Non-violent civil disobedience has long been a route to change an unjust law. Refuse To Lie is a grassroots movement of same-sex legally married couples who have been told that because of DOMA — the federal Defense of Marriage Act — they must file their federal taxes as “single.” With three weeks to tax day, they are On Our Radar.
It’s tax time. It is not necessary to remind me. I have made three appointments with myself to sit down at the computer with my file of necessary documents and get it behind me. True, I have let each of those target dates slip, but that’s mostly because I have not collected the documents that belong in that file. I’m in need of motivation – like the promise of a big refund. I’m almost certain that would work! But alas, as I am not in the coveted 15% Mitt Romney tax bracket, I suspect my motivation will arrive when the calendar announces it’s April.
Though the “when” I’ll file is still hazy, the “how” I’ll file is not. I’ll check the single box. I’ll claim 0 dependents. (Though every year Puck and I console each other that Beagle-Americans aren’t deductible.) I’ll state my income as honestly as I can. I won’t try to deduct, for a second time, that new fuel-efficient furnace I bought last year. And when I come to the end of the IRS 1040 form, and it says this:
“Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true and complete.”
I will sign my name knowing I will sleep well that night, unconcerned about audits or pangs of conscience. I have told the truth. Not so for thousands of gay and lesbian Americans, because the Federal government instructs them to lie.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) proclaimed that the Federal government recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman. That means the IRS does not allow tax returns from married same-sex couples. They are instructed to file as single. And when they get to the part where they have to sign their name to verify that the information they supplied is true under penalty of perjury…
What do they do?
Some choose to sign. It is the law. I don’t think many would fault that choice. Others take a more practical approach and opt for whichever designation gives them the bigger return. As Americans, a country with an entire industry dedicated to finding tax loopholes, I understand that decision too. But more and more couples are choosing to use their 1040 form as a protest to DOMA. They don’t want to sign their name to a lie. They don’t want to disavow their spouse. They don’t want to deny the victory of being married after years, sometimes decades, of fighting for that right. It’s hard not to cheer when Rocky takes on the IRS.
Nadine Smith, the director of Equality Florida is one of those who objected as a matter of conscience. “We are not going to treat our marriages like they don’t matter.” says Smith. To that end, in 2011 she started an on-line “support group” for others who feel the same way.
“Taking a principled stand is not without risk,” warns the Refuse to Lie home page. “This website is intended to be a resource to all those who decide to refuse to lie.”
The Refuse to Lie website allows people in same-sex marriages to exchange information and share their thoughts. Many choose to relate how they reached their personal decision about which way to file. There’s also a section devoted to tax tips for same-sex couples and an archive of relevant articles.
Make no mistake, there was an elegant solution the government could have taken to avoid this problem: a check box on the IRS form with the designation Single or Filing Under DOMA. That, and an instruction for those filing under DOMA to follow the instructions for single taxpayers, would have been all that was needed to allow the Federal Government to exact their pound of flesh from the same-sex couples DOMA was meant to insult, and for the signers to maintain their integrity.
My apologies to the reader. DOMA and the word “integrity” should never be used in the same paragraph,
So are they lawbreaking troublemakers or principled protesters? I will let you make your own call. But today, their dilemma, to lie or to Refuse to Lie is On Our Radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Follow me on Twitter at @uncucumbered.
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