When the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) got overturned last year, it forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that sanction them. This meant that, depending on the income levels of the spouses involved, same-sex partners were now subject to the marriage penalty or subsidy. (As of Aug. 5, 2014, 19 states plus D.C.
permit same-sex marriage, with Colorado and Virginia to join later this month, by court order. This will push the total population of states that allow gay marriage above 150 million, nearly half the country.)
in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
tackled the difficult-to-measure topic of just how much same-sex couples (and they states where they live) stand to gain or lose from extending the right to marry. What made this project superior to prior estimates is that the 2010 Census included demographic information on same-sex households
for the first time, so the researchers no longer had to guess. One caveat is that the sample size for some states was on the small side; apparently, only three married LGBT couples live in the entire state of Wyoming. Also, some states don’t levy a state income tax at all.
In spite of the stereotype of the affluent, child-less, dual-income gay household raking it in
, the results are quite literally all over the map, with residents of Connecticut shelling out $1,000 more to the federal government while Pennsylvanians pay $800 less. Curiously, residents of high-tax California had the most to gain in terms of their state tax liability: some $950 for LGBT families with a single earner. (Alternately, if you’re a balanced-budget nut, same-sex marriage causes the state to forgo $29 million in revenue each year, or about one-fifth as much as a severe wildfire
.) Further, if same-sex marriage were to be legalized nationwide, the cumulative gain for married LGBT taxpayers would approach $1 billion annually.
Outside of the legalistic arguments offered inside courtrooms on behalf of gay marriage, the cocktail-party version was always a little more honest. How many times has one heard involuntarily unwed gays and lesbians protest their exclusion from connubial bliss and all that it entails by exclaiming, “But I pay my taxes!” Indeed, the New York Times
found that a same-sex couple potentially stands to lose up to $500,000
from a lifetime of exclusion from matrimony and all its consequences. How good to know that treating all Americans equally means those taxes may actually go down.
The two social issues on which the American public seems to be changing its mind most rapidly — same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana — bring out impassioned rhetoric on both sides. But beyond the moral realm, both topics share another common bond: the complex and sometimes painfully dry question of taxation.