Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dying while gay in Kentucky

(Part three of "Countdown to a wedding")

Today our minister included us during the Prayers of the People.  He was referring to us, specifically, and to gay people who are getting married in Washington, in general.  He spoke of our "hopes of a married life together that is recognized by the state."  

For years, Lynne and I scoffed at the necessity of our relationship being recognized by the state.  We were proud that we continued to be together because we wanted to be together, not because we had a legally binding contract.  As we all have observed, a legally binding marriage does not guarantee a successful long lasting relationship.  I have lots of romantic things to say (stay tuned) about getting legally married, but right now I want to talk financial privileges.

Among the perks that a legally binding marriage does give:  access to the partner's health insurance, for one,  and exemption from inheritance tax, for another.  Seven states, including Kentucky, imposes a "death" tax of up to 16% on inherited assets and wealth.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky exempts close family members, such as the surviving spouse, from the tax. The law was not written to discriminate against gay people, but because the state of Kentucky (like five of the other states with Inheritance Taxes) does not recognize or allow gay marriages, the law does discriminate against gay people.

At present, when one person in a gay couple in Kentucky dies, the surviving spouse will have to pay 6 -16% of the assets of the other spouse, whether they are jointly owned or not, to the Department of Revenue of the state of Kentucky.  The assets that are taxed includes your house, bank accounts, trusts, retirement accounts and cars.  The details are on this web page:  As long as gay couples are considered unrelated persons by the state, we do not receive the exemptions allowed to married heterosexual couples.  We are grouped in Class C beneficiaries: unrelated heirs.

Of course, 4 - 16% of your assets may be a price you are willing to pay to die as part of a gay couple in the state of Kentucky. Kentucky was my home for 32 years, and migrating to Washington meant leaving behind our best friends, our community, and the unfathomable richness which builds after being in one place for so many years. In exchange, we have found new friends, in a broader supportive community, and started a new chapter in our lives in an area with spectacular natural beauty.  And as of this election, we also have gained the right to marry.

I'm not anticipating mass migration of gay couples out of Kentucky. To spend the final years of your life among your community and family, in the beautiful state that is your home is everyone's dream.  To live out your years right where you are, the place where you have roots, is an unmeasurable gift. The price for lack of recognition of our relationships in Kentucky and four other states is the unfair application of the Inheritance Tax. My wish is that someday, you don't have to pay that price.  Civil marriage matters.

(Coming soon:  What are we going to wear, anyway?)

No comments:

Post a Comment