(Wedding) Bands of Brothers
While the rest of the Obama administration was cheering the Supreme Court's overreach on marriage, the IRS's celebration was a little more subdued. Like a lot of government officials, they knew the decision to strike down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act was about to unleash bureaucratic chaos, especially where the state and federal tax codes are concerned.
Two months later, the IRS is proving them right. Although the justices agreed that same-sex couples were entitled to the same federal benefits as married couples, they left it to the government to sort out how. Last week, the IRS took its first stab at putting some teeth behind the Court's ruling, announcing that it would start treating legally "married" same-sex couples the same as heterosexual spouses on tax forms. If only it were that easy. Instead of clearing up confusion, Treasury officials are creating more. After all, 37 states don't recognize same-sex "marriage," and that's already triggering a filing nightmare. In places like Georgia, couples could end up filing as many as three separate tax returns -- one married federal return and two single ones for state taxes.
So while Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew insists his new policy "provides certainty and clear, coherent tax-filing guidance," the end result is anything but. In reality, the administration is creating a two-tiered system that further pits states against the federal government -- and not just in tax policy. The Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services are already grappling with the ruling and what its practical application should be.
Unfortunately, the Court's ambiguity means that every agency is using a different yardstick for defining which benefits apply to whom. Medicare officials are using the "place of celebration" as the marker for benefits, while other agencies -- like the Social Security Administration -- are using a "place of residence" standard for processing benefits. Of course, one of the greatest ironies of the IRS's new policy is that homosexuals are getting a taste of the marriage penalty, which for years has slapped married men and women with a higher tax rate. Now, suddenly, the media agrees with us: the marriage penalty is unfair.
While some of the Left's enthusiasm for June's decision fades in the fog of paperwork, the complexity of the issue is just now hitting states. In some places, like Texas and Mississippi, state military officials are the ones drawing the line over marriage policy. Just yesterday, the Texas National Guard bucked the Pentagon and refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits like ID cards and other privileges. Major General John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, made it clear that the state's marriage law came first. If Guardsmen want to take advantage of the Pentagon's directive, Nichols said they'd have to enroll at a federal installation. In a letter to local service members, he stood his ground on the Texas Constitution, which only recognizes man-woman marriage.
Two doors down in Mississippi, National Guard spokesman Tim Powell held the line on benefits. Like Nichols, he warned that the Magnolia State won't issue benefits applications from "state-owned offices," only offices on federal property. If only every state leader had that kind of backbone! According to the Associated Press, officials in 13 other natural marriage states -- including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan, and Georgia -- said they'll turn their back on state law and embrace the new policy. Discourage your leaders from joining them! Contact your Governors and ask them to resist the Obama administration's latest attack on federalism.
Ravens Crow about ObamaCare
The Baltimore Ravens are tackling a lot more issues than football. In an announcement yesterday, Maryland health officials confirmed that the Super Bowl champs will be cheerleading the President's health care law as part of the campaign to market the state's new insurance exchange. Starting in October, the state -- one of the 13 to set up their own health care exchange -- will use the team's reach across Maryland to rally fans to enlist in the marketplace.
The partnership helps realize Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's dream of teaming up with big-name sports franchises to pitch the law. For the last several months, the HHS chief has been reaching out to some of the world's greatest athletes to get the ball rolling on ObamaCare enrollment. In an interview with reporters over the summer, Sebelius said the agency was talking to a "variety of sports affiliates" about partnerships to promote ObamaCare. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the collaboration comes at a steep price. Then, there's the matter of politicizing the country's biggest sports leagues. If the NBA and NFL agree, it would put their franchises on record supporting one of the most partisan laws in America. And not just any law, but a tax-raising, freedom-crushing, abortion-funding law. These athletes and team owners may be good sports, but when it comes to ObamaCare, they should leave the advocacy to the pros.
Desperate Times Call for Disparate Measures
Catholics in Illinois never have to wonder where Bishop Thomas Paprocki stands on social issues. The outspoken church leader, who heads up an Illinois diocese, sat down with the Washington Times and talked about the ominous times Christians are living in. Like us, Bishop Paprocki has watched the tide of anti-Christian sentiment -- and in some cases, outright animus -- sweep over America, devastating every freedom in its path.
"We [Christians] find ourselves now -- just in this short period of time -- where the early Christians found themselves in the Roman Empire. So the church in 2,000 years, we started out as being a persecuted faith... then for centuries, kind of moving in that direction that had this close relationship between the secular world's values and Judeo-Christian values," Bishop Paprocki told Bill Kelly.
Comparing the persecution to Communist regimes, Paprocki predicted that the "symbiosis between the culture and the church has been ruptured." "And now I think we are moving in a direction that -- not only is it more than secular -- it's a rejection. It's an outright rejection [of Judeo-Christian values]. It's a pagan kind of a culture... We still have the First Amendment of our Constitution but that is being sorely tested." And the church along with it. Fortunately for us, Christians still have a voice and a vote -- and they'll need to use both to shine a light in the dark times ahead.
** While Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) defends his decision to ban sexual reorientation therapy for minors, science certainly doesn't support it. Read why in Peter Sprigg's new column on First Things. Also, FRC's Ken Klukowski has some breaking news on the assault on religious liberty in the military with his latest Breitbart piece, "Christian Airman Claims He Was Fired by Lesbian Commander for Gay Marriage Stance."
*** If you missed today's policy lecture on women in the military with Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (Ret.), check out the video below.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.