The city of Cambridge, Mass. will this month begin to add an additional stipend onto the paychecks of its gay and lesbian employees who are married to their spouses and chose to include them on their health insurance, the Associated Press reported.
The federal government taxes health insurance for married same-sex couples differently than they do married heterosexual couples because same-sex marriage is not recognized under federal law. The city employees, Cambridge estimated, would pay between $1,500 and $3,000 more annually in taxes than their heterosexual married counterparts. Cambridge officials called this tax an "imbalance."
E. Denise Simmons, the openly lesbian former mayor of Cambridge and a current City Councilor, asked the city manager in January to devise a plan for the city to take the burden of the "discriminatory taxation."
"This is about equality," Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge city councilor, told the AP. "This is a city that models what equality really means."
The stipends will take only about $33,000 from the city's $500 million annual budget to offset the expenses to the 22 city employees who will receive the extra help.
Though same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, federal benefits such as Social Security survivor benefits, immigration rights, paid family leave and even joint tax filing are off-limits to them.
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, an advocacy group opposed to same-sex marriage, opposed the Cambridge City Council's decision.
"It's a travesty of using taxpayer monies to circumvent a national policy," Mineau told the AP.
It may not be national policy for long, however: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are working together on legislation that would eliminate the tax on health insurance for same-sex couples.
The 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and prevents federal funds from being used for benefits for same-sex couples.
Progressive companies such as Google and Facebook also find ways to offset the added tax expenses of their married gay and lesbian employees.