Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Progress on road to marriage equality

Equality under the law is sometimes measured in incremental steps. For Florida's same-sex couples, one of those steps came this week when the Treasury Department announced that legally married gay and lesbian couples will be recognized for federal income tax purposes no matter where they live. This clears up what might have been a confusing tax season for Florida's same-sex couples who were married in other states. But it should be just the beginning of the federal government sweeping away barriers to same-sex married couples enjoying all the legal rights and responsibilities of their union.

The Internal Revenue Service rule change was prompted by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the law that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. Since then, the Obama administration, which refused to defend the law before the court, has been clarifying federal rules that condition rights and benefits on marital status. To the extent possible, those efforts are focused on treating same-sex couples on a par with opposite-sex couples, even in states such as Florida where gays and lesbians cannot legally marry.

The IRS determination is the broadest so far. For the 2013 tax year, same-sex spouses will be considered married for tax purposes. They will have to file jointly or as married but filing separately as individuals. This will help or hurt couples' pocketbooks depending upon their circumstances. Single-earner families typically benefit taxwise from marriage, while a couple in which each person makes a similar income will often experience the so-called marriage penalty. Still, the decision is a boost to gays and lesbians in the 37 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Whether the federal government would use where a couple got married or their place of residence to determine marital status for benefits had been an open question after DOMA was struck down.

The momentum is clearly in one direction: to normalize same-sex marriage across the federal government. Same-sex couples won another benefit the same day from the Health and Human Services Department. For married gay and lesbian couples who are both in a Medicare Advantage plan, they will be entitled to treatment and equal coverages at the same nursing home. This might seem obscure, but it can have a major impact on a couple's lives together.

Still, there are plenty of speed bumps before full equality is achieved. For example, the Social Security Administration determines to what extent spouses receive benefits by referring to their "place of residence." That excludes same-sex couples in Florida and 36 other states. But it isn't always up to the federal agency to change a law's application. In some cases additional litigation or new congressional enactments will be required.

President Barack Obama has encouraged the administration at all levels to carry out the Supreme Court's ruling and end differential treatment. Florida couples who marry outside the state will have to wait for the Florida law to change to receive state benefits. But there is no reason for the federal government to hold back its recognition in any way.

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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

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Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17