No time to wait

  • by Mark Farrell
  • Wednesday February 20, 2013
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This term, the United States Supreme Court will hear cases challenging the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 (same-sex marriage ban) and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. As a result, the federal definition of marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman may soon be changing, which would send a rippling effect of equality throughout the country.

However, we do not have a crystal ball, and don't know how the Supreme Court will rule. In the meantime, same-sex couples continue to be discriminated against in a variety of professional and social settings. They continue to be denied economic and tax benefits and rights that married couples are allowed to enjoy while the high court takes its time to deliberate, discuss, and ultimately rule on the cases being considered.

Core among these economic issues is the federal tax levied on same-sex partners who share a common health care plan. Especially over the past few years, maintaining health care insurance has been paramount as individuals and couples alike have struggled in a weakened economy, and the federal government has continued to tax same-sex partners on this coverage. This health care tax has cost same-sex couples thousands of dollars each year, and is a precise example of how a commonly perceived social issue can affect household incomes.

That's why on November 20, 2012, I introduced an ordinance at the Board of Supervisors that would reimburse the federal tax levied on same-sex couples who work for the City and County of San Francisco. Private employers, such as Google, and other municipalities, such as Cambridge, Massachusetts, have already implemented similar programs and laws to offset this discriminatory federal tax. San Francisco should follow suit.

In San Francisco, we have always been a city that has prided itself on being ahead of the curve and one that is willing to tackle difficult and unjust issues in the name of equality and the promise of a better tomorrow for everyone. As a city, we should not stand idle as contributing and equal members of our society continue to be discriminated against purely because of their sexual orientation. With hope but uncertainty that the Supreme Court will find Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional, there is no time to wait while our city's sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters are still being discriminated against.

This legislation is a small but symbolic step toward reversing this discrimination, and continuing to highlight San Francisco's national leadership role fighting for LGBT rights.


Mark Farrell represents District 2 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.