Jewish tradition talks a lot about taxes and the importance of everyone contributing to the common good. Jewish tradition talks a lot about love, marriage and committed relationships. But how much does Jewish tradition talk about those two things together? Regardless of what tradition intended, these two facets of everyday life have become profoundly intertwined. For this reason Tax Day, April 15th, stands out as a day when our nation’s discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is acutely felt.
According to the Human Rights Campaign LGBT people – even those who are legally married – miss out on hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of federal tax benefits. The average LGBT family pays an extra $1,100 a year in taxes for health care coverage (that is when same-sex partners aren’t entirely denied health benefits and required to pay for them out of pocket). LGBT people who cannot legally claim their children as dependents frequently pay up to $1,000 extra on their taxes; many may miss out on the Earned Income Tax Credit costing them over 2,000 dollars.
Much of this inequality is the result of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples. This law was challenged in a case heard by the Supreme Court last month and will hopefully be struck down in the coming months. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Women of Reform Judaism (among a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish religious groups) all filed briefs in the case declaring the law unjust.
Love, marriage and equal recognition under the law are of course about much more than tax benefits. However days like yesterday, when the injustice of heterosexism can be expressed so clearly in dollars and federal paperwork, are important times to speak out for equality.
Image Courtesy of Thirstock