Personal finance expert Suze Orman says that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages, imposes steep financial penalties on gay and lesbian couples.
In a column published Monday at CNN.com, Orman, a bestselling author of ten books, including “The Money Class,” and host of her own show on CNBC, said social and civil discrimination persists every day that the the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage.
“I have been with my partner, Kathy Travis, for 12 years. If I am lucky I will spend the rest of my life living and sharing my joys and happiness with her. We have worked very hard as a team to save for our future together and consider everything we have as equally owned by the other.
“If the federal government recognized same-sex marriage, then when one of us dies our assets would seamlessly transfer free of tax to the survivor. That’s a basic right that every heterosexual married couple has.
“But because there is no federal recognition of same-sex marriage, if I die first, or vice versa, before either of us can inherit what is now jointly our assets, there would be a federal estate tax bill that one of us would currently have to pay. Again, to be clear: If we were a heterosexual married couple, there would be no estate tax regardless of the size of the estate or who died first.
The social and civil discrimination that persists as long as our federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage is inexcusable. Add in the financial discrimination gay and lesbian couples face and the current policy becomes all the more indefensible.
Section 3 of DOMA — which has been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts, including the First and Second Circuit Court of Appeals — codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in one of those cases, United States v. Windsor, with oral arguments expected on March 27.
The Obama administration on Friday filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing why it considers the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.
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