Americans work hard and few things are more frustrating than watching Uncle Sam take a large bite out of our paychecks. However, for LGBT Americans, Tax Day is more than just a necessary evil. It is a vexing reminder that beyond being overly burdensome and mind-bogglingly complex, our tax code is also a discriminatory force punishing our families and the employers that treat us fairly. It is time for LGBT Americans to take up the conservative battle cry for serious reform of the tax code.
If the stereotype about gay conservatives is that we value tax cuts above all else, then Tax Day should make us all Log Cabin Republicans. Gay conservatives oppose oppressive taxes because of our desire to protect our families from a government that has never had our best interests in mind. Republicans never forget that “the power to tax is the power to destroy,” and our community has suffered from unjust taxation for far too long.
Ask the more than 131,000 legally married same-sex couples who were forced to file their federal income taxes as “single” whether the tax code matters. Ask every employee whose family is covered by domestic partner health plan benefits, which the IRS treats as taxable income to the tune of millions of dollars every year. Ask every business owner or corporation that has chosen to do the right thing in providing those benefits, despite taking a hit in extra payroll taxes. Taxes are an equality issue.
Like our heterosexual neighbors, LGBT families are struggling in this economy to make ends meet. The children of the “gayby boom” are going to college, our senior citizens are facing retirement, and collectively we are tightening our belts. We don’t have the luxury of paying extra taxes into a bloated federal government, and now everyday Americans are speaking out at the injustice of a tax code that disregards our commitment and responsibility as families. Even in places like New York or New Hampshire, where we have won the freedom to marry and social acceptance of LGBT people is the norm, Tax Day is an inescapable reminder that big government is not our friend.
So why do so many LGBT Americans continue to support policies that take more of our hard-earned money in taxes to support government programs that often discriminate against our families? Why should we support something like the Buffett tax, which does little to balance the budget but would succeed in further slowing the economy? The federal government does not currently have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem and LGBT Americans are particularly suffering from it.
There is another solution to our discriminatory tax code, which is to restrict the federal government access to our wallets.
Freeing our families from unfair taxation will require fresh perspective on our legislative goals, and more importantly, bipartisan support. Obviously, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is crucial, but there are steps that we can take right now to stem the bleeding. Republican Representatives Judy Biggert and Bob Dold of Illinois, Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Richard Hanna and Nan Hayworth of New York, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Senator Susan Collins of Maine are leading the effort to pass the Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act to remove the tax penalty on companies that provide benefits for domestic partners. Republicans support this legislation as a boon to businesses that helps keep more money in entrepreneurs’ pockets and away from the IRS. LGBT families should support it as a means of keeping more of our own hard-earned money to care for our families. This is one of many examples where the conservative solution — cutting taxes — is the one in our community’s best interests, and where progress can be made by marching across common ground.
LGBT Americans know that we can spend our own money more wisely, and more fairly, than the federal government. This Tax Day, it’s time we fought back to reclaim the dignity, respect, and tax dollars that are rightfully ours.
R. CLARKE COOPER is executive director for the Log Cabin Republicans.