Nowadays that old Dickensian saw about the best of times, the worst of times comes to mind. Same-sex marriage has made recent strides but lawmakers seek legally sanctioned discrimination with threatened Constitutional amendments. We pay taxes but apparently we are still considered second-class citizens who do not deserve the same rights afforded to everyone else. As gays' personal lives tip the scales of justice by breaking antiquated legal standards, when the next tax season arrives, perhaps it is time to embrace our outcast role as the jilted Mrs. Havisham and in protest stop paying income taxes.
And why not? Currently the government is trying to dictate gay personal rights while using our tax dollars, so one good turn deserves another. A well-orchestrated conscientious objection could effectively cut off all edicts at the pass. Yes, planning a gay tax revolt instead of your wedding could probably called sedition—not something to take lightly. In the 1990s I didn't mind risking arrest for protesting homophobia with ACT UP, Queer Nation and the Pink Panthers, but the threat of tax penalties is enough to give anyone pause. Nevertheless, in a pink twist on the so-called Porth/Daly tax return, if every gay U.S. citizen and their supporters courageously said no to taxation without equal representation, extraordinary changes could occur.
—According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the gay and lesbian population ranges between 17 to 22.5 million. Nine percent of American urban populations identify as gay. Decades ago, when even less people lived out-of-the-closet, famed researcher Alfred Kinsey placed this historically underestimated number closer to 10 percent.
—Gay men's average household income is $85,400. That is more than double the national average. Higher-end gay taxpayers fork over up to 30 percent of their income to the government. Meanwhile, an estimated 780,000 homosexual couples are denied the same considerable tax benefits afforded to heterosexuals.
—As of May 2009, the Internal Revenue Service amassed in 2008 income taxes more than 1.4 trillion dollars.
Now some quick math:
$1,425,990,183,000 ( I.R.S. gross collections of individual income tax before refunds ) X .09 ( underestimated U.S. gay population ) = $128,339,116,470 ( total gay income tax collection )
If gay taxes go unpaid, the U.S. government winds up poorer by more than $128 billion. Sure, it is a creek draining a large river. Nonetheless, self-determined tax exemption could protest Capitol Hill's treatment of gay people as untouchables. Especially with recent re-introductions of constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Some politicians' views on constitutional rights remain bizarre, if not illiterate. Not only does the Constitution state that all U.S. citizens ( not just some U.S. citizens ) are entitled to the same privileges ( Article IV, Section 2 ) , but the Bill of Rights forbids the Constitution's rights to be construed in order to deny or disparage other rights ( Article IX ) . Then there is that pesky matter of no State shall make or enforce laws that abridge any citizen's privileges of life, liberty, or property ( Article XIV ) . If taxes are part of the Constitution's bargain for everyone, so shall everyone have the privileges.
Does a gay tax revolt sound unreasonable? Marriage can be a beautiful ritual for people in love. So isn't it also unreasonable that same-sex couples should be excluded? Must I repeat that given the current divorce rate teeters over 50 percent, most straight couples regard their "sacred bond" as Houdini regarded his confines. Moreover, success stories of gay adoption and surrogate parenthood belie the hysterical excuse that marriage exists for procreation.
Being levied lately feels like an insult. Why should we pay salaries of homophobic politicians who begrudge us rights enjoyed by every heterosexual citizen? Why should queer money fund a military that hypocritically condemns lesbian soldiers? Gay dollars nourish our country's kith and kin but by decree we have been left at the altar by our government.
"Tolerance" from conservatives? Well, how about acceptance? Call me naïve, but is that too much to ask? Maybe it is. Yet recall the violent Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969, when gays prevailed over police harassment. Rights are rarely given—they are taken. Today the enemy sits in Congress. Instead of blunt force, we need brave souls to say, "I do!" to equal rights and hit Uncle Sam in his wallet.
Abolitionist Henry David Thoreau refused to pay his poll tax in 1846 in protest of slavery. Although Thoreau spent only one night in jail, he was eager to serve his cause, and his act of civil disobedience reverberates through history. Had Thoreau organized a massive poll tax revolt, human bondage in the U.S. may have ended sooner. Money chants louder than a thousand activists. Cynical, yes, but the simple truth is most people pay attention when their bottom line is threatened. Internet technology has the potential to assemble a tax showdown quickly and efficiently.
Of course, tearing up their 1040 forms may not be an option for some. A gay tax revolt is an extreme way of showing that LGBT garbagemen and millionaires alike deserve a piece of the wedding cake. To accept anything less than equal marriage rights means becoming the perennial bridesmaid.
No elected representative ( i.e. a civil-service employee wealthy with gay tax dollars ) filled with religious or moral spunk should hijack their constituents' liberties and pursuits of happiness. By no means should any State deny its gay citizens a long-overdue fundamental human right already available to every heterosexual: to legally marry the one you love. If excluded from this vital part of the American Dream, a long creative population may find a way to financially secede, leaving a less perfect and certainly a less rich Union.
Noel Ambery II is a journalist whose pieces have appeared in The Indianapolis News, The Hartford Courant, Genre and The New London Day. He is currently working on a novel.