We finally got our Oregon tax refund back. Problem is, it was less than half as much as we initially thought it would be. You see, when we filed our taxes, we thought we were eligible for an imputed income exclusion. But we weren't. Because we aren't gay.
Under the Oregon tax code, domestic partners who receive medical insurance benefits can exclude the imputed income of the value of the benefit. In English: if you get a benefit, that is a form of income. You need to declare the cash value of that benefit as income and pay taxes on it. But some benefits are an exception, because the people who write the tax code think it is important that you don't get stuck with a tax bill on certain benefits. Benefits like health care. You know, because politicians keep telling us we need to solve our "health care crisis" every time they speak.
So according to the tax code here, health insurance benefits for domestic partners are considered one of those important tax-free benefits. But only if you are gay.
Some personal information:
The Gullybabe and I are now, as you know, a happily married heterosexual one-man one-woman couple. During the year leading up to our wedded bliss, we took advantage of one of the perks of Gullybabe's employer: insurance benefits for domestic partners.
According to Gullybabe's employer, ANY couple can qualify as "domestic partners." It isn't just a gay thing, because that would be discriminatory. Heterosexual couples may take advantage of this important benefit. So, we signed up. Of course, we also had to pay our share (although, if we were a gay couple, her employer would have paid the full cost of the insurance). But we weren't a gay couple, so we had to pay over $100 a month, out of pocket, for my coverage. That's a lot, but it was still cheaper than using the university-provided health insurance plan... but only slightly.
Meanwhile, her employer covered the remaining $500 or so each month, the "imputed income" amount of the benefit.
Fast forward to tax time:
On the tax form, there is a line item for health insurance for domestic partners. So we figured in the imputed income. This resulted in a large tax refund. Hooray!
Then, we got notice of audit. Apparently, we forgot to include along with our return an affidavit demonstrating that we were a same-sex couple. You see, even though there is NOTHING in the instructions on the tax form to indicate as such, the definition of a "domestic partner," as far as the Oregon Department of Revenue is concerned, is two sodomites.
So were denied the exclusion, and had to pay income tax on about $5,000 worth of "income" from being on a health insurance policy.
But we wouldn't have paid it if I was a carpet muncher.
Or if Gullybabe was a Gullybob.
After paying the income tax on the benefit, it ended up being far more expensive than university-provided insurance for me would have been. Some benefit.
So, the state of Oregon charges us more money for being heterosexual. Sounds to me like a BLATANT violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
"Wait," you say, "sexuality has never been found to be a protected class by the Supreme Court."
Indeed, you are correct. But, gender has been found to be protected, and you can't be a homosexual couple without being the same gender. If Gullybabe was a MAN, we would have more money. If I was a WOMAN, we would have more money. This isn't about the nature of our relationship; this is about our GENDER.
"Wait," you say again, "gays can't marry, and married couples get this benefit, so gays need the benefit, too."
Gays CAN marry. There is no reason why a gay man and a lesbian woman can't enter a sham marriage for benefits while living independent homosexual lifestyles. I'm sure it happens all the time, actually.
"Wait," you say a third time, "that's not fair! Gays shouldn't have to marry just to get benefits, that's wrong!"
Aha! You fell into my trap!
If gays shouldn't have to marry for this benefit, then no one should have to marry for this benefit!
You can't argue that Gullybabe and I should have just married sooner, when we weren't ready to marry, just for benefits. Such a marriage would have been under false pretenses. By your reasoning, if gays and lesbians shouldn't have to resort to marriage under false pretenses just to get benefits, neither should heterosexual couples.
As you can now see, this law is truly an abomination and has to go. We were both so pissed off, we seriously considered a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Oregon tax code.
We really needed to receive the remainder of our refund, and a constitutional challenge would have taken years and cost us far, far more in legal fees and expenses than the difference on our taxes. So all we could really do is accept the revenue ruling and take the lesser refund. Such is the problem with such rulings: in order to overrule them, someone affected by them needs to sue; but most people will never be able to go through the expense, so suits never happen. There is nothing we can do.
But wait, there is something we can do:
We can alert you to this injustice, and hold politicians accountable. So, I encourage all of you to write your legislators, and demand that the gender-based discrimination regarding the taxation of health care benefits be abolished. If politicians really mean it when they talk about providing health care, they can start by NOT TAXING IT.