Suze Orman Urges "Gay Migration" To States With Marriage Equality
On April 15, in conjunction with Elda Di Re and Karyn Twaronite -- two Ernst & Young LLP partners - CNBC host and financial advisor Suze Orman held a conference call organized by the Respect for Marriage Coalition not only in order to explore the financial pitfalls faced by same-sex couples as a result of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but also the repercussions that they have on their everyday lives.
"I want to feel valid, 100 percent of the time, and I have to tell you, I don't," said openly lesbian Orman, who has been with her partner, Kathy Travis, for 12 years. This chilling thought represents the sentiment of millions of gay Americans who have been subjected to laws like DOMA that insinuate that they are less worthy, less adequate and less human than everyone else simply because of who they love.
DOMA was signed into law on Sept. 21, 1996, and defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Since this legislation was enacted 13 years ago, the federal government has not recognized a same-sex marriage. DOMA also asserts that states are not legally obligated to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples from other states. This leaves gay couples vulnerable and victim to financial disadvantages with social security, filing joint tax returns and health benefits, among others.
During the press conference, Orman and the Ernst & Young executives delved into the ways in which the LGBT community is discriminated against in the tax code. They then discussed how difficult it is for these individuals to find professionals with extensive experience with LGBT law; not all have the know-how to help them navigate through the federal financial labyrinth.
Overcoming obstacles while filing taxes makes professionals such as accountants and financial advisors imperative for gay couples. But these couples are increasingly discovering that finding an accountant or attorney with the necessary skills and expertise that can simultaneously be understanding of their plight and situation is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Twaronite pinpointed ways that companies can help to lessen these inequalities, which would not only be positive progress for the LGBT community, but would help foster good business practices and increase clientele, as well.
"As a starting point, companies can help LGBT couples facing inequalities by recognizing same-sex married couples the same way they recognize opposite-sex married couples in their processes and communications," said Twaronite. "Organizations can also make a difference through their own policies, such as offering a tax gross up to cover the extra tax same-sex couples pay on health and welfare benefits in the U.S. Additionally, companies can educate decision-makers about the inequities they witness but can't address, including same-sex couples losing tax savings since they can't put money into their health care reimbursement accounts for their partners."
Move Where Marriage is Legal, Says Orman
Orman ultimately encouraged same-sex couples to move to states that have already legalized and recognize gay marriage. The mass influx to these states would result in a shift she has coined "The Great Gay Migration." She feels that the overturn of DOMA is inevitable, but it will not be nearly the end for LGBT discrimination; even after the federal government throws out its "man and woman" definition of marriage, gay individuals will still be vulnerable to inequality perpetuated at the state level.
To encourage LGBT couples to move to states that already recognize gay marriage could have drastic implications on the communities that would both be further inhabited and abandoned. Having thousands of LGBT individuals relocate is akin to the "brain drain" phenomenon where the most intelligent students leave states where they went to college for employment in better states.
When this happens, you essentially have the best and the brightest going to college in one state but ultimately settling and paying taxes and spending their disposable income in another state. Similarly, a "Great Gay Migration" will single out states that foster tolerance and acceptance and polarize the states that have yet to embrace the 21st-century-notion of equality.
"Every single gay person out there, every single person that’s in a committed relationship, needs to feel validated," said Orman. "They need to be recognized. They need to be able to have a place to talk about who they love, how they love and what it was like to meet one another."
It is about time that this country becomes a place conducive to that acceptance and understanding, both at the state and federal level. Until we do that, we will continue to send the message to the entire LGBT community that it is less valid than its straight counterparts. Until we do that, we will continue to be plagued by discriminatory and unjust legislation and policy.