Moose (from the living room couch, with the Sunday Post spread out in her lap): Goodness, I am reading the most horrible story!
Goose (from the kitchen, with the coffee pot in her hand): Really, honey? What's it about?
Moose (wishing the coffee were ready already): Oh, it's just awful! It's about attacks on gays!
Goose (with her hand on the button of the coffee grinder): A tax on gays???
Moose (over the sound of the coffee grinder): Yes, attacks on gays. You just can't believe how vicious, how terrible --
Goose (angrily banging on the coffee grinder): And how insane! Who would ever come out if they knew they would have to pay a tax?
Moose (perplexed): Wha-a-a?
Spike (licking himself in a pool of light in the middle of the living room floor): Smile
Goose (storming into the living room, coffee pot in hand): Yes! A tax on gays! Who would pay such a tax? Who would propose such a tax? Has this country completely lost its mind?
Moose (now grateful she does not have a cup of coffee in her hand, realizing she would spill it as she falls off the couch laughing hysterically): Yes, dear, the country has completely lost its mind, but I'm not talking about a tax on gays. I'm talking about attacks on gays -- You know, baseball bats, beatings, violent homophobia.
Goose (pausing, mid-rant): O-h-h-h-h, attacks on gays. Well, that's terrible, too.
(Another pause, followed by explosions of laughter, followed by repeated cries of "attacks on gays?" and "a tax on gays!" and a lengthy discussion of the many forms of violence aimed at gay people and other minority groups, followed, at last, by coffee. Meanwhile, the cats went on licking themselves and feeling superior to a species hopelessly dependent on something as slippery and strange as language as a means of communication.)
Why do I offer up this tale of homophones and homophobes to brighten up your Saturday? Well, the moms and other queer Marylanders are still hurting from this week's ruling by the state's Court of Appeals upholding a ban on same-sex marriage. (Wa Po finally had an editorial on the decision this morning, urging Governor Martin O'Malley and the legislature to accept the court's invitation to address the matter of relationship inequality legislatively rather than judicially. Good idea, though Roxie's World is opposed to any compromise that offers same-sex couples anything less than the full panoply of rights and benefits that go along with civil marriage.) I thought a funny reminiscence might help ease the pain, but it also sets me up to offer one of those consoling, glass-half-full stories I like to pass along to readers who have a tough time seeing the silver linings in the gray clouds.
So, call this story "The Upside of Discrimination," or, at long last, "A Tax on Straights."
The legions of my loyal fans who do not live in Maryland may not be aware that the state is trying to figure out how to plug a $1.7 billion hole in its budget. Our telegenic Irish rocker Dem gov Martin O'Malley is launching a series of tax and budget proposals aimed at addressing the problem. Among them is a plan to revamp the state's income tax brackets. (Don't nod off on me, kids. I know tax policy isn't as entertaining as, say, roving bands of pistol-packing lesbians, but this is important.) The plan aims to make the income tax more progressive by adding two new brackets at the upper end of the income spectrum. Under the state's current tax structure, everyone with a taxable income of $3000 or more pays the same top rate of 4.75%. Here's how Wa Po explains the new brackets O'Malley is proposing:
A 6 percent bracket would be applied to single filers with a taxable income of $150,000 or more and to married couples filing jointly with a taxable income of $200,000 or more. A 6.5 percent bracket would be applied to all filers with $500,000 or more in taxable income. Taxable income refers to a filer's income less certain deductions and exemptions allowed by the government.And here's a pretty graphic from the Post comparing the current and proposed brackets:
Clearly, friends, it pays to be gay. Why? Well, if my moms were married and filing jointly, their taxable income would be darn close to the $200,000 threshold of the 6 percent bracket. (Remember that "taxable income" is income minus exemptions and deductions allowed by the government.) As single filers (and humble state employees) legally enjoined from marrying, however, they are well below the $150,000 threshold for the 6 percent bracket. In other words, Maryland's discrimination against same-sex couples is a great deal for my moms -- and a dumb deal for a state desperately in need of revenue.
My moms, as I have told you many times, are weird. One of the weirdest things about them is that they actually love to pay taxes. They tell pollsters who call our house that they will vote for the candidate who promises to raise taxes in order to fund legitimate public needs -- such as health care, education, transportation, and environmental protection. They would be delighted to help Gov. O'Malley plug the state's revenue hole (Moose wants me to put a finger-in-the-dyke joke here, but I won't do it), but they can't because the state apparently thinks that encouraging heterosexual procreation is more important than balancing its budget. (O'Malley is opposed to same-sex marriage, though he has expressed support for some form of civil union.)
The moral of the story? Discrimination costs -- everybody. In one way or another, all of Maryland's citizens are paying a marriage penalty.
For an example of heart-felt and courageous leadership on the marriage issue, take a look at this video of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders announcing his decision to sign a city council resolution in support of same-sex marriage after having said he could only support civil unions. In an emotional 5-minute statement, Sanders quietly acknowledges that his daughter Lisa and several friends and staff members are gay and that, "in the end I couldn't look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationship, their very lives were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife Ronna." In the end, folks, it really is that simple.