Even in progressive Carrboro, we need to constantly review our policies to make certain we have equal rights for all citizens. Sometimes the factors that prohibit equal rights are with local policies, and sometimes the problems are policies established at the national level.

Locally, we (the BOA) have asked our legislative delegation to submit legislation during this summer session to amend section10-1 of the Carrboro Town Charter, which addresses “Housing Discrimination.” We asked that “sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” be added to the list included in the following wording: “The board of aldermen may adopt ordinances designed to ensure that all housing opportunities in the Town of Carrboro shall be equally available to all persons without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” I am pleased that the Board unanimously agreed to seek this, although Senator Ellie Kinnaird advises us that this bill will not be filed until the long session next year.

However, there are problems at the federal level that continue to impact our effort toward equal rights. There is one in particular that impacts the Town’s domestic partner insurance coverage. If an employee signs up for health benefits for his or her partner, or the partner’s children, the cost borne by the town is treated as “imputed income” (basically, income) to the employee, and thus subject to taxation. This is not the case with an employee who is married to a spouse that has children. In other words, a gay or lesbian employee who takes advantage of the health care benefits offered to family members pays taxes on the value of those benefits while a heterosexual employee does not have to do so. This can result in an inequality of several thousand dollars. This is a federal taxation problem, and various bills have been introduced in Congress to try to remedy this disparity.

As an aside to the domestic partner insurance coverage issue, there is also a complicated taxation issue with regard to same-sex families that break up. To be more specific, an employee who intentionally creates a family with his or her partner can only continue to provide insurance coverage for their children after a break-up if they are the biological parent, or if they claim the child as a dependent on their taxes. This is in contrast to employees who are married that can continue to cover their children after divorce, even if they do not have primary physical custody of them or claim them as a dependant (oddly, this is true even if the once-married employee is not the biological parent – for instance, if donor egg or sperm was used due to a fertility problem!) I have been researching this issue from a legal perspective to see if this is being addressed anywhere, and will continue to do so.