Hyattsville City Council Passes Human Rights Act
This evening the Hyattsville City Council, in a 9-0 vote, passed the Hyattsville Human Rights Act. The city becomes the first small city in Maryland and the first jurisdiction in Prince George's County to prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals.
This measure, sponsored by Councilmember Patrick Paschall, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodations based on age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or physical characteristic.
Hyattsville joins Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery Counties in prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals.
Equality Maryland's Executive Director, Carrie Evans, testified in support of this measure and underscored the importance of local jurisdictions passing these laws while efforts at the state level are underway. Evans testified, "Passing this ordinance in Hyattsville will make measurable differences in people’s lives. Equality Maryland is part of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, a coalition of more than 50 organizations, working on passing similar protections at the state level and your passage of this local law will help greatly in that effort."
By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
11:52 AM EST, November 19, 2013
Advocates and health care providers for LGBT and HIV-positive residents in Maryland have been scrambling for months to gather information on how the Affordable Care Act will impact their clients -- and now they're looking to share the information.
"We really need help to get the word out," said Doug Rose, a volunteer with Equality Maryland, at a public meeting on the health care rollout in Mount Vernon on Monday night. "I think a lot of people still don't know what to do."
Rose said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and those who are HIV-positive have experienced historic discrimination in the health insurance market -- with women and gay men at times facing steeper fees -- that the ACA now forbids.
"My message today is really, for most people, it's pretty simple," he said, of taking advantage of new coverage options.
The meeting at Chase Brexton Health Care's new facilities on North Charles Street, held in partnership with Equality Maryland and Free State Legal, was the first of four such events planned by the advocacy organizations this month.
The room was staffed with ACA advisors and navigators, stocked with sandwiches and refreshments, but only a few people showed up for the free advice on navigating the new health care law.
Both a man and a woman, who did not wish to be identified, asked questions about seeking health insurance under the state's expanded Medicaid program after a brief presentation from Rose and other panel members from Chase Brexton and Free State.
According to the panelists, the Medicaid expansion will offer some HIV-positive Maryland residents with more coverage than existing offerings, like Ryan White programs, but that many Ryan White wrap-around services like food assistance and transportation services will continue.
They also said the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program could continue to be a resource for individuals who obtain health insurance through the open market.
Other issues are less clear, they said. Advocates are still working to determine if some procedures, like sex reassignment surgeries, or treatments, like hormones for transgender residents, will be covered under the new plans.
"Advocates are looking at these things. We are tracking these things," Rose said.
Representatives from Chase Brexton said LGBT and HIV-positive residents can contact their staff at ATeam@chasebrexton.org -- regardless of whether they are Chase Brexton clients -- to be connected with assistance in finding a health care plan.
Anne Blackfield, director of outreach and pro bono services at Free State Legal, said her organization is also available to provide legal advice on complicated issues such as filing jointly for coverage as a married same-sex couple.
"No matter what, we're very fortunate to be living in Maryland, because everyone here wants this to be a success," Rose said, noting that advocates are working closely with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to understand the law's impact on the LGBT community. "If things get rocky, just be patient and know that everything will be OK."
The next event is at 6 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Columbia, at 5500 Knoll North Drive, Suite 370. There are two events on Thursday: the first at 12 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Easton, at 8221 Teal Drive, Suite 202; the second at 6 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Randallstown, at 3510 Brenbrook Drive.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun
The right to marry now extends to more Marylanders than ever before. Under the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which took effect January 1, 2013, same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses knowing that their unions will be recognized by the state. Federal recognition came some six months later with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. These are exciting developments for the LGBT community, and couples who choose to marry will now enjoy many important benefits. Among these are the right to file joint tax returns, to receive Social Security and other government benefits, and to obtain health insurance from a spouse’s employer.
Being married also offers benefits in the realm of estate planning. Whether married or not, any couple in a committed relationship can help protect themselves and their loved ones with certain essential documents, including Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directives. With a valid Will, you can designate who will settle your estate, who will inherit your assets, and who will serve as the guardian of any minor children. A Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive allow you to designate someone to manage your finances and health care if you are unable to do so yourself.
But even with these documents in place, an unmarried couple may face serious disadvantages if either partner should die. With the purchase of a marriage license and the exchange of vows, the same couple immediately acquires significant legal benefits:
The first is avoiding the Maryland inheritance tax. This 10% tax applies to assets left to anyone who is not a spouse or other close family member. For unmarried couples, the result can be a hefty tax bill. Especially if the estate includes few liquid assets, the inheritance tax may be difficult to pay. Some surviving partners have had to tap into their savings, invade their retirement accounts, or even sell the family home just to pay the tax. By turning strangers into kin, a marriage license makes this tax go away.
Another benefit is avoiding estate taxes, or at least delaying them. In Maryland, any portion of an estate that exceeds $1 million in value is taxed at the rate of up to 16 percent. The estate tax is less of a concern at the federal level, where only the portion of an estate that exceeds $5.25 million in value is taxed, but at the much higher rate of 40 percent. (Note that for purposes of either tax, the value of the estate includes the value of any life insurance or retirement accounts owned by the decedent.) Married couples avoid these taxes simply by virtue of their marital status; any bequest to the surviving spouse is tax-free. Taxes may still be due when the survivor dies, but even these can be avoided or reduced. Your attorney can prepare Wills that include provisions for a bypass trust—an effective estate-planning tool reserved to married couples.
Another important benefit is the right to title real estate as tenants by the entirety. This form of ownership is reserved to married couples and helps protect the family home from creditor claims. If either spouse is sued individually or files for bankruptcy, creditors are generally prevented from seizing and selling the property to satisfy the debt. And if either spouse dies, the property transfers automatically to the survivor. Retitling a house as tenants by the entirety is a simple matter of recording a new deed.
With all of these incentives in place, many gay and lesbian couples are asking whether there is any good reason not to get married. This is a fair question. One potential downside is the “marriage penalty” under the federal income tax code. This penalty applies to married couples with similar incomes, but the number of couples actually affected varies from time to time as the tax code is adjusted. Your accountant or tax preparer can tell you whether the penalty would apply to you and how much it is likely to be.
For most couples contemplating marriage, the legal benefits are of course a secondary consideration. Marriage may provide advantages that even the most carefully prepared estate plan cannot, but it is still chiefly a union of love and commitment, not a business venture. Even so, no matter how long a couple may have been together, marriage’s legal advantages are well worth considering.
Lee Carpenter is an associate at the Baltimore law firm of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes and can be reached at (410) 576-4729 or email@example.com.
This information is intended to provide general information about legal topics and should not be construed as legal advice.
Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”
Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.
Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status.
Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.
Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances (such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open) that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.
Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.
How to File a Claim for Refund
Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for income taxes should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for gift or estate taxes should file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement.
For information on filing an amended return, go to Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc308.html or the Instructions to Forms 1040X and 843. Information on where to file your amended returns is available in the instructions to the form.
Treasury and the IRS intend to issue streamlined procedures for employers who wish to file refund claims for payroll taxes paid on previously-taxed health insurance and fringe benefits provided to same-sex spouses. Treasury and IRS also intend to issue further guidance on cafeteria plans and on how qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored arrangements should treat same-sex spouses for periods before the effective date of this Revenue Ruling.
Other agencies may provide guidance on other federal programs that they administer that are affected by the Code.
For Revenue Ruling 2013-17, click here.
For Frequently Asked Questions, click here.
For registered domestic partners who live in community property states, click here for Publication 555, Community Property.
Treasury and the IRS will begin applying the terms of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 on September 16, 2013, but taxpayers who wish to rely on the terms of the Revenue Ruling for earlier periods may choose to do so (as long as the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not expired).
Within any community, jargon, acronyms, and lingo can leave outsiders with crinkled eyebrows and a less-than comprehensive understanding of the conversation. The jargon used to capture the nuances of the trans* community is no different. With asterisks and alphabet soup acronyms, it is easy to see how the insider lingo can obfuscate the complex realities of trans lives the lingo seek to convey. To ease this confusion, below is a brief introduction to some of our symbols and the meanings behind them.
The asterisk (*): Sometimes used at the end of trans, the asterisk is an inclusive replacement for words like –gender, –man, and –woman. Because gender is a spectrum, people’s identities are numerous, and our terminology is never able to encompass everyone’s gender in terms that are fitting and comfortable. That’s where the asterisk comes into play. Taken from its computer science use as a “wildcard symbol,” the asterisk represents all possibilities, even those not yet known. In short, ‘trans*’ is an umbrella term, under which anyone outside the cissexist(1) gender binary can identify. With this term, anyone who identifies as Genderqueer, agender (non-gendered), transgender, or any mixture or lack of the above can identify with this general term, without obligation to further label or explain their gender identity.
The ampersat (@): Because the Spanish language often genders adjectives, using ‘o’ for men and ‘a’ for woman, the Latino community is typically written as ending with an ‘o.’ This is meant to be a general term for parties which may include men and women, but it’s since been replaced for the less sexist Latino/a. This term still is not satisfactory for some. It perpetuates a gender binary that inherently excludes some individuals. To accommodate the transgender community, the term is being written as Latin@. Here, the ampersat stands for everyone, not just Latinos and Latinas, but everyone. This term is more inclusive, and it breaks down the gender binary. Like the asterisk in trans*, the ampersat is a cover-all term that frees individuals from the implications of gendered language.
More inclusive terms like these are becoming more popular everyday, and as long as we continue to educate people on what the terms mean and how to use them appropriately, we can keep stepping forward into a society that is comfortable and safe for everyone.
If there are any more terms that you would like explained, please leave a comment below!
Also, if you embrace trans* equality, buy a t-shirt with this logo on it here!
(1) Cissexism is a belief that sex defines gender. For cisgender people, their sex aligns with their gender, but for transgender people they do not. Cissexism often leads to transphobia and the inferior treatment of trans people because their sex and gender do not align in the way that some think they should.
Small Business Majority recently published a report on their findings regarding small businesses and non-discrimination. The report, which was published in early June, shows that small business owners overwhelmingly believe in non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals.
The study finds that 67% of entrepreneurs think federal law should protect LGBT individuals from employment discrimination, and 69% think that state law should afford the same protections. In another question, the study revealed that 81% of participants believe that federal law already prohibits firing or refusing to hire someone based on their LGBT identity, and 78% of small business owners think that current state law deems it illegal. Finally, 63% of entrepreneurs believe that it should not be legal to fire or refuse to hire an LGBT person based on that employer’s religious beliefs.
The study questioned small business owners from Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania and can be found here.
Have you heard the news?
Moments ago, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down down section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 infamously restricted marriage to between "one man and one woman." This definition has now been rendered unconstitutional!
Additionally marriage equality was restored to California when the Supreme Court ruled the proponents of Proposition 8 (who brought the case forward) did not have the legal standing to appeal the lower court ruling that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This brings us to 13 states and the District of Columbia (more than 93 million Americans) that have marriage equality!
Today is an enormous victory and a joyous day for same-sex married couples and their families – and for equal justice under the law. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that all loving and committed couples who marry deserve equal legal respect and treatment.
In Maryland same-sex married couples will now be eligible for the more than 1,000 federal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.
These rights include surviving spouse social security benefits, tax on employer provided health benefits for same-sex spouses and the exemption from estate taxes for a surviving spouses. For a complete listing of these 1,138 protections and responsibilities, click here.
These benefits have very real consequences for families like Gina and Laura, together for 27 years. While serving in the military, Gina earned a Purple Heart Medal and until today, Laura was not eligable for Gina's military veteran survivor benefits despite her own heroic efforts standing by her wife's side as she returned wounded from active duty.
Do you have a story about how DOMA has affected your family? Share it with us on our facebook page, or email us here.
The drumbeat for marriage equality across the nation got a little bit louder today, and we will continue our quest until all loving and committed couples in the U.S. have access to marriage equality. Defeating DOMA is just the first step.
There are still 37 states without the legal right to marry. We need your help to continue working for full equality in Maryland and with our state partners who regularly call us for advice on their marriage campaigns. Will you support our work with a gift of $37, $50, or $138 today?We will keep working until our state and our country treats all LGBT people with respect and dignity.
Although today may be a good one for the LGBT community, we must remember the Court rendered decisions that have made it more difficult for other groups, such as African Americans, Latinos, the First Nations and women to exercise their rights and freedoms. Equality Maryland remains committed to working with our allies to ensure these injustices are rectified.
Like many of you, we are anxiously awaiting for the two opinions in the marriage equality cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. They will be handed down tomorrow (June 26, 2013).
One of these decisions (Windsor) may have a direct impact on whether married same-sex couples in Maryland will be able to access the more than 1,000 federal right and responsibilities that different-sex married couples are afforded. The Human Rights Campaign recently released an overview of what these decisions would mean nationally. We've adapted it to add what the decisions will mean for married same-sex couples in Maryland.
In scenarios 1, 2, and 4 (DOMA overturned): The federal government will honor the marriages of Maryland same-sex couples, in areas such as immigration and social security. Click here for an overview of the 1,000+ federal rights and responsibilities for married couples. EQMD will continue working to ensure all areas of Maryland state law are inclusive of same-sex married couples. The state-level rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples, can be found here.
In scenario 3 (DOMA is upheld): If the court upholds DOMA, the marriages of Maryland same-sex couples will continue to not be honored by the federal government. EQMD will continue working to ensure all areas of Maryland state law are inclusive of same-sex married couples. The state-level rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples, can be found here. We will help our national partners to try to repeal DOMA in Congress.
The Prop 8 case (Perrry) will not impact Maryland because we already have marriage equality.
June is the nation's official Pride month, and Maryland is packed with opportunities to wave that rainbow flag. Equality Maryland will be traveling around the state to attend Pride celebrations from Baltimore, to Western Maryland, to the Eastern Shore.
To make sure you know all about what's happening when, we've created this handy June Pride Guide. However our Pride doesn't stop when the month is over. We'll be making a summer and fall events guide that features Chesapeake Pride (held in August) and Baltimore Black Pride (held in October) as well, so stay tuned for those!
If you want to join us at any pride event just click here to sign up!
Today the Boy Scouts of America will be voting on a proposal to overturn the decades old policy that homosexuality goes against the core values of the BSA. As an Eagle Scout, I was never taught this as a value. We were taught to live our lives by the Scout Oath and Law. However, I was taught that living by Scout Oath and Law requires that we value the inherent worth and dignity of all those we meet and that our duty is to uphold “the rights of others” (Eagle Scout Charge). Many people have come up with their own interpretations of these promises, but what is written in my Boy Scout Handbook has not changed.
As Scouts, we attend interfaith services on Scouting weekends, camp with fellow Scouts, cheerfully serve our communities, and learn from the mentorship of strong adult volunteers. Sexual orientation does not affect any of Scouting’s activities. When we donned that uniform, we were equal, in the eyes of Man and God. We were simply Scouts. Our diversity as people unified us and enabled us to overcome any obstacles and challenges that we faced.
Kids that have gone through Scouting come out as participating citizens and civic leaders. The morals instilled in us compel us to speak out for what is just and to stand up for people when they are mistreated. We have been given some of the most amazing opportunities for personal, emotional and spiritual growth and development that any child could have.
Denying these chances to anyone is wrong. Telling a child that they are not worthy of these opportunities is wrong. Telling a child that their parents are not worthy is wrong. The BSA is still an incredible organization, but discrimination is tainting the BSA in the eyes of young American families and potential new Scouts, as well as those of us with Scouting’s highest honor.
Excluding any group of boys from Scouting not only deprives them of the Scouting’s benefits, but it also diminishes the experience of all scouts. Exclusion has no place in the oldest, largest and most effective youth development organization in our nation's history. Exclusion runs counter to those principles we as Scouts pledge. Scouting should be a home to every young man willing to serve his community, obey the Scout Law and who has the courage to stand up us a leader. Leadership requires bravery, which is one of the principles of the Scout Law. I trust that the leadership of the BSA can find the bravery to lead by choosing the inherent worth and dignity of every boy over a policy that goes against the very foundation of Scouting’s legacy.
Taking a step toward ending discrimination will not bring about the end of the BSA as some have suggested. In our collective history, the end of discriminatory practices has always had critics who suggested that ending the bigotry would bring about an end to our social mores. But history shows us consistently the reverse is always true. Embracing love and respect over hatred and exclusion always leads to a stronger society.
The BSA's own internal survey found that ending the ban on gay youth "would be consistent with the religious beliefs of the BSA's major chartered organizations." Not only is the BSA America's youth organization for leadership and character development, it is also one of the greatest interfaith organizations for America's youth. Even those that choose to label the BSA as a "Christian organization" are throwing away a major point of the last tenet of the Scout Law. For a Scout to be reverent he must respect the beliefs of others; this goes beyond respecting only that which he finds agreeable. Furthermore, with the majority of Americans and most Christian Americans supporting marriage equality, it is unfair to label Christianity or any religion as an excuse to continue discrimination in the BSA. As Christians, we are called “to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Love is not possible with hatred in our hearts and in our organizations.
The Boy Scouts certainly made me who I am today. Every boy should have the same opportunity. As Scouting’s Founder Baden-Powell said: “There is no teaching to compare with example.” I pray the BSA set the proper example with their vote.
Mark A. Yost, Jr., Esq.
Board Member, Equality Maryland