My birthday is April 15. No one ever forgets my birthday, which is great of course, but it is also a sometimes bittersweet date since April 15 is always—until this year’s anomaly—tax day.
Every year, I, like most other Americans, have dutifully filed my taxes by April 15. I’ve signed my tax return without giving it much thought, until this year.
This year, Sandy and I signed our tax return together. And we filed our federal return as married. Why? Well, because we ARE married. After 15 years together, in July of 2008 we were legally married in California. And it was a blast of a day. We loved it. Our kids, who were 11 and 6 at the time, loved it. And our small gathering of friends and family loved it.
But because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, our marriage is not acknowledged, recognized, or respected by the federal government. It meant a lot to have the opportunity to marry, and after two years of still filing our returns as “single,” thus pretending that our marriage had never happened, I was done lying.
It was actually my colleague, Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, who came up with the idea of “Refuse to Lie,” formally launching an effort to make more visible this erasure of our legal relationships and our complicity in that invisibility. When Nadine mentioned that she and her wife, Andrea, were going to file their taxes as married and she wanted to launch an effort to engage others to do the same if they could, it just felt right. Of course there are risks. Couples could be exposed to additional penalties as well as invasive audits. So doing this is not something anyone should do without some competent advice.
But Sandy and I felt it was right for us. Filing as married means we will pay a lot more in taxes—resulting in a big withdrawal from our very precious savings. Some have said we are wasting our time, and only hurting ourselves. But I don’t see it that way. I feel lucky to have Sandy in my life and privileged to have been able to marry her.
Standing up for our relationship and against the government’s enforced invisibility of who we are to each other seems, for me, not only right, but essential.