There are not a lot of issues on which I disagree with Dan Savage, but this is one of ’em.
“You are right that there is an issue here,” Sandeep Kaushik, spokesperson for the I-1077 (and Stranger alum), writes in an email. “We are working on it now to find a way to make sure, if I-1077 passes, that domestic partners are treated fairly under the law.”
Trust us, says Kaushik, we’ll fix this discriminatory law if it passes, somehow or other. Better to fix it now, before it passes, by refiling.
Yeah, well, I agree that the measure’s reference to “married couples” rather than “domestic partners” potentially ends up being inadvertently discriminatory, and would need to be fixed on passage, but Dan’s insistence that the initiative be refiled is simply impractical.
You can pretty much bet that the Republican Secretary of State and the Republican Attorney General would consume the full time alloted to perform their statutory duties on an income tax measure they surely oppose, and that other opponents of the measure would challenge the ballot title to drag the process out even further. It could be more than a month before petitions for a refiled initiative were back out on the streets, leaving little more than a few weeks to collect 300,000 signatures.
Refile the initiative and you could kill our best chance at progressive tax reform in nearly eighty years.
Besides, it’s not the language of I-1077 that is discriminatory, but rather, the language of our state and federal so-called Defense of Marriage Acts. Fix those, and we have no problem.
So my suggestion to Dan is not to stop pressuring on this issue, but to use his soapbox realistically. Use I-1077 as an opportunity to push for the repeal of our state DOMA, and the passage of legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Or less ambitiously… perhaps Dan could just trust the LGBT community’s allies in the broader progressive community to do the right thing should I-1077 pass, in the same way that we’ve fought hard to do the right thing on LGBT issues over the past half decade.
Yes, Sandeep is asking you to trust us. Well, have we ever given you any indication that you can’t?
You have our backs, and we’ll have yours. But to jeopardize passage of such an important piece of progressive legislation over this one fixable, if symbolic flaw, is to jeopardize the unity of the progressive community as a whole.
Thank you for responding to Dan. I really would like this to pass, so we have to do all we can to unite under it, and that means resolving our differences.
Daddy Love spews:
This just in on 1077:
I’m say the Cynicals of WA are well and truly fucked on this one.
dan is a trustafarian.
@2 Remember, Cyn doesn’t even live here.
@2: It’s interesting that conservatives are finally in the position where they have to put aside the faux populism and affirm their support for the rich over all of us, or just shut up and go away.
Providing grist for Goldy’s recent comments on local media tea party coverage, it was great last night to see Rachel Maddow call BS on the national MSM meme that everyone hates big government. See particularly her comments on framing/hypocrisy from about 4:00 – 8:00, in which she points out some large protests demanding tax increases for education and other essential public services that just don’t seem to grab the headlines.
Let me get this straight.
Sandeep in Dan are concerned that WHEN 1077 passes, gay couples earning over 300,000 will not get their fair chance to pay higher taxes????
Seems to me that this would be an incentive to married folks to seek to get unmarried and reclassify themselves as DPs!
If BRS and I want to do this, do we need to prove that she is a lesbian and I am a gay male? What evidence does the state need for us to qualify?
No, the concern is that domestic partners will not get to take advantage of the same higher threshold that married couples filing jointly enjoy. And that’s an understandable concern. But fixable after the fact.
Doorknob Dan spews:
It’s a slam-dunk cinch that 1077 will SOL my domesticated partners. However it shakes out after appellate review and legislative override, my partners and I (I’ve borrowed several hircine companions from proud leftist) will be deprived of immersion in the mainstream. Institutional bigotry will stuff us back in the closet where we will again be denied the privilege of paying more than our fair share of taxes.
It’s not fair.
(Doorknobs and joysticks: Please recall that Mr. Savage was formerly famous for licking Gary Bauer’s knobs. We can surely trust him to guide us through the amazing maze of tax policy. That’s what policy wonkettes are for: giving us the taxes we deserve.)
Sam Adams spews:
How “important” will this piece of legislation be when YOU are paying income tax?
Won’t happen? Look at the Northeast chump.
Of course if you’re on the dole and then you won’t be taxed. Loser.
proud leftist spews:
Those hircine companions aren’t free, man. Pay the rent.
I think people here have the right intentions, but are a bit confused about the facts.
This bill creates a special category — a tax break — for “married” couples. If you’re “single,” you have to pay taxes on any personal income over $200,000. However, if you’re a “married” couple, then you only have to pay taxes when your joint income together exceeds $400,000.
Unfortunately, the drafters of this initiative forgot to consider people in domestic partnerships. The purpose of R-71 (approved by the voters last fall) was to treat people in domestic partnerships in the same way as married couples under state law. However, I-1077 doesn’t mention domestic partnerships, and R-71 doesn’t apply (given the way both are drafted).
The result is that as currently drafted, gay and lesbian couples in domestic partnerships will be taxed as “individuals.” Consequently, we’ll often have to pay considerably more taxes than comparable heterosexual couples.
Here’s a specific hypothetical: Person A earns $250,000. Person B earns $50,000.
If Person A and Person B are straight and married, they’re taxed as a “couple.” Because their joint income is less than the $400,000 minimum for “couples,” they don’t have to pay any state income tax at all.
If Person A and Person B instead are gay and in a registered domestic partnership, they are taxed as “individuals.” Person A has to pay $2,500 in state income tax (specifically, 5% of his income over the $200,000 minimum for “individuals”). Person B is below the $200,000 minimum, so he doesn’t pay income tax himself.
The result: A heterosexual married couple in these circumstances pays no income tax. A gay couple in the exact same situation (but a domestic partnership) is out $2,500. The gay couple is taxed more than the straight couple.
Of course, everyone’s tax situation is different. However, married couples with joint incomes above $200,000 will always come out ahead under this bill than a comparable gay couple.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the drafters of I-1077 consciously intended to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. It was probably just a really dumb mistake, and hopefully one that can and will be corrected.
However, as currently drafted, it has an adverse discriminatory effect against couples in domestic partnerships (primarily gay and lesbian couples). It’s also really unfortunate timing given the historic passage of R-71 last year.
The dispute between Goldy and Dan is one about tactics: Do we try to correct this problem now, before the vote (as Dan suggests), or wait until after it passes and try to fix it through the legislature (as Goldy suggests)?
Goldy has a valid, pragmatic argument. At the same time, saying “vote for a discriminatory measure now and trust us to fix it later” makes me a bit queasy. Hopefully either the organizers of I-1077 and/or our legislators will come up with a good fix.
Sorry for the rant. :-)
By the way, I fully agree with Goldy about the problems with DOMA. If there’s full same-sex marriage equality, then these issues disappear. I just can’t afford to wait ten years until that happens.
11. Xyzzy spews:
I still do not understand.
As I see it this all depends on hwo earns the money.
If Chris earns 220,000 and Sandy earns 190,000. Then, if married they areover 400k and pay tax. If not married they pay tax only on the 220. No?
I thinbk the assumption here is the old one that mariage implies one big earner and one “housewife.’
I both earn it would get trickier.
Am I still confused?
Richard Pope spews:
I see this discrimination against registered domestic partners as KILLING the entirety of I-1077, if it is passed by the voters.
Remember that 4 of the 9 state supreme court justices said that it was UNCONSTITUTIONAL to ban same gender marriages. These same four justices should be just as strong to declare it unconstitutional to discriminate against domestic partners, treating them less favorably that married couples for state income tax purposes.
And I am sure that at least one of the other five justices would join to strike down I-1077. They may feel the State has a rational basis to restrict marriage rights, but not to penalize gay people in other ways (such as higher taxes).
I would BET that Richard Sanders would decide this way. He doesn’t like gay marriage or abortion, but he is incredibly libertarian about everything else. I can certainly see him standing up for gay rights, when it allows ditching of a state income tax. And I can see Jim Johnson doing the same thing.
Yes, it is true that the legislature could fix I-1077 by amending a few words. But that takes a majority of both houses, and this number of legislators could simply enact an income tax at any time if they wanted to, and we wouldn’t need to try to get I-1077 on the ballot.
So if a majority of legislators don’t want an income tax, then all they have to do is to simply not pass corrective legislation, once I-1077 is struck down for discriminating against gay people.
This anti-DP language in I-1077 is just plain STUPID. DP rights are extremely well known, especially with all the coverage of R-71 last year. How could they butt-fuck the language up so badly in I-1077?
Richard Pope spews:
THIS IS TOO FUNNY!
Lonnie Lopez, the sponsor of I-1077, is not only a GAY man, but was also a major backer of YES on R-71, to approve DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS having the same rights as marriages.
I found this on-line article about Lopez’s passionate support of R-71 in the September 18, 2009 issue of the Seattle Gay News (QAC = Queer Ally Coalition):
QAC member Lonnie Lopez taught a class about LGBT history at Gay City University last Saturday. He said the class was well-attended and, overall, it was a great day.
“We had a good discussion afterwards and the big theme was criticism of the ‘leadership’ of the LGBT movement up to now, as well as simple visibility,” Lopez told SGN. “Many were confused about … how to vote for the referendum and how it got to this point.”
Lopez points out that, according to him, there seems to be a lack of political consciousness in the LGBT community. However, instead of pointing fingers, he’s decided to take this time to educate people on the need for political awareness.
“The community’s been overwhelmingly responsive and actually appreciates that we’re going out into the community,” Lopez said. “QAC’s presence was, after all, the first public presence on Broadway of the Approve R-71 Campaign. Given the financial weakness of the campaign because of the recession, what better way to get the message out for free than hundreds, if not thousands, of Approve R-71 posters across Capitol Hill and throughout Seattle?”
Lopez said he could see a major shift in the Gay movement, in that; straight allies really are out there.
“There’s a myth about hostility between Gay men and straight men,” he said. “The truth is that 75% of Americans know someone who is LGBT, and we all know that when you know an LGBT person, you’re more likely to support their equal rights.”
He said the right wing loves to say that those who support Gay marriage are a small minority of homosexual activists trying to force their lifestyle on an innocent and unsuspecting heterosexual population. This, he said, is an outright lie.
“Our straight brothers and sisters want to show their solidarity and support,” said Lopez. “This is a historical shift from previous moments in our movement, when straight people were actively kept out of the movement. That there are so many straight allies who are fed up with homophobia & is a huge advantage, and it’s time we recognize that reality.”
QAC officials are asking people to call into radio stations to voice support for the Approve Referendum 71 Campaign. Lopez said he remembers listening to a local radio station last year, after Prop 8 passed, and the DJ was a Lesbian who spoke of how angry and hurt she was. He said the idea clicked: What better way to get the message out than to have LGBT equality supporters call their favorite morning radio shows and tell everyone to vote to approve R-71? Lopez points out that calling in is free, and that most of the stations are based out of Seattle and are already allies.
Lopez said those who oppose the approval of R-71 are directly attacking the LGBT community in Washington. He said R-71 like Prop 8, as it is “about taking rights away.” He says nearly 90% of the country supports ending discrimination against LGBT persons in the workplace, and a majority – including a majority of Republicans – support an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“On issue after issue, the majority of Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of equal rights for LGBT people, and those numbers keep going up [as] more people see us fighting a dignified, confident, and proud fight,” Lopez told SGN. “We know, according to the 2008 University of Washington study, that at least 66% of Washingtonians either support marriage equality or support legal recognition of LGBT couples in the form of civil unions or domestic partnerships. That’s a two-thirds majority who are already on our side. If we get everyone who already supports us to vote to approve R-71, we will win this by a landslide and we’ll dance in the streets like we did last General Election Day.”
But, Lopez admits, getting everyone to vote can be a big obstacle. “We have to get our supporters – especially the younger LGBT community – to actually register and vote in this off-year election.”
“We can win this if we want to. We have to,” he said. “The consequences are huge. If the bigots win, they won’t stop at this. We know they’ll gain confidence and fight to take even more rights away.”
Richard Pope spews:
I looked at I-1077 with some care. IT DOESN’T TAX CORPORATIONS, only individuals! How can we have a state income tax, that corporations are EXEMPT from paying? Would the people ever stand for eliminating the federal income tax for corporations, and only keeping the income tax for individuals?
Some people might argue — corporations have to pay the business and occupation tax. But so do individuals who are engaged in business. If a corporation owns a convenience store, they only have to pay the B & O tax. But if the same store is owned by an individual, they will pay the same B & O tax, plus a state income tax on any profits that they make.
So I see this as a political non-starter. Even if voters would support an income tax, they will never vote for a law that exempts corporations — including Microsoft, Boeing, and other wealthy corporations — from paying the tax at all.
Moreover, this would be one additional ground for the state supreme court to strike down the law. How can it possibly be constitutional under the state constitution (let alone the 14th amendment federal equal protection clause) to tax only individuals, and to completely exempt corporations (no matter how profitable they may be)?
Let’s throw I-1077 into the garbage. Rewrite the law, so that not only are domestic partners treated equally to married couples, but that corporations pay the income tax at the same rate as individuals.
“If Chris earns 220,000 and Sandy earns 190,000. Then, if married they areover 400k and pay tax. If not married they pay tax only on the 220. No?”
SJ, this is a good hypothetical. There’s still a tax disparity, it just isn’t as much.
If Chris and Sandy are a straight, married couple, they’ll be taxed on any joint income over the $400K minimum, which is $10K under this formula.
Chris & Sandy: ($220K income + $190K income) – $400K threshold = $10K taxable income.
If Chris and Sandy are two men in a registered domestic partnership, they’ll each be taxed separately as individuals, owing taxes on any personal income over $200K. Chris will have $20K in taxable income, while Sandy will not have taxable income:
Chris: $220K – $200K threshold = $20K taxable income
Sandy: $190K – $200K threshold = zero taxable income
The tax rate is 5% of any amount of taxable income. This means that if Chris and Sandy are married, they’ll owe $500 in state income tax. If Chris and Sandy are in a domestic partnership, they’ll collectively owe $1000 in state income tax (specifically, through Chris).
You can run this simulation with any amount of money, and the gay couple will always pay higher taxes (assuming that someone is above the $200K limit). The only exception is when both people have exactly the same income. E.g., Chris earns $250K, and Sandy earns $250K. Then, they will owe taxes on $100K of taxable income regardless:
Married: ($250K + $250K) – $400K threshold = $100K taxable income
DP: ($250K – $200K threshold) + ($250K – $200K threshold) = $100K in taxable income
However, as long as the two people in a relationship have different incomes, the gay couple will be worse off in terms of taxes. There tax penalty is greater when there’s a larger income difference between the two wage earners (say, $350K + 60K). However, the penalty’s still there even when the people have similar incomes (like your hypo of $220K + $190K).
@13 You understand how the tax works, but you’re not understanding the flaw in 1077’s language. Say Joe makes $250k and his domestic partner Bob makes $50k. If their domestic partnership were treated exactly like a marriage, their combined $300k income would be less than the $400k threshold for married couples, meaning they would not have to pay the high earner’s income tax. But since the langauge fails to account for domestic partnerships, they are both essentially treated as single people and Joe has to pay the high earner’s income tax on his $250k income.
I honestly can’t help but wonder if this “flaw” is actually part of a larger plan to get same-sex marriage legalized in WA. However, I worry that wealthy conservatives will challenge the constitutionality of the bill on the basis that it discriminates against domestic partners (remember, the elderly are also eligible for domestic partnerships). Hopefully the courts will then simply revise the language of 1077 to include DPs instead of throwing it out altogether.
Note that Lonnie Lopez is the person who filed the paperwork with the Secretary of State. According to his website bio, he’s a paralegal at a smaller law firm. I doubt that he’s personally responsible for having drafted this bill himself.
It’s possible that the organizers assumed that this initiatives would include domestic partnerships because of R-71, but didn’t pay enough attention to the details. Either way, it’s unfortunate that they made this mistake.
How heterosexually privileged of you. But what am I thinking – straight people can ALWAYS be trusted to clean up their anti-gay messes. That’s why we don’t have any anti-gay DOMAs or DADT on the books anymore. Oh wait.
I can’t tell you how obnoxious it is to hear that it’s ok with you that my sliver of equality is now in peril and it’s just too damn inconvenient for you to bother with. Excuse me for living.
36th Dem spews:
The person responsible for the drafting error is failed State Legislative candidate John Burbank. He is the leader of the group and Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI).
Hey John… good luck ever getting an endorsement from the GLBT community if you decide to run again. We have one chance to get this right, and so far you have really mucked this up.