For 17 amazing days gay men and lesbian women crowded in County Clerk offices around the state waiting for hours, or days, just to pay a fee and receive a piece of paper allowing them to get married. It’s a right most of us would argue is pretty fundamental.
Less than three weeks later, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a stay on any additional marriages while the case works its way through the courts, leaving thousands of Utahns in limbo. The state rushed to declare that it will not recognize the marriages, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would.
So what does it all mean to married gay men and lesbian women – especially those with children? I spoke with a couple of folks about what we need to do in this state of wedded limbo.
Just after I originally submitted this column, the State of Utah backed down from its earlier insistence barring same-gender married couples from filing jointly. According to my tax person, “Usually, the information from the Federal return flows down to the State return. Had the state not allowed same-gender married couples to file jointly, ‘dummy’ returns would have had to be completed to obtain the correct information. It would have meant extra work, likely cost more to prepare, and potentially may have had tax consequences.”
It’s important that your tax preparer is aware of the State’s change of heart, and understands that gay married couples have the same filing choices as opposite-sex couples. It’s also probably a good idea to get your taxes done sooner rather than later to avoid any potential issues.
PROTECTING OUR FAMILIES
I also spoke with our financial planners, Jimmie Miller and Trenton Christensen. They have had our financial backs since we returned to Utah.
They suggest lesbian and gay couples do the following:
1. Have an appropriate estate plan at all times. That includes all the documents necessary to protect your own rights/wishes and each other. That may include a will or trust, Advanced Directive, Durable Powers of Attorney, HIPAA releases and Hospital Visitation Authorization. Investing in a qualified attorney is well worth the expense.
2. Get legal documentation allowing noncustodial parents the right to care for and travel with children. Kelly and I are both custodial parents, but because of Utah’s ban on gay and second-parent adoptions, many kids live in families where only one parent is legally recognized. This opens the child to potential legal limbo and worse a great deal of unnecessary emotional trauma should their custodial parent die.
3. Double check all your beneficiaries and ownership designations on your property and accounts (investments, retirement, etc.) dove-tail with your estate plan, and properly reflect your relationship.
4. Be ‘out.’ This is probably more relevant to couples that aren’t married, of course. It’s important to make sure that family, friends, coworkers and neighbors know you are a couple. That way there are no surprises should something happen. It’s also imperative that those people very much understand that, as far as you’re concerned, your spouse (or partner) and your children hold “first place” in your life, and are your primary consideration should anything happen to you.
Finally, Miller adds some really great advice, “When marriage is legal again, if you’re already married or decide to marry, don’t forget the emotional and romantic aspects of marriage. Because although you need to consider the financial and legal side of the institution, the truth is marriage is first and foremost about love.”
And that’s what so many opponents of same-gender marriage seem not to understand.