The tea-party movement is alive and well, and has expanded from just protesting the stimulus and health-care bills before Congress to all forms of government intervention in the lives of Americans. Some of the tea party websites have various propositions that people can vote on, including getting rid of Medicare. Movement organizers have put out a manifesto in an attempt to leave their stamp on next year’s mid-term elections. More power to them. Grass-roots movements are the American way. It is great that citizens feel so moved by their own concerns and the acts of their government that they want to get involved.
One of the main tea party websites says that their impetus for beginning the movement was government spending and taxation. They say that their core values are “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets.” They support states’ rights for those areas not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Their manifesto says they support individual liberty within the confines of the law.
This is all well and good except when it comes to a relatively unprotected class of American citizens – those folks who are gay and lesbian. It is amazing how many tea partiers I have spoken to who believe in opposing gay marriage as well as gay foster parents and families.
Their arguments are based on their religious views and their sense of “morality,” which is completely contrary to their views about limited government and taxation. It is true that states have traditionally managed the affairs of the family, from regulating marriage to deciding matters of adoption and foster care. However, when states defined marriage as being only between members of the same race it was clear that the states were carrying out a racist policy. In this century, it is hard to believe that those kinds of laws even existed.
It is the same situation with children in foster care. Some states keep children in group homes rather than letting them be cared for by gay people who have a desire and ability to care for them. I know two couples caring for foster children in states that allow gay foster parents. One set of gay parents has been caring for two boys since their mother had the children taken away from her almost 12 years ago. They have a shared care arrangement with the extended family so the boys have some contact with the healthier members of the family of origin. The other foster family I know cares for a 13-year-old girl whose father is in jail. After a trial back at the biological mother’s house, the girl is now back with them. The mother, a drug addict, left the 13-year-old girl at home alone for 24 hours while she went out with her current boyfriend.
The argument could be made that these are states’ decisions to make and that certain states may decide to have children grow up in group homes rather than have them live with a gay family. Two issues surface here: First, is it good for children to be brought up in group homes? Second, while some states may offer a way for two same-sex parents to recoup some of the expenses of raising children, the federal government does not.
In an investigative piece in Saturday’s New York Times entitled, “The costs of being a gay couple,” journalists Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber analyzed the numbers and found that over a lifetime the costs of being a gay couple varied from $41,196 to $467,562. Their study assumed that the couple would be raising two children.
Most heterosexual married couples do not realize that there are tons of federal benefits for couples that are married and have children. Yes there is a marriage penalty in certain tax brackets, but there is a marriage tax advantage in other tax brackets. These benefits range from the federal taxes that gay people pay on domestic partner health benefits to a lack of social security benefits or the death benefit if one of the partners dies early. Certainly, any children of the partners are not entitled to the death benefit either. From taxes from a transfer of property, such as a home or apartment, to the spousal benefit of an IRA, gay people are paying taxes that heterosexual couples don’t. These are just some of the glaring examples of inequities.
If the tea party movement is really interested in limited government and fairness, it should list giving gay people a fair shake in their concerns over taxation. It would send a real message to the rest of America that these folks are concerned about taxation for all Americans, and not just themselves.