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Feeling visible: filing together as a married lesbian couple should

kirsten-maria-june-lesbian-wedding-decatur

It’s tax day, and I’m feeling visible, which is a pretty damn spectacular feeling for someone who has felt invisible in her country for the past five years of being married to the woman I love. We have been together for 10 years, married for five, and, in the legal eyes of New York and every other state that recognizes marriage equality, we’ve been legally married for almost three years.

I can’t say I love tax day now. Who loves tax day besides the IRS and the accountants who make a steal of a living off of us? Nobody else! But this year, my wife and I were able to file our federal taxes together. It was huge! A victory! I feel accomplished and validated and recognized—our love is real, it is tender, it is meaningful. We make our home together. We’ve made two children together. We are in love and, most of the time, we like each other, too.

Last year, in June 2013, SCOTUS declared that the federal government would recognize our marriage if we had been issued a legally recognized marriage certificate. My wife and I, who live in Georgia, had flown to New York in August 2011, to become legal spouses. What did that mean for us as Georgians and Americans? Nothing on a technical level. Not on the surface, at least. But it recorded our relationship and commitment to each other in a legal form that suddenly was no longer discriminatory. But more than that, it enabled us to be seen as a valid couple by society at large.

Every time I am able to tell a Georgia resident that I have a wife—and they pause but say nothing or they look me square in the eye and say, “Is that legal now?” I am afforded an opportunity to gracefully share a learning experience that my wife and I are just the same as that person and their spouse, and we deserve equal marriage rights.

maria-kirsten-lesbian-legal-marriageOftentimes, nothing more is said. It’s not needed. No one wants to be lectured to. Not my 3-year-old sons, and not the 40-year-old cashier at my grocery store who just asked me if one of my children looks like his daddy. I take a more vocal stand when I can, going on CNN to discuss marriage equality, writing letters to my senators, reporting on marriage equality news and showcasing same-sex weddings in our magazine, giving visibility to lesbian, gay, trans and queer couples. But in my day-to-day life outside of Equally Wed, my stand is subtle yet strong: I live my love out loud. Even in Georgia, where our marriage is not recognized in the slightest bit.

Thank goodness we were able to both become legal parents of the children we created and are raising with love and devotion. We took great legal and financial measures to ensure that we have all the legal powers we need to make decisions for each other and our children should we ever need to. But if Maria and I were able to have marriage equality in Georgia, we wouldn’t have to get those documents drawn up or shell out thousands of dollars to acquire the protections our straight neighbors are afforded the moment they sign their marriage licenses. And there are many counties in this state where we dare not travel without these papers.

It is my sincere hope that we will have a bill for marriage equality in Georgia drafted soon (Karla Drenner, I’m looking at you, dear). The state’s constitution explicitly banned gays and lesbians from legally marrying in Georgia in 1996. Because it wasn’t enough to just not allow it before then. They had to get it written into their books, dammit. Before the crazy gays took over marriage and burned their traditions of love and long-lasting commitment to the ground! We make up less than 4 percent of the population of this country, and even if we were larger in number, I just cannot understand the threat to humanity of letting us marry each other. For the love, it’s not like we’re asking for the legal rights to forcing a straight person to be married to us. Oh, I could go on and on. But one day soon, I hope we do have countrywide marriage equality. I am so thankful to the work that Freedom to Marry, the HRC and many other organizations are doing on a national level, and that Georgia Equality is doing on a state level. To that end, Georgia Equality has set up a petition for Georgia to allow legally married same-sex couples to file state taxes together. If you’re a tax payer in Georgia, we could use your voice. Please add your name to it!

We have much work to do, but I am reveling in the victory of filing our federal taxes together. Commence happy dancing feet!

Photos: Our Labor of Love, Entwined Studio

This article was first published on equallywed.com on April 15, 2014.