Taxing Times

Alphabet Soup

Are there two words in the English language more beautiful than the harmonic, lilting combination of April 15th? A linguistic pair as enticing could be February 1st, if only I were not prone to procrastination.

But this year, as with every year, there I was, hunched over a keyboard (having long since replaced the paper forms and pencil shavings and eraser shards), around 11:30 p.m. on April 15, rushing to meet a deadline that was unlikely to be relevant to me. I was pretty sure that I was owed a refund, and the IRS never complains if you miss the deadline to take some of your money back from them.

Sure enough, the money is pouring in. God bless the mortgage interest deduction. God bless banks willing to lend money in the name of “home equity” to consolidate debt lingering from foolish youthful expenditures. God bless the classification of religious organizations as charities and the fact that the Republicans have not yet caught on that even the Unitarians fall under the heading of “religious.” (Separation of church and state? What’s that? Give me my refund!)


“If Sen. Santorum has no problem with us, what does he want us to do? Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t copulate?”

I’m no mathematician, nor am I an accountant, by any means. I do math only when it’s required of me, and I’m never sure I’ve done it right. Nothing about crunching numbers appeals to me. But there is definitely something sweet, in this electronic age, about the giant numbers that pop up when all the data has been entered and double-checked and ascertained.

I’ve confirmed that sometimes it pays to be the victim of discrimination; my rough calculations of how much of a refund my partner and I would get if we were married come to about half of what we get filing individually, using perfectly legal tricks to put all the deductions in the right places.

Federal horrordays like April 15, it turns out, are a perfect time to remember how much of straight America does not fully comprehend the legal inequities in this country. A few people asked me this year if my partner and I were able to file jointly, including an accountant close to our hearts (who, in said accountant’s defense, has long been out of the individual tax return business). Some folks asked if the civil union certificate from the state of Vermont that hangs on our wall makes a difference in how we file our tax returns to the federal government, or to the Maryland government. Answer: No.

Regardless, this month I am a little more jubilant than annoyed to be a victim of discrimination, although the annoyance will again win out by the close of business on April 30. But in the event that I should get too tenderhearted toward my financially friendly federal government, here comes Sen. Rick Santorum to remind me that there’s always someone who just can’t leave well enough alone.

Santorum recently told a reporter that if the Supreme Court overturns a state’s law banning private, consensual sex between gay couples, it would be tantamount to granting “the right to bigamy…the right to polygamy…the right to incest…the right to adultery…the right to anything.”

To repeat: I am no mathematician and I never was good at word problems. Logic is not necessarily my strength. I like weaving together flowery words and ensuring that commas go in the right spots. But it seems clear to me that Mr. Senator has taken a leap of logic on this one.

There’s the obvious point: Two adults having sex in private because they both want to and are both capable of deciding that they want to is a vastly different issue from incest, which typically involves an underage individual who is being exploited and has no significant say in the matter.

Two adults deciding to have sex with each other is vastly different from adultery, where presumably one member of a couple is in the dark about the other’s actions. (Granted, consensual gay sex and adultery can happen simultaneously, but neither is a requirement or even usually a desired element when the other occurs.)

Back to the math issue. Two is a pretty easy number to master; my little niece Carney has that one down, and can hold up the requisite number of fingers to prove it, if you ask her how old she is. Bigamy and polygamy, two concepts almost nobody worries about and even fewer people have rational opinions about, also have little to do with a person’s sexual orientation.

I am not an expert on the topic, but from what I do know, I would guess that the parties involved in most bigamous and polygamous relationships are all consenting adults, too. As far as I know, nobody is asking Rick Santorum to kneel down and bless their polygamous relationship, and nobody is asking the Supreme Court to grant any sort of sanction.

The icing on the cake of the Santorum debacle is that his spokeswoman kindly assured us all that her boss “has no problem with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals.” If he has no problem with us, what does he want us to do? Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t copulate?

Obviously Sen. Santorum has problems with gay, lesbian, bisexual and (probably) transgender individuals. He apparently has problems with the fact that we are, more often than not, rational adults who can make informed decisions about how and with whom we express ourselves sexually.

He would, it seems, like for this country to remain one where certain states can arrest and convict you if you are having sex with someone in private, depending on the combination of genitalia involved. That, to me, is a big problem — while some people may well be able to refrain from sexual activity, regardless of their orientation, most adults don’t choose that path and would be considerably less rational if they did.

It’s April. We’ve paid our taxes, regardless of what bounty has come back to us in the form of a refund. Most of us are law-abiding citizens, except when those laws seek to legislate our most private, most intimate, most none-of-your-damn-business activities. We’ll keep the curtains drawn, as long as our critics keep their heads out of their asses.

Kristina Campbell has not spent her refund yet, but is considering a donation to the Rick Santorum Diversity Education Fund. She writes “Alphabet Soup” biweekly and can be reached at kcampbell@metroweekly.com.

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