Obama may be the first president to bust a move, but who would have thought he'd use those skills to dance around the issue of marriage equality? In the same week that the U.S. government slipped a few benefits to same-sex partners of government employees, the Obama administration leapt to the defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
I say "so-called" because two gay people pledging their devotion to one another simply doesn't imperil anyone else's marriage. After all, we don't want to marry straight people, we want to marry each other.
Meanwhile, sensing that conservatives are losing the culture war (I mean, Iowa? Really?), GOP chairman Michael Steele has been trying to reframe the marriage debate as a financial one.
I'm relieved, not because I agree with Steele's assertion that marriage equality hurts small businesses (the whole model of employer-supplied insurance got broken without any help from us), but because, since the beginning of civilization, marriage has been a financial arrangement. And I want my money.
You see, my partner, the Long-Suffering Floyd, and I recently had some major losses on real-estate investments (caused by a little something called the recession -- perhaps you've heard about it). But since we're not married, we only received half the refund that a straight couple would've gotten. What's more, as legal domestic partners in Oregon, we're required to fill out a dummy joint federal tax form to which we actually had to scrawl the words "As If" across the top. I'm sorry, but that just seems mean: Think you've got equality? As if!
My accountant also told me about a lesbian couple she represents in which one partner receives health benefits from her partner's company but -- say it with me -- since they're not married, the federal government considers the partner's health insurance to be taxable income. For a straight couple at the same company, the spouse's insurance is an un-taxed benefit.
Something is definitely wrong when two strangers on a bender in Las Vegas can get married by an Elvis impersonator and suddenly receive more than 1,100 special government rights, while my partner of 22 years and I get zip. (To clarify -- my relationship is 22 years old, not my partner. As if!)
The Long-Suffering Floyd and I pay into Social Security like everyone else. (Well, not like everyone else: being gay, we do it with more style.) But when one of us dies, not only will the survivor not receive the other's Social Security benefits, he'll have to pay inheritance taxes, too. It's as if those born straight automatically win the Marriage Powerball.
Far from being the problem, however, gays marrying is the answer. And I've got facts to back it up. For instance, according to a new study published by the UCLA Law School's Williams Institute, over the last five years, Massachusetts has gained $111 million in spending from gay and lesbian weddings. Now imagine how many more people would marry if those marriages were recognized federally. Actually, you don't have to, because the U.S. Congressional Budget Office predicts that the government would benefit by nearly $1 billion in increased tax revenue each year.
But wait, there's more!
According to U.S. News & World Report, the wedding industry could gain as much as $16 billion. That's right, in the depths of a recession, marriage could actually be a growth industry. And much in the way that straight people invade gay clubs because we have the best music and atmosphere, all that romance in the air is bound to inspire more straight marriages. Our lives will be filled with more love, our economy with more money and there promises to be some truly raucous weddings.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
The Upside: Gays, Marriage, and Money