We sent this letter to the op-ed Editor at the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. It was not published, but it felt really good to write it.
Discrimination on Tax and Wedding Day
My partner Victor and I were married by our family minister in St Barths in a ceremony that was beautifully chronicled by the New York Times on April 27th, 2008. While we were on our honeymoon in South Africa, we received an email from the Empire State Pride Agenda that the New York State Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages that are performed legally elsewhere will be recognized as valid in New York State. Inspired by the ruling, we took advantage of South Africa’s strong commitment to equality and got legally married in a small ceremony about a 30 minute drive east of Capetown.
On February 4, 2010, with the help of our loving surrogate, Kira Sanders of California, and many doctors, attorneys and case workers, we gave birth to our daughter Coco. She has become the love our lives and has bestowed upon us blessings that we did not previously imagine possible. Coco’s birth has inspired us to do everything we possibly can to fight to make sure that our family is treated equally.
For the first time, I actually looked forward to filing my taxes. While the federal government still discriminates against us, I assumed that we would be eligible to file as a married couple for the purposes of New York State taxes. While many people may think this is an odd thing to be excited about, for us it represented one large step toward equality. After Coco’s birth, we had a renewed sense of financial and estate planning. It became clear that if I passed away suddenly, Victor and Coco could be at risk of financial insolvency as a result of the estate taxes that would be due as a result of most of our net worth being tied up in illiquid real estate partnerships. A family based on a more traditional marriage would not be subject to that unsettling risk given that the family assets would pass seamlessly to the spouse.
With the help of Empire State Pride Agenda, I learned that we are not eligible to file our taxes as a married couple in New York State. Apparently the Supreme Court Ruling applied only in situations where NYS Statute was vague. The NYS Statute requires that we use the same filing status as our Federal taxes. Therefore, the discrimination on the federal level trickles down to New York State, despite the Supreme Court ruling. Nevertheless, the federal return requires that I swear under penalty of perjury that all statements in the return are true. Will we be penalized for lying about our marital status on our tax return?
Last weekend, we were honored to host Lacey Stone and Jessica Clark for the weekend at our home in Rye. After four wonderful years of partnership, they had exchanged their vows in front of their closest friends and family in a beautiful ceremony on an island off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. They wanted seal their bond legally and arranged to have a civil ceremony in Greenwich, Connecticut, since New York State still discriminates against us with respect to marriage licenses. We listened in horror over breakfast as Jessica and Lacey described the uncertainty they face as a result of Jessica being a British citizen. She is in the process of applying for her Green Card at a cost of over $20,000. Jessica currently has a visa, however, it limits the type of work she can perform and is limited with respect to time. Jessica and Lacey would love to start a family and feel the unspeakable joy that Victor and I are experiencing; however, they do not feel comfortable doing so knowing that Jessica could be asked to leave the country upon expiration of her visa.
I take the time to write this and expose our lives to the public to illustrate the frustration we face as a result of the New York State’s and the Federal Government’s unwillingness to treat us with equality and respect. On Tax Day and on Lacey and Jessica’s Wedding Day, we are reminded that the United States and New York State, which have historically been considered a champion of civil rights, are quickly being left behind by South Africa, Spain, Argentina (former homes of Aparteid, Franco, and Pinochet) and countless other countries which have demonstrated their commitment to equality.