political expediency?

    The State has no more business meddling in religious rites than the Church has meddling in civil rights.

  • Ariel Oliver (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I would be very interested in speaking with Marshall Collins from Springfield, Ore. regarding publishing your article in our local Springfield newspaper, The Springfield Beacon. I am the managing editor of this new community paper. I believe this is an important issue that should be addressed. If you are interested, please email me at: [email protected] (home email over next couple days) or [email protected] after Wed. Jan 2nd. Additionally, any Lane County, Ore. residents who would like to add comments for this upcoming article are welcome to email me but since Mr. Collins is from our hometown I am particularly interested in interviewing him. Thank you for your consideration. - Ariel Oliver

  • (Show?)

    "The State has no more business meddling in religious rites than the Church has meddling in civil rights."

    Please explain how the state is meddling in any religious rite by offering civil marriage. You might also take the opportunity to show how offering marriage to all is "politically expedient" in any shape or form, since it entirely contradicts your view that Jenni provides the right argument, given that her point is offering marriage is NOT expedient, thus the interest in changing the name of marriage to civil union.

    Even then, I think the desperate legal challenge to civil unions in Oregon makes it pretty clear that the issue is not really letting gays call what they have a marriage, but letting gays have what straights have. That obviously won't change with state civil unions.

  • (Show?)

    TJ, I agree that it'd be nice if both Senate campaigns would provide a written statement (or something on video) about their exact positions.

    But this isn't exactly accurate: As for Merkley's position on same sex marriages, he was given ample opportunity to say plainly that he favored them, as his opponent does. He demurred.

    "Ample opportunity"? I think he was asked, "Marriage equality: Yes or no?"

    I'm not saying that those aren't his views, I'm just noting that Stephanie V reported them from memory - without notes, without a recording, and with the acknowledgement that it happened at a party and she's a dedicated supporter of his opponent.

    Which is all fine, but I wouldn't call it a definitive and complete statement of his views.

    We've already seen the GOP use anonymous comments on BlueOregon to attack Democratic candidates - I'm just stating here for the record that the comments above may or may not reflect Merkley's views.

  • (Show?)

    "But this isn't exactly accurate: As for Merkley's position on same sex marriages, he was given ample opportunity to say plainly that he favored them, as his opponent does. He demurred.

    "Ample opportunity"? I think he was asked, "Marriage equality: Yes or no?""

    And then was probed further for more comment. The conversation went on for some time, and he reportedly said that "due to M36 we can't have marriage equality in Oregon anyway, so we should just focus on getting our DPs recognized nationally [quoting Portlandia]". That's a statement indicating giving up on marriage equality, opting for a different focus.

    Your continued attempts to cast doubt on her account are kind of silly, however--especially the implication that somehow because it was at an evening political event (not really a "party" in a normal sense of the word; he would have been in campaign mode) and that she supports Novick, something she told him up front, she got it wrong.

    And given the amount of discussion it has generated in at least three venues of note, the Merkley campaign's disinterest in setting anyone straight on the idea that he doesn't support same sex marriage is fairly telling.

    You are as close as anyone to the campaign, Kari. I'd think if you really wanted to know, you'd find out yourself and report back. It's really a very easy question: do you support granting civil marriage to same sex couples, same as opposite sex couples have now?

  • (Show?)

    TJ, there are two kinds of simplicity at stake here. Clearly you are right about technical simplicity, but it is less clear to me which is politically simpler.

    Getting legislative or popular approval for full marriage equality is not simple. It just isn't.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure the Merkley-backed system would end up being politically simple either. There is the difficulty of explaining it. Beyond that, in fact it would create a system in which same-sex couples would have an equal right to call themselves married with heterosexual couples.

    Once the current opponents understand that, will they really be accepting? Their religious bodies might not recognize those marriages, but the effect would be similar to persons married under Catholic rites who get civil divorces and remarry under civil or other-religious terms.

    However, under the Jeff-backed system, there's no reason there shouldn't be secular marriage officers too. That would however bring into sharper focus the fact that same-sex couples will be having both civil unions and marriages, & thus ramp up opposition.

    Does Steve also support fighting to expand full rights under civil unions in the meantime before acceptance of full marriage equality? E.g. as a U.S. senator would he fight to change the tax situation Marshall and his partner face beginning now?

    Would Jeff?

  • James X. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "That's a statement indicating giving up on marriage equality, opting for a different focus."

    <h2>Well, TJ, it is in the constitution. Unless Novick cares more about gay marriage than Basic Rights Oregon does, I think you have to give him that one. (Take a look at what BRO's up to these days.)</h2>
guest column

connect with blueoregon