How DOMA is Still Screwing Up Your TurboTaxes, Health Insurance, Etc.

Hello, DOMA still sucks.

I think I’ve already written about 3,000 pieces on marriage equality since starting out at Autostraddle a month or so ago and even though I usually talk about girls laying in the grass together, we all know that marriage equality is about love and kittens but also about money, hospital visits, having a family and so forth and those are the things we’re still sorting out.

Now that Obama’s refused to defend DOMA, a lot of pressing issues are sort of in limbo. Boehner has said that the House will defend DOMA, but in a recent panel discussion, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, at a panel discussion, said she thinks the GOP is divided on whether or not to defend DOMA:

Baldwin said the fact that House Speaker John Boehner decided against taking a floor vote on whether to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bans federal recognition of the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, now that President Barack Obama won’t, demonstrates that the GOP is divided on the issue.

“They had two paths they could take: They could bring a resolution to the floor directing the general counsel of the House to defend the constitutionality of DOMA, or they could do what they did do which was convene the five top leaders of the House – the three Republicans and two Democrats – and vote to direct the general counsel to defend the constitutionality of DOMA.”

A Human Rights Campaign poll released Tuesday that found 51 percent of American voters are opposed to DOMA, compared to 34 percent that favor it. Yet it still exists. This is confusing and we end up with these weird problems like what just happened with TurboTax. The software program, which has helped countless families manage their taxes while they buy lattes, recently experienced, well, a breakdown. The breakdown was related to the software’s inability to deal with legal gay marriages. It can’t accommodate same-sex couples in the three states where gay people get married and stuff. The response has been a mix between “sorry, we can’t help you right now” and a big ol’ “I told you so” –

The Bay Citizen reported in January that the IRS decision would make filing returns remarkably complicated for gay couples. Tax experts warned that e-filing would not be possible, and the only way to correctly fill out returns would be to hire professional accountants.

Some online tax blogs attacked the experts, calling their concerns misguided, misinformed and alarmist.

The experts were right.

The returns have turned out to be so complex that some San Francisco accountants are charging more than double their normal fee.

So, apparently your marriage being legitimate means that Turbo Tax will be overwhelmed with how attractive y’all were in your matching pink jumpsuits. I was. Or I guess actually, according to this article, “because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS only recognizes heterosexual marriages as legitimate.” So um, a little depressing, but also mostly CONFUSING. Don’t forget that Obama declared DOMA unconstitutional, but now he’s still stuck upholding it until it is repealed. And if you need TurboTax to, well, do your taxes, they recommend you seek professional guidance from a CPA or Enrolled Agent. You should do that, then go out and celebrate your kind of gay rights. Or do that and then move to Canada.

The confusion over DOMA extends past your personal computer, though – it extends over to your insurance, as you probably know. Because of DOMA, insurance benefits are hard to extend to your gay partner when you’re gay, which is confusing:

A federal judge refused Wednesday to order the government to provide insurance benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee in San Francisco, coverage the Obama administration has denied because of a law the president considers unconstitutional.

For example, a Federal Judge in San Francisco this Wednesday refused to order the government to extend insurance benefits to the partner of a longtime lesbian court employee. (Yeah, sounds kind of awkward for your boss to be your judge this time around.) DOMA makes this decision shitty but completely legal. In fact, it makes deciding otherwise a little out of the question:

The employee, Karen Golinski, won a ruling in 2009 from another judge, Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Golinski has worked for nearly two decades.

Kozinski, acting as administrator of the court’s benefits system, said its coverage extends to all employees’ legally married spouses, including Amy Cunninghis, whom Golinski wed in 2008 before California voters banned same-sex marriage.

But the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management refused to comply, saying it was bound by the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law denying federal benefits to same-sex couples.

In conclusion, we’re ready for DOMA to be repealed now, please. Because we don’t have time for this sh*t.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. “In conclusion, we’re ready for DOMA to be repealed now, please. Because we don’t have time for this sh*t.”


  2. My wife & I are married in MA, and I used to do my taxes myself, but now we have my wife’s CPA do our taxes, because it’s all kinds of confusing. When we file our Fed taxes, we have to say we’re single. We include a letter explaining that we do not consider ourselves single, but that DOMA requires us to report ourselves as such. We can file jointly on our state taxes, but then can’t use our Fed tax forms as a reference to file the state tax forms, because they’re separate. All kinds of weird.

    Also, on the insurance front – if I were to cover my wife on my employer-offered benefits, I would pay taxes on the portion that my employer paid to cover my wife. Because that portion counts as a “Taxable Fringe Benefit.” When our CPA found out about this (we’re her first same-sex clients, so we’re her demonstration gay people), she said it was “a raw deal” and that she couldn’t say what she really thought. She also said that, for comparison’s sake, “Taxable Fringe Benefits” are things like getting to use the company car on personal time, or having a free gym membership as part of your benefits package. So, yeah, having my wife be on my insurance would be the same as a car. Totally the same thing. We opted for separate insurance, because it came out to be cheaper that way.

    The thing on all of this is that it’s such an f*ing waste of time for everyone involved. You know the IRS has got to do extra work to deal with weirdnesses in gay people’s taxes. The Attorney General of MA sued the federal government over the extra burden that DOMA places on states that do allow gay marriage. And we have way more important stuff to work on in the world – climate change, hunger, war, education, health care, etc. Marriage equality is a simple thing that could be gotten done with quickly and out of the way of larger issues, hey?

  3. Thanks for this. I follow DOMA but was not aware of the Turbo Tax issues, although I knew of a number of the financial inequities and quirks.

    Its a wonderful reminder that true equality is both legal and financial. The financial inequities speak volumes to how much we need to go. Reminds me of the Dylan line: “money doesn’t talk, it swears”……


  4. People should never forget that real health depends how well you take care of yourself and not what health insurance you carry but I agree health insurance is important for every one. Search “Wise Medical Insurance” or online for dollar a day insurance plans.

  5. In CA, the domestic partnership forms you get from the county clerk has an actual disclaimer on it that goes over everything you have to fill out just to be able to give your partner hospital visitation benefits which had been oblivious to me. Health insurance is a joke. My wife is on my health insurance plan and it costs more money to have us both on one plan than us both paying separately which we opted out of doing because it doesn’t feel like something you should do after you have gotten married. This whole thing really irritates me because marriage is supposed to be about blending two lives together and getting the benefits of taxes, health insurance and all the other stuff. I never actually realized how different it is until now and it’s sad and disheartening.

  6. Hey Carmen, Luiza here! :)

    Thanks for another great article on DOMA! I love how political AS has gotten in the past year.

    I would add that another shitty thing about DOMA that is often not talked about is its effects on bi-national LGBT couples, such as my partner and myself. Because of DOMA people like us basically have to make the ridiculous choice between living in the US or staying together, since the law prohibits marriage from being recognized for all immigration purposes. Not only am I constantly scared of not being allowed into the US, but moving to Canada seems everyday more as less of a choice and more of a necessity.

    I know AS has written about this a couple of times, but I would love for it go get more coverage on our little but powerful queer community.

    • Yes! I consider my partner and I lucky that the binationality went the other way – I was able to get my permanent residency in Australia because my partner is an Australian citizen.

  7. Thanks for a great article! This situation with federal versus state taxes is a whole mess of confusing and weird… I agree. Time for a repeal.

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