Guest Blogger

Why I am withholding federal taxes

Filed By Guest Blogger | October 18, 2008 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Charles Merrill, Evangeline Johnson, Merill Lynch, refusing to pay federal taxes, tax, tax evasion

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Charles Merrill, the cousin of the founder of Merrill Lynch, was previously married to the late Evangeline Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress. He has refused to pay federal taxes, protesting marriage equality. Charles is a gay activist, artist and author.

CharlesMerrill.jpgGay people have been silent about taxation without representation for too long. If any straight conservative blowhards were experiencing this problem that gay people have long endured, Washington would be on fire with cries of "God, Guns, and Guts!"

We LGBT's can get legally married in California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Even so, we do not get the Federal tax benefits, the important ones, because of DOMA.

DOMA's "one man and one woman" is really based on religion. DOMA attempts to coerce people into accepting the traditional, religious conception that homosexuality is immoral - contrary to what other religious view holds.

On its face, DOMA does not mention religion. A careful examination of the legislative history surrounding DOMA leads to the conclusion that it is undeniable motivated by a religious purpose.

First, the Report of the Judiciary Committee states that DOMA "entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality." Moreover, many co-sponsors of DOMA in both the House and the Senate referred to religious beliefs in their statements arguing for the bill's passage.

Representative Hutchinson stated his belief "that marriage is a covenant established by God wherein one man and one woman are united for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family."

Representative Talent noted that "the institution of marriage is not a creation of the State. It is older than the government, older than the Union, older than the Western tradition of political democracy from which our Republic springs, and I think it is deeply rooted in the basic precepts of our civilization."

And one cannot forget Senator Byrd's recitations from the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Saint Mark in the midst of his argument that "thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teachings leave absolutely no doubt as to the sanctity, purpose, and reason for the union of man and woman."

The purported secular goals of DOMA are nothing more than a sham to cover the true religious purposes of the law. First, the Judiciary Committee stated that DOMA advances the government's "interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it (the government) has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing." However, there was no evidence presented which would support a connection between heterosexual-only marriage and responsible child-rearing practices.

Gender neutral married couples in CA, CT, and MA where marriage is legal, should have the same rights and benefits under the IRS tax code as married heterosexual couples in those states.

I am a widower, and was married to a woman for 23 years. She left me her estate tax-free under Federal law. The law states that the spouse of a married couple is automatically given that right.

I am now 74 and want to leave my estate to Kevin, my legally married California husband, when I am deceased.. Under current law, Kevin would have to pay estate taxes of almost 50%. That is unfair, discriminatory, in violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause (separation of church and state) and the reason I am protesting.

Would my late wife's family approve of leaving the estate that I inherited to a man ? Yes. They sent me a Tiffany clock as a wedding present and expressed in a note that they were happy I had found another person to love.

My trial is set in the US Tax Court in San Diego for next year. Your moral support and thoughts will be appreciated.

The opinions of Elizabeth McDonald (Gay Taxation Without Representation) and Tanya Marie Johnson (The Defense of Marriage Act And the Establishment Clause) contributed to this article.


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 18, 2008 11:33 AM

Mr. Merrill,

What a pleasure to see you in a square that holds such wonderful memories for me. I appreciate your stand which could well force an irresistible collision of federal and state laws. I trust you are getting adequate representation and I send every good wish moral support and positive thoughts to you.

I would like to add how much I appreciate your artwork.

Scott Kaiser Scott Kaiser | October 18, 2008 1:01 PM

Wow. Great post. I've often told people the only time it *really* bothers me that I can't marry my partner of over twelve years is when it comes time to pay taxes and can't file jointly. Otherwise I don't need the government to tell me whether or not my relationship with him is valid or not.

(For the record though I strongly believe in marriage equality and will fight for it.)

Thanks Robert and Scott for your comments. The following is another case scenario involving 401(k) benefits.

Michelle and Sarah have been in a committed relationship for over 10 years. They have registered as domestic partners under the laws of the District of Columbia. Throughout their relationship, they have taken every legal step available to formalize their relationship and protect themselves, legally and financially as domestic partners. Michelle participated in her employer’s 401(k) retirement plans, naming Sarah as the primary beneficiary. Sarah purchased an individual retirement account (IRA). While driving to her job, Michelle is killed in a car accident. Sarah does not have the option to transfer Michelle’s 401(k) funds into her existing IRA because, under current law, only a “spouse” may roll over 401(k) and inherited IRA plans upon the death of a plan participant. Sarah must then take the entire proceeds of the inherited 401(k) in a lump sum and pay taxes on them immediately at a much higher rate, rather than rolling it over into her own name tax free as a surviving spouse can do.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 18, 2008 3:04 PM

Mr. Merrill, you are courageous and absolutely right to protest DOMA on these grounds. If I can do anything to support your case in San Diego, please let me know.

Brynn,
Thank you so much. Thet would be helpful and maybe a visit if the judge throws me in prison along with horny young skinhead muscle guys with tatooes. (OOps. wish I hadn't said that..Wink)

So, the only real reason about crying about "Taxation without Representation" is DOMA? You're upset that because you can't get married in all 50 states and have federal benefits? It's the ONLY reason for being pissed?

Forgive me, Charles, but I don't see this article as being relevant to ALL LGBT people. Not all LGBT people care about marriage, even though we will always fight along side those who do care. What about employment rights for all? What about being added to hate crimes legislation? What about immigration rights? What about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? What about adoption rights?

Hell, there is a whole shit-load of issues to be upset about when it comes to taxation without representation. DOMA don't even make it on the radar for some people, especially those who would like to be employed and have a table to put food on. We are being screwed left and right and to be upset about DOMA only is being a bit selfish. Sorry.

Monica
Contrary to what you may think, I am not the good Wizard on a mountain top waving a wand fixing every injustice on earth, even though I would like to. BTW Immigration is a Federal issue, so again I would be fighting DOMA in order for the Federal government to recognize my marriage to a non-citizen that would be automatically granted to married heterosexuals. Fighting DOMA and Separation of Church and State is a constitutional issue and has an effect on all the other LGBT issues, like a row of dominos.

A good Wizard would be nice right about now. Ah, but this Hobbit is worried about people being able to work and feed themselves and their families. I live in Hobbitown, GA and the state government would never pass an employment protection bill for LGBT people, even if it had a majority of Democrats in both houses and a Democratic Governor. Too many of them would be Blue-Dog Democrats. (Think "Zell Miller.")

So, our only hope is on the federal level, with a law that spells out the protection in detail so the bigots in this state aren't given any wiggle room. Repealing DOMA would not do a damn thing in protecting the employment of LGBT people in Georgia. On the marriage subject, we have a constitutional amendment, so repealing DOMA won't even help us with marriage rights, and could even be used to supress any attempt of the federal government mandating employment protection in our state.

Well, Monica does have a point considering that many T people and all B people can get married in any state they want to now.

The purported secular goals of DOMA are nothing more than a sham to cover the true religious purposes of the law.

I think it's also a mistake for the left to assume that the law was passed based on sincere religious convictions. The Congresscritters who voted for it wanted political support, the religious leaders who pushed for it were building support for a conservative movement that ultimately is about eliminating the capital gains tax and the estate tax for the benefit of the extremely wealthy....

Oops.

But, my point is, I think that the assumption that normal people sit down, read the Bible, and come to the thoughtful, dispassionate opinion that their religion prohibits homosexuality or same-sex relationships is giving the Religious Right far too much credit. It's not about religion - it's about power.

Now, rumor is that you weren't withholding taxes, but that you were just refusing to file, thus making you pay more in actual dollars. Is that true?

Not filing tax forms is analagous with witholding taxes. The money is available for the IRS as soon as we get the same rights as other couples. If the judge decides not to allow us these rights, they I am willing to die in prison. I want to pay taxes but only as a full citizen of the U.S.A.
Bi's and T's can only legally marry in all states if the opposite sex from their spouse, they can't marry if they are of the same sex.
Don't paint me as a conservative and avoiding taxes. I am neither and have been a Democrat all my life. It runs in the family.

Are you doing something like the pre-payment of taxes so you can estimate how much you'd owe and then refuse to file the paperwork? Or is the money in a private trust waiting to be paid to the Gov? Just curious. :)

Bil
I have not actually figured out how much I owe the goverment. I was day trading on Fidelty, and the amount of trades in 2004 amounted to $3 million. I had gains and losses and did not file. My losses would have elimated any gains because some of the companies I invested in went down. They claim I owe over Six million now including their computed interest for 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. Several weeks ago they sent me a form to apply for the "Stimulus Tax Rebate". A bunch of screwball civil servants. They are inept and I would say somewhat insane. No one is in control of the Federal Government and it is falling apart, not unlike everything else in government. The roller coaster ride from here will be interesting.

That would be straight trans people, and even they cannot get married in all of the country.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 19, 2008 10:39 PM

many T people and all B people can get married in any state they want to now.

Alex, did you actually write that?!

First, as a bi-transman, I may be able to marry a woman partner, but what if I wanted to marry a guy?

Also, as I've said here on more than one occasion, I may be able to marry a woman but if anyone--say, her family, wanting an inheritance or custody of children--decided to question the legality of that marriage, I'd find myself in court facing an expensive, lengthy, and uncertain court battle.

Marriage equality IS a trans issue.

"I think it's also a mistake for the left to assume that the law was passed based on sincere religious convictions."

If you saw the Rick Warren debate you would know that the prevailing view in both the House and Senate was based on religion. Both Senators, from the most liberal Obama, and conservative McCain. Obama said "god was in the mix" when asked about his marriage, and I forgot what McCain said, but something equally as dumb. There was no dialogue about eliminating the capital gains tax, or is there language to that effect in DOMA. You are projecting issues that simply are not pertaining to denying LGBT constitutional rights.

I believe TBP contributor Marla Stevens is also having her own tax protest. She and her partner were married in Canada and I remember she was protesting right after that. I'm not sure if she still is or not.

I wish her well. After all the capital gains minus the losses I owe the government about $200.00. It is very amusing. What a bunch of dumb asses, and they targeted me with wiretaps under the Patriot Act.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 19, 2008 8:40 AM

Or if I may expand on your friend below. Don't let the worms annoy you on any side of this thread. They will get their chance at us later any way. Odd to think of the cemetery as someone else's box lunch isn't it? When you visit Thailand again let me know and we will go to the Jim Thompson museum.

Good for you Charles. I think what you are doing is bold and daring. It takes courage to take a stand and people should applaud your stand.

These people who are whining about your protest are just absurd. Some people have way too much time on their hands.

Thank you Wayne.
Your support means alot to me.
Charles

The fight for same sex marriage is not the first concern of most LGBT folks. It’s a battle that’s been forced on us by the two centrist parties. They recognized that our emancipation from bigotry was a direct challenge to their methods of preserving the property of the corporate rich, that swarm of parasites who run this country by their ownership of the two parties.

That’s why it’s critical to give all out support to the groups defending same sex marriage in Arizona, California and Florida. We didn’t choose the fight but we have to defend ourselves. Losing would be a big blow.

If some one has the money to hire lawyers and accountants by the dozen then I suppose a tax protest is a reasonable thing, but for most of us it’s an invitation to disaster.

Most of the benefits of same sex marriage are financial and that’s why some GLBT folks like it. But given the terrible times we’re in for because Obama’s party rammed through Bush’s laws nearly doubling the national debt and choking the economy to death, I think we should amend the tax and inheritance laws to include a 100% tax on incomes and inheritances over $500,000.00. Somebody has to pay the debts of the rich and it might as well be them. It certainly wasn’t fair for Bush and Obama to put them on our backs.


Bill Perdue
That's baloney. You must be a single gay man. Gay Marriage is the number one topic in California and older gay married couples care deeply about the 1,136 federal benefits we are denied.. I don't have lawyers working on this case due to the fact they would want me to settle, pay the tax and stick me for a huge bill. I am not going to settle with the IRS. I am in this protest against discrimination all the way alone, and if it means prison, then so be it. It's the principle involved that we are being treated differently than other citizens. This is wrong.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 19, 2008 2:41 PM

Charles Merrill: as is the case for millions of us I'm not married and I'm not single.

If you don't have lawyers I hope it works out for you. I still think it's a risky form of protest unless it'd done massively.

Same sex marraige is rightly important in California becasue it's under attack, which is what I've consistently said. But even where it's legal it's not widely made use of.

Many other parts of our agenda, hate crimes, hate speech and anti-discriminaiton measures, including repealing Clinton's bigoted DADT will impact more of us than same sex marriage.

I doubt the federal government will give a rat's patootie about our employment, adoption, hate crimes, or anything before it begins to care about our FAMILY and treat our FAMILY with the same civility (at least legally) that it treats heterosexually-identified families.

I sincerely hope PROP 8 fails miserably.

BUT - if it DOES passes, is everyone prepared to spend another ba-zillion dollars on PR and possibly wait 20-30 years to "win" equality in CA?

AND - if it does NOT pass, which state will we focus on next so we can spend another ba-zillion dollars to purchase civil rights?

I know I am virtually alone here (except for Charles Merrill and his partner), but I think all of you are insane.

Truly crazy....one step away from writing on the wall with your feces crazy.

Because if ALL of us truly believed we WERE equal, we would not be so patient as tax-payers and U.S. citizens. We'd simply KNOW we ARE equal, and refuse to pay into a system that not only denies our familes civil marriage but doesn't even acknowledge our existence (wait for the 2010 census).

I'm 43, and I will NOT wait until I'm 73 for fair and equal treatment. It's OK for the country at large to be ignorant, bigoted, mid-guided, and mid-informed. But that's not my fault. So until people GROW UP and show my family the same "civil" respect heterosexually-identified families are given, I owe this country and the IRS nothing.

How many times do I need to say this?

TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION

Right on John. You are very passionate about having the same rights as others, and rightly so. Our detractors are probably guys who aren't married and spend alot of times in bars and sex clubs. They wouldn't like the intimacy of a marriage. Hey, to each his own. But let's test the Constitution of equality for all. Why not us, no matter what others may think about us.

Just to add to my post above, in America:

Family is Home.
Home is where the Heart is.
There's No Place Like Home.
Home Sweet Home.

If I do not VALUE YOU or YOUR WORTH as a human being, nor do I value your Family and Children and their worth as Human Beings (some LGBTI do have children), why in the WORLD would I think you deserve adoption rights, hate crime protection, a modicum of respect in the military,
or discrimination protection in your job? You're practically SUB-HUMAN by most legal standards. Yet we politely submit to an internal revenue service and thereby sanction the very discrimination we whine about.

We need to first BELIEVE we do deserve the civil rights we fantasize about, then maybe we will ACT in a way that demonstartes that belief. Right now we have state-by-state public relations campaigns and fundraisers, gambling we will purchase enough PR to "win" equality and CIVIL rights. Evan Wolson predicts 30 years for federal marriage equality; 30 years of fundraisers?!

My own tax protest is simply because I cannot continue justifying tax-compliance as a SUB-American. If every LGBTI decides to join Charles and I, dandy, but I'm doing it because I have HAD ENOUGH.

In business and personal life, one adage is "You Teach People How To Treat You".

Tax-Compliance says "It's OK to be treated as a SUB-American".

Robert Ganshorn | October 19, 2008 10:42 PM

You have had no conversations with the ACLU about this? They are not known for settling and surely they should see the value of this precedent. I would advise against acting as your own council most strenuously. I despair for your chances without it. Some convenient procedural dodge will be used and your argument will not be heard. After all, these are courts, and Justice remains blind.

Of course I am aware of ACLU tendency to champion the civil liberties of the truly downtrodden, but this rises to the level of an actual "class action" that could alter federal law forever. I have often said that the "holy grail" of American rights has little to do with states, who usually oppress them, and everything to do with federal recognition of alternative families.

Have good heart brave prince.

Robert,
I haven't contacted the ACLU as I am more interested in the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They have succeeded in a number of First Amendment Establishment Clause cases.
I am negotiating with them and I will keep you posted. Thank you for your kind thoughts. Next Spring is a long time off. We will see what happens to shape world events.

Thanks Jimmy. I want to pay taxes, just want the same rights and benefits as other taxpayers. I liked Ron Paul's FAIR TAX. No special breaks for the very wealthy.