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Health Care Tops List of Fears for Same Sex Couples Who Can’t Marry

Monday, August 25th, 2014

HospitalWhen Niki Quasney felt a piercing pain in her ribcage in March, the oncologist treating her advanced ovarian cancer told her to get to an emergency room immediately. But instead of making the short drive to a hospital near her home in Munster, Indiana, she drove alone for more than 40 minutes to one in neighboring Illinois. Quasney said she was “terrified” her local hospital might not allow her and her partner of more than 13 years, whom she wed last year in another state, to be together if she suffered a health emergency.

Quasney and her partner, Amy Sandler, are among dozens of couples challenging Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s gay marriage bans in a case being heard Tuesday in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Looming large in the case is the issue of medical emergencies faced by same-sex couples.

The couples are suing for the right to marry or to have their out-of-state marriages recognized in their home states. They argue that powers of attorney and domestic partner registries don’t guarantee they’ll be allowed to make critical end-of-life or life-saving decisions. No legal document, they say, can provide the same protections as a marriage certificate.

Authored By Rick Callahan – See the Full Story at LGBTQ Nation

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Lambda Legal Sues Veterans Affairs Over Marriage Recognition

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Department of Veteran's Affairs logoLambda Legal has brought a new lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking to force the agency to recognize same sex marriages in all 50 states.

The Washington Blade reports:

Lambda Legal, along with Morrison and Foerster LLP, filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of the LGBT military group known as the American Military Partner Association. The defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert MacDonald. The litigation alleges the Obama administration’s decision to withhold certain spousal benefits to married same-sex couples in states without marriage equality runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. “Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed,” the complaint says.

One more piece of the Federal benefits puzzle…

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Chattanooga, Tennessee Rescinds Domestic Partnership Ordinance 63%-37%

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Tennessee mapIn a lopsided vote, city voters overturned the domestic partnership ordinance recently passed by the city council.

Think Progress reports:

Voters in Chattanooga, Tennessee overwhelmingly decided Thursday to undo a recently passed law that extended health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. With a vote of 13,685-8,184, the town overturned the law originally passed 5-4 by the City Council. The Human Rights Campaign decried the vote as “hurtful and disappointing,” but Mayor Andy Berk was still hopeful. He told WTVC, “I have no doubt Chattanoogans value fairness and equality, and I am proud of the volunteers who spent nights and weekends to ensure our employees are treated equally.” He assured city employees, “Your work is valued and you are important to the future of our community.”

Once again, the lie that it’s only about the word “marriage” is exposed. It’s really about denying any and all rights to LGBT individuals, couples and families.

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White House Clarifies What Laws Apply to Married Same Sex Couples

Friday, June 20th, 2014

White HouseThe White House has finished a year-long study of the impact of last year’s Supreme Court decisions for marriage equality on the Federal Government.

The bad news? Some benefits will not be available to couples who move to states that don’t recognize their marriages.

The Washington Blade reports:

…the administration will announce federal laws that look to the state of residence instead of the state of celebration to determine whether a couple is married “preclude the federal government from extending benefits to legally married couples regardless of where they currently live,” the official said. That means, under current law, certain Social Security and veterans benefits won’t be available to married same-sex couples if they wed in one state, but move to one of the 30 states without marriage equality and apply for the benefits there.

So if you marry in California and move to Arizona, forget the Social Security survivor benefits.

The good news?

The Department of Labor is set to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Family & Medical Leave Act, clarifying an employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse — even if the couple lives in a non-marriage equality state. The rule builds off an earlier announcement in August in which the Labor Department indicated married same-sex couples were eligible under the FMLA, but that development only applied to couples living in states with marriage equality.

Fixing the issues will likely require either congressional action (which looks extremely unlikely in the foreseeable future) or a Supreme Court decision striking down the remaining marriage equality bans.

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USA, Ohio: Gay Couple Gets Health Policy, Drops Lawsuit

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

OhioA gay couple who sued to force Ohio to recognize their New York wedding dropped their lawsuit yesterday.

On Top Magazine reports:

A gay couple married in New York said Friday that they have dropped their federal lawsuit seeking to force Ohio to recognize their marriage…The couple said in their lawsuit filed last month that because Ohio would not recognize their out-of-state marriage, they were unable to enroll as a family under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and were forced to purchase three individual policies at a higher cost. Al Gerhardstein, the couple’s attorney, said that the couple obtained a family policy on Monday that takes effect next month. “I can’t tell you exactly where the hang up was,” Gerhardstein told the AP. “I think maybe it just needed that spotlight that came from this case and from the inquiries, and then the wheels got greased.”

At least they had a happy ending. We still have to point out that this never would have been an issue in the first place if the state had just recognized the validity of their marriage.

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How can you be married and not married at the same time?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

The time of year for all good citizens to focus on their federal and state income taxes has returned. As usual, tax taxesforms are due to the IRS by no later than April 15. Even if you file for an extension on the payments, the paperwork is due to the government by the third Tuesday of April this year. While most married opposite-sex couples will have no issues filing their taxes, same-sex couples face many obstacles. In states that have marriage equality, such as New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware, the matter is a simple one. File your income taxes as a married couple, filing either a joint return, or separate single returns, depending on your own unique circumstances. As a result of the US Supreme Court ruling in the US v. Windsor case last year, all legally married, same-sex couples living in states which honor such marriages can file their income taxes in the same way as opposite-sex couples.

However, if you happen to live in Pennsylvania or one of the other 33 states which does not allow marriage for same-sex couples, you will need to file your returns differently. First, file your federal return as a married couple, again deciding whether to file a joint return or two separate returns based on your unique circumstances. You will then need to file two separate forms for your state and local taxes as a single taxpayer. I realize that the numbers will be a mess, and filing for financial aid for college will become a nightmare without some guidance. Nevertheless, that is what the law proscribes.

With all that said, a suggestion was sent in to ME4PA to consider. Many people file their income taxes online using programs from TurboTax, H&R Block, and other companies. If you complete your own tax forms, and you file online, your federal information will carry over automatically to your state return. I found this to be true when working on my own taxes. The computer asked to whom I am married, but did not care about the gender of the person to whom I am married. In fact, the computer is not going to run a background check on my marriage license to determine its validity. As long as the names on the forms match the Social Security numbers, all is right in the world. So if Pat and Lou are getting married, that could be two women, two men, or one of each. The government would not know unless it conducted an audit. However, the chances of an audit are incredibly small; furthermore, the federal government will already recognize as married, a same-sex couple who marries in a state such as New York or New Jersey. In both those states, the marriage licenses and certificates do not denote the gender of the couple. Hence, the computer has no way of knowing for sure who is really married to whom.

Before acting on this idea, I strongly encourage consulting a qualified tax adviser or lawyer. Still, just because you are in a same-sex relationship in Pennsylvania or any other state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, does not diminish the fact that your marriage certificate deserves to be recognized, whether you are two men, two women, or one of each. No matter what choice you make on your taxes, just remember, file by April 15.

Mexico: Supreme Court Says Same Sex Couples Deserve Equal Public Benefits

Friday, January 31st, 2014

MexicoMexico continues to move ahead on LGBT rights.

The Washington Blade reports:

The Mexican Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the same-sex spouses of those who receive benefits under the country’s social security system must receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. El Economista, a Mexican newspaper, reported the justices in a 3-2 ruling said the Mexican Social Security Institute – Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Spanish – must extend the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive to gays and lesbians who have either tied the knot or entered into civil unions. Jose Alberto Gomez Barroso, who married his partner in Mexico City in 2012, sought legal recourse through the Mexican judicial system after officials denied his request to add his spouse as a beneficiary under the country’s social security system. A lower court last year dismissed Gomez’s case after he passed away.

Mexico is in a similar position to the US, with a number of states recognizing marriage equality as well as the Federal government. But in Mexico, if you are married in Mexico City, you are married everywhere.

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USA, Nebraska: County Extends Benefits to Partners of Same Sex Couples

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

NebraskaA Nebraska county took a progressive step this week for its gay and lesbian couples in county government.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Sarpy County commissioners have decided to extend health insurance benefits to spouses of gay county employees who have legally married in another state but live in Nebraska. Sarpy-County-NEThe Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 for the change on Tuesday. Under the previous policy, same-sex couples were allowed health benefits if they were legally married in another state and lived in a state that allowed it, such as nearby Iowa. Board Chairman Jim Thompson said the old policy was, in effect, telling some employees that they had to leave their Nebraska homes and quit paying Nebraska taxes so they could live in Iowa and pay Iowa taxes. He voted for the change.

Even in Nebraska, LGBT rights are taking a step forward.

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USA, Virginia: Sore Loser Ken Cuccinelli Issued Anti-Gay Marriage Opinion in Final Days

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Virginia Attorney General Ken CuccinelliTaking one final stab at the LGBT community before leaving office, Virginia gubernatorial loser Ken Cuccinelli issued a pair of nonbonding opinions against marriage equality, benefits for gays, and restrictions on abortion.

The Pilot Online reports:

During his final days as attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli released a pair of nonbinding opinions that can be read as legal arguments against Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s campaign pledges to fight for gay rights and undo abortion restrictions.

In one, Cuccinelli, who lost to McAuliffe in the 2013 governor’s race, says a governor can’t order state officials to permit legally married gay couples to file joint Virginia tax returns because the state bans same-sex marriage and formal recognition of it. The other asserts that a governor lacks authority to “issue a policy directive to suspend a regulation that was properly adopted pursuant to a statutory mandate.” It appears to target intended protections for gay state employees and efforts to invalidate strict licensing rules for abortion clinics.

You almost have to admire Cuccinelli’s pure dickishness – he stuck with his bigotry until the bitter end.

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USA, Texas: Mayor Parker Gets Benefits Case Moved to Federal Court

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Houston Mayor Annise ParkerLooks like the Houston Mayor pulled a little sleight of hand and got the lawsuit against the city’s domestic partner benefits ordinance moved to a Federal court.

Towleroad.com reports:

But City Attorney David Feldman has just gotten the case moved out of Millard’s district court and into a federal court.

Lone Star Q has more: The notice of removal also brings light of how Republican Judge Lisa Millard failed to notify Mayor Annise Parker and the city of Houston before holding a hearing the exact same day Republicans filed the lawsuit, and then immediately signing a temporary restraining order halting the new same-sex benefits policy enacted by Parker in November… The notice of removal has now automatically moved the lawsuit case into federal court. Republicans are going to have to ask a federal judge to remand their case in order to get it back to state court.

The ball’s now in another court. :::grin:::

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