In Virginia, far right gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has gotten a lot of attention for his belief that it is the duty of government to punish homosexuality. McDonnell came to mind this weekend when I read a sobering article in the New York Times entitled “The High Cost of Being a Gay Couple.”
By not recognizing marriages between two men or two women, our federal and state governments treat these couples as legal strangers. The authors of the article calculated the financial burden that results from this discrimination.
We looked at benefits that routinely go to married heterosexual couples but not to gay couples, like certain Social Security payments. We plotted out the cost of health insurance for couples whose employers don’t offer it to domestic partners. Even tax preparation can cost more, since gay couples have to file two sets of returns. Still, many couples may come out ahead in one area: they owe less in income taxes because they’re not hit with the so-called marriage penalty.
Our goal was to create a hypothetical gay couple whose situation would be similar to a heterosexual couple’s. So we gave the couple two children and assumed that one partner would stay home for five years to take care of them. We also considered the taxes in the three states that have the highest estimated gay populations — New York, California and Florida. We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18.
And what was the result?
In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.
Of course, as far as Bob McDonnell is concerned, the government is only doing what it’s supposed to do: punishing homosexuality.