7 Days to a Better Financial You

BY JOE SOLMONESE | As we approach April 15 – Tax Day – families across America are evaluating and often stressing over their financial situations. Like so many of their fellow Americans, same-sex couples and other GLBT individuals are doing the same thing.

However, we face our own set of complications and hurdles from a tax system that is far from equal under the law for our community.

At the Human Rights Campaign, we are committed to making the system equal.

Over the course of the next week, the Human Rights Campaign is launching a national effort, “7 Days to a Better Financial You,” to educate same-sex couples and GLBT individuals about tools and resources to help them understand tax laws and foster good financial decision-making. The campaign will highlight and attempt to unravel the very complicated financial codes and tax benefits that we must change.

We will discuss issues relating to taxes, finances, workplace, estates, property, and family benefits.

Many of these issues could be dealt with through a series of specific legislative initiatives designed to address the inequities facing our community. So, in addition, HRC is joining with a bipartisan group of congressional representatives to unveil a new legislative agenda – called “Family Matters” – to pass laws that provide equal rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples and their families. “Family Matters” is a comprehensive pro-family, pro-equality legislative package that will ensure equal rights, and equal compensation, for equal contributions. It is, quite simply, about fairness.

Across the country, millions of same-sex couples cope with significant financial burdens and legal hurdles in building a secure future for their families. As a result of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), these couples are denied access to the more than 1,138 federal benefits and protections available to married couples, according to a 2003 report prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Couple this with the patchwork of conflicting state laws and it is no wonder that GLBT couples encounter great difficulty when trying to navigate the financial and tax landscape.

It comes as no surprise to many same-sex couples that this list includes issues affecting Social Security benefits, estate taxes, immigration, the taxation on health care benefits… and the list goes on and on.

With our allies in Congress, we will be aggressively pushing for action on “Family Matters” to achieve legislative solutions on the Hill. In the meantime, we believe the best way to help our community tackle the financial system is to arm them with knowledge. Information is power when it comes to your financial security.

For the seven days leading up to Tax Day, April 15, HRC will offer an easily accessible series of educational opportunities and seminars with leading financial experts in the issues that affect our community.

Financial decisions affect each of us every single day. Because the federal tax code works against GLBT Americans, particularly those in same-sex relationships, it is imperative to know and understand the financial challenges we must overcome.

Among the topics we'll examine are:

Fundamentals of Financial Planning;

Making Your Benefits Work for You;

Estate and Retirement Planning;

Home and Property Ownership; and

Family Finances.

There should be some good advice for everyone in this program – from those just starting careers to long-term same-sex couples approaching retirement.

While we want this process to provide an educational opportunity for our community, we'll also use the week's events to highlight the need for fairness in our federal laws.

The week's events will be multi-faceted. We'll have columns and advice from financial planning experts. We'll have web chats where you can ask questions. There will be articles and op-eds in newspapers across the country. We'll even be holding some events on Tax Day to highlight the inequalities faced by our community. We're going to use both new and traditional media to spread the word and provide critical information.

A full listing of events and resources throughout the week can be found at www.hrc.org/7days.

In the absence of federal marriage protections, Tax Day amplifies the unfair situation endured by same-sex couples. But, every single day same-sex couples, their families, and GLBT Americans contend with unnecessary financial burdens and pitfalls. That's also why every day, the Human Rights Campaign fights for equality for same-sex couples, their families, and our entire community so they can live secure, open and equal lives.

In Congress, state houses, corporate boardrooms, emergency rooms, and communities across the country, HRC is knocking down the barriers to equality – one by one.

I hope you'll participate in “7 Days to a Better Financial You” and support our efforts to pass “Family Matters.”

Fairness matters, too.

Joe Solmonese is president of the Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org), the nation's largest GLBT lobbying group, based in Washington.