The Trouble With “Normal”

Image[leans into the mic, clears throat, proceeds in Suze Orman-like voice]: Jeff here, and the subject I want to cover today: taxes.

Taxes, taxes are no fun. Not to get too political (since it’s not really the purpose of this blog), but I am fairly liberal; I believe in programs to assist the poor, environmental protection, and NPR. Therefore, I begrudgingly (I mean, who loves paying taxes?) accept that in order for our country to progress towards Obama’s great socialist nightmare, I need to pay my taxes.

But here’s the rub: I don’t like paying taxes on stuff when other people don’t, particularly health insurance.  Now, if you’re one of the lucky ducks who actually has access to affordable health insurance, you know that you and your (biological sex-opposite) spouse don’t pay taxes on those benefits–they’re taken out of your paycheck pre-taxed.  Great, right? Stickin’ it to the man!

And you probably know this already, too, but the man is gonna be stickin’ it to you, son, if you are in any sort of domestic partner relationship and have that partner on your health insurance.

I want to quantify this inequity for y’all: Lance and I learned this the hard way when when Lance lost insurance coverage for three months while transitioning to a new job. I was terrified that something awful (motorcycle stunt gone horribly wrong, escaped tiger, etc.) was going to happen in those 90 days (Murphy’s Law, amirite???), and I’m lucky enough to work for an employer that will offer domestic partner health insurance, so we decided to put Lance under my coverage.

We had a sort of vague notion of how that all worked–I mean, we knew the Employee+DOM contribution costs, and that I would be taxed on the the employer contribution to Lance’s coverage (it’s considered part of the employee’s taxable income).  However, we weren’t really ready for this:

Before Lance was added to my insurance plan, my federal taxes (withholding, Social Security/Medicare) were $813 per month (I get the max taken out because, apparently, I’m a dummy).

After Lance was added onto my insurance plan, my federal taxes were $933 per month, or a $120 difference.

That’s $120/month just in taxes that I’ll never see again, beyond just the cost of adding on another person to my insurance (which more than triples the cost of my insurance alone).  That’s $120/month that, just because Lance is a dude an therefore is not recognized by the federal government as my spouse, I have to pay and Bob and Margaret with their 2.5 children don’t.  And obviously, that’s $120 that I could be saving for, say, a house or really nice bottle of wine.

This has been hitting the fan lately since, even after Lance was taken back off of my insurance, my pay has been very inconsistent due to corrections, errors, etc. I just want my kids…erm, money back!

Now, there’s a whole argument inside the LGBTQWERTY community about whether or not marriage equality should be a goal worth pursuing. Michael Warner’s The Trouble With Normal does a good job at articulating why, by pursuing marriage, the LGBTQ community is essentially validating pre-existing norms about families, what constitutes a relationship, etc. If we all live under the queer umbrella, shouldn’t we be a little more progressive and actually fight against the institution of marriage as it’s commonly understood and seek a radical re-definition of commitment?

Well, my thought on that whole thing boils down to: do what you want. I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to your favorite mixologist (and mine!), Lance, by getting hitched in D.C. The trouble with fitting in with what is considered a “normal” committed relationship is that we’re getting screwed. And this is where I agree with the above position regarding legal equality: domestic partners of all types (man/woman, woman/woman, Cylon/Andalite) should not be considered “less than” by the government. Why is my commitment to my partner any less valid than, *ahem*, Newt Gingrich’s?

Anyway, this is all stuff you probably know, but maybe didn’t know the exact cost of. It gets me down some times, but then Lance tries his hand at drawing Scrooge McDuck and suddenly I feel better…

I'm not sure which is more confounding: the dollar bill hovering over his back, the 'fro, or the inexplicable mole.