Showing posts with label Gay Marriage-Financial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Marriage-Financial. Show all posts

August 26, 2014

The Fed Gov. can only offer Gay Married Couples Ice Cream in Jersey and Chicken Soup in NY


                                                                       

  

More than a year after the Supreme Court ruling that allowed federal benefits for same-sex married couples, gays are still struggling for equality with three agencies.
Federal laws prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration and the obscure Railroad Retirement Board from providing full benefits to gay couples who reside in states that don’t recognize their marriages.
                                                                                               
After the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, many federal agencies pledged to treat all couples equally, but the justices had already anticipated potential conflicts because of state laws.
In Windsor, the court struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman for federal benefits purposes, but it did not address whether states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of their own jurisdictions.                                          
Justice Antonin Scalia said in his dissent that the decision could lead to practical problems: “Imagine a pair of women who marry in Albany and then move to Alabama, which does not ‘recognize as valid any marriage of parties of the same sex.’ . . . When the couple files their next federal tax return, may it be a joint one?”
That’s the type of situation playing out now with Air Force Capt. Carlos Wilkinson, who married his same-sex partner on July 27, 2013, a month and a day after the Windsor ruling. The couple married in California but now lives in Nevada, where gay marriage is not legal.
When Wilkinson and his husband, Wray, applied for a VAbacked home loan in 2013, the VA said it could guaranty only half the funds, due to Nevada’s marriage laws. If Wilkinson had filed as a single applicant or was ina heterosexual marriage, the VA would have backed the entire loan.
“They claim everything is still so new that they didn’t have correct guidance,” Wilkinson said. “I feel we deserve [full benefits], just like any other service members do.”
A section of U.S. code known as Title 38 requires the VA rely on a couple’s state of residence when making benefits decisions. Similar federal statutes apply to the Social Security Administration and the Railroad Retirement Board. 
“These people are being discriminated against based on geography,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), who proposed legislation this year that would require equal treatment for all veterans and their spouses, regardless of their sexual orientation or where they live. “The veterans didn’t fight for a state, they fought for the United States. To be treated differently when it comes to benefits is nonsensical.”
                                                                                

            The American Military Partners Association, an advocate for gay troops, filed a lawsuit against the VA this month over its interpretation of Title 38
“We simply cannot allow our nation’s veterans to continue to be denied the benefits they’ve earned simply because of the gender of their spouses,” said Stephen Peters, the group’s president.
Beyond the VA lawsuit, gay-rights advocates are using the Windsor case as a road map for overturning same-sex marriage bans across the country. Their efforts have been successful, with federal and state courts this year ruling that same-sex marriage bans in 15 states are unconstitutional.
Some of those rulings have been challenged, but New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania have accepted the outcomes, and they now recognize same-sex marriage. (New Mexico never banned same-sex marriage, but the state had allowed counties to prohibit the unions until its supreme court decided all counties had to allow them.) 
As for appeals, the Supreme Court could consider whether to accept cases from Virginia, Utah and Oklahoma for review as early as September, but there is no deadline for a decision. The high court in recent months has ordered holds on lower court decisions that required Virginia and Utah to begin issuing licenses for same-sex marriages.
                                                              
As the appeals continue, same-sex couples throughout the nation are in limbo. In North Carolina, for example, Richard Jernigan is hoping for a spousal supplement through his retired husband’s Social Security benefits.
Jernigan inherited his mother’s house, but he said the home needs constant repairs and maintenance. He earns about $150 a month auditing customer service through a mystery shopper program. Social Security adds another $600 to the couple’s monthly income, but the amount could be about 25 percent higher with a spousal supplement.
“That money would be a tremendous help,” Jernigan said. “We are literally in a state of poverty, and yet we don’t qualify for any of the other assistance because they don’t count us as married.”
Several Democratic lawmakers have proposed legislation to prevent agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples, but none of the measures have moved out of committee.
In addition to Titus’s bill, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Ron Kind (Wisc.) have introduced legislation that would require the Social Security Administration to recognize same-sex marriages for benefits purposes. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), on the day of the Windsor decision, pitched a measure to repeal DOMA altogether. 
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Congress must “press forward and pass the [Feinstein bill] in order to fully repeal this discriminatory law and ensure all married LGBT couples have equal rights regardless of where they live.”
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has backed the Titus bill, saying simply that “family is family.”
Congress has little chance of passing the Democratic bills in its current polarized state, leaving couples such as Wilkinson and Jernigan hoping for Democrats to win control of both chambers, or for the Supreme Court to consider an appeal and rule in their favor — perhaps their best chance at this juncture.


Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.    Pics: adamfoxie

June 21, 2014

All Married Couples will receive equal treatment from the Federal Government


                                                                           


 The full array of American opinion on gay marriage has been on display all week, with decisions and rhetoric that cover all bases.

President Barack Obama's administration announced today that the Labor Department will draft rules allowing same-sex married partners who work for the federal government to take leave to care for an ill spouse -- just as heterosexual married couples already could.
That's just one step. In a memo to Obama today, Attorney General Eric Holder said the government has taken many others, working over the last 12 months to ensure “that committed and loving married couples throughout the country would receive equal treatment by their federal government regardless of their sexual orientation."

The Social Security Administration announced that it will extend survivor benefits, lump-sum death benefits and aged-spouse benefits to same-sex couples in states that grant inheritance rights to gay couples under state law. Federal law bars the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs from issuing directives that conflict with laws in states that do not recognize gay marriage, but the Social Security Administration suggested that it may have some leeway. For example, if benefits are granted when a couple lives in a state recognizing gay marriage and the couple later moves to a more restrictive state, the benefits could continue.

Furthermore, some states allow for certain inheritance rights in a "non-marital legal relationship," such as a civil union. Ohio, however, is not one of those, according to information from the Social Security Administration.

In addition to the Social Security announcement, the acting director of the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that VA will allow, on a case-by-case basis, married gay couples to be buried side-by-side in VA cemeteries. The word "marriage" will not define the standard, because of state laws that use that word restrictively. Instead, VA will consider national-cemetery burial benefits for anyone in a "committed relationship."
Additionally, VA will issue stipends to cover funeral and burial costs to the "survivor of a legal union." The old rule used the words “eligible surviving spouse,” which could create obstacles for married gay couples. 

June has always been a big month for brides and grooms. But June 26 marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that prohibited the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex married couples.

After that ruling, the Justice Department quickly set out to identify "every federal law, rule, policy and practice" in which marital status was a factor, seeking to expunge DOMA's "discriminatory effect," Holder said. His 9-page memo today laid out the results and announced the VA and Social Security news.

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said today's actions "take us ever closer to the day when all American families enjoy full and equal justice under law." She urged Congress to pass the Respect For Marriage Act "and make marriage equality the law of the land."
That is unlikely. The Republican Party has a majority in the House of Representatives and enough members in the Senate to block bills recognizing gay marriage. The opposition is so strong that Ohio Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who last year began supporting gay marriage, said that his stance on the issue would make it hard for him to win the GOP presidential nomination if he ran.

"It puts me at odds with my party in many respects," Portman said in a videotaped interview for the Wall Street Journal's website with Peter Robinson, a fellow with the conservative Hoover Institution. In the interview, posted Tuesday, Portman said that he believes that treating people as they are is “a conservative position."

"My God," he continued, "is a God of mercy and justice and grace and acceptance. So I'm very sort of reconciled with my position on this, which is that my son and others who are gay and lesbians ought to be able to lead their lives as my wife and I have for 28 years now."
But politically, “It probably makes it difficult for me to win a primary election at the national level."

A different set of opinions was voiced on Capitol Hill during the 2014 March for Marriage on Thursday, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage. The event did not get widespread press coverage, and in interviews with the Daily Signal, an online news platform created by the Heritage Foundation, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, said the media has promoted "homosexual marriage" and "a breakdown of families."
“We've reaped the whirlwind of disaster because of that for numerous years," Huelskamp said.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania and one-time presidential candidate, told the Daily Signal that the media have tried to “redefine what marriage is, so through that redefinition it makes it obvious that anybody should be able to get married and as many people as they want should be able to get married, because it simply is a relationship and nothing more than that."

And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another former presidential candidate, called it "inexplicable" that in the current culture, "if you take a stand against tradition, you're somehow open-minded, but if you believe that those traditions are there for a reason and that they have served us well, then you are a hater. I don’t follow that."

Nationally, 55 percent of Americans support gay marriage, a new high, according to the Gallup polling organization. But that does not translate to legalization in every state. Ohio voters banned gay marriage in 2004, but activists say voters appear willing to reverse that decision now. Yet groups pushing for the right may wait to go to the ballot, saying they want to make sure the time is right rather than risk losing.

Stephen Koff, Plain Dealer Washington Bureau ChiefBy Stephen Koff, Plain Dealer Washington Bureau Chief 

April 17, 2013

Minnesota Will Be Making $45 Million on Gay Marriage The First 3 Year Alone

Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA's law school, is trying to quantify the impact of same-sex marriage in terms that everyone can understand: Money. According to the institute's latest study, a marriage equality law would give Minnesota's economy a lift to the tune of $45 million in the first three years.
To reach that figure, the report's two authors started out with the number of same-sex couples living in Minnesota -- 10,207 per the 2010 U.S. Census. In states that allow for same-sex weddings, about 50 percent of the gay couples in the state tied the knot within three years of legalization, the researchers found.

In Minnesota, that would mean 4,946 new marriage licenses. And it would also mean a lot of spending to go along with them.

Gay couples getting hitched would contribute $28 million in additional wedding spending and $14 million in out-of-town guests' tourism expenditures, the report found, as well as approximately 283 in-state jobs. State and local tax revenues would rise by $3 million, two-thirds of which would come in the first year.

That's just the couples that live in Minnesota, not same-sex couples from the states nearby. "As was seen after marriage for same-sex couples was legalized in Iowa," the report notes, "same-sex couples from neighboring states that do not allow same-sex couples to marry may to travel to Minnesota and generate additional spending on wedding and tourism-related goods and services."

But these benefits won't be around forever, one of the study's authors noted in a statement on Monday. "Marriage equality creates a measurable economic boost for the jurisdictions that enact it," said M.V. Lee Badgett, the institute's research director and a professor of economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "But if states don't use it, they may lose it... many of these wedding-related expenditures will be made elsewhere."

Badgett expanded on the big-picture economic benefits of gay marriage in a PBS NewsHouressay at the end of March. Those would include the increased federal tax rate on married couples and the savings gained from being able to access a spouse's insurance plan.

Last month, the institute published a similar report that looked at how same-sex marriage would impact Illinois's economy. There, the financial gains would be even greater. If Illinois legalized marriage equality, increased spending could generate up to $103 million, the analysis found. Another, earlier study assessed the economic boost for Iowa based not on likely projections, but on the actual number of same-sex weddings in the year following the April 2009 decision to allow them. 

December 20, 2012

Maryland Changing to Allow joint Filing for Gay Couples

washingtontimes.com

Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot vowed Wednesday to pursue any legislative or regulatory fixes necessary to allow the state’s married same-sex couples to file joint state-level income tax returns.
Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, made the announcement Wednesday in response to a report in The Washington Times that outlined how Maryland has no policy in place to allow same-sex joint filing and which quoted a comptroller’s spokeswoman as saying the state cannot enact such a policy because of current federal restrictions.
Maryland is the only income-tax-collecting state that allows same-sex marriage but does not have a law in place requiring that gay couples file a joint state tax return or declare themselves as married while filing separately.
The comptroller clarified Wednesday that state officials can enact such a law, even if the federal Defense of Marriage Act continues to bar joint federal returns, refuting an earlier statement by spokeswoman Kim Frum, who said the state can only do so if federal law changes.
Mr. Franchot said in a statement that the story in The Times contained “significant misinformation” on the subject, which his communications director, Joseph Shapiro, said was due to “a problem on [their] end.”
“The main point is that we don’t have to wait for federal action to change how same-sex couples file in Maryland,” Mr. Shapiro said. “This is an instance where the state legislature in the upcoming session can change the state tax law to allow same-sex filing.”
Gay couples in Maryland who were married elsewhere must file separate state returns because the federal adjusted gross income calculated in their separately filed federal returns must be used as the starting point for Maryland taxes.
Spouses in other gay-marriage states must still file separate federal returns, but they also fill out an additional, hypothetical federal return as a couple. The federal adjusted gross income from that return is used as the starting point for their joint state return.
The method is used in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and the District. New Hampshire and Washington, which also allow gay marriage, do not have a state income tax.
Mr. Franchot, who testified last year in favor of Maryland’s gay marriage bill, said he will push for a fix that would allow the state’s gay couples to file joint 2013 returns in early 2014.
He said legislation or regulatory changes will be required “because Maryland’s tax code is conjoined to the IRS unless specifically decoupled.”
Maryland’s same-sex marriage law goes into effect Jan. 1, meaning it won’t have tax implications for newly married couples until the 2014 tax season.
“Honoring Maryland’s hard-earned reputation for fairness and equality, this change will afford same-sex couples with the rights and protections commensurate with their obligations as taxpayers,” Mr. Franchot said in the statement.
House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, Montgomery Democrat, said he thinks a bill to allow same-sex joint filing would be relatively noncontroversial, and he even challenged Republicans to support such a proposal on grounds that it could reduce some couples’ tax burdens.
“The issue of same-sex marriage has already been adjudicated by the people of Maryland,” said Mr. Barve, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee that vets tax proposals. “To me, the issue is one of treating same-sex married couples the same as all other married couples.” 

March 8, 2012

Gay Marriage } The Economics!


From the point of view of the gay community, the economic impact of legalizing gay marriage is a no-brainer. But what are the costs and benefits to the economy overall, regardless of your sexual inclination?

It has been estimated that same-sex couples denied marriage benefits in the U.S. will incur additional expenses of $41,000 to $467,000 over their lifetime, compared to heterosexual married couples. Since there are roughly 594,391 gay couples (1.2 million people) living in the U.S., we are talking as much as $2.5 billion to $277 billion in expenses. Assuming gay marriage was legalized throughout the country, that money would be available to be spent on more productive pursuits.

Most of the stories I read focus on the immediate economic benefits to those states that have legalized same-sex marriages. Things like marriage licenses, wedding halls, photographers, etc.

New York, for example, is home to more than 42,000 same-sex couples. Since gay marriage became legal in July of last year, the state estimates it has made $190,000 in marriage fees alone. Overall, the state estimates they will generate about an additional $210 million in marriage and wedding-related revenues.

In neighboring New Jersey, where almost 17,000 gay couples reside, legalizing gay marriage could generate up to $119 million over three years once legislation is passed. The same was true in the other states where gay marriage is legal (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland and the District of Columbia).

Yet, these numbers are infinitesimal compared to the potential costs that we the taxpayer would incur if gay marriage were legalized throughout the country, argues the anti-gay marriage community. They argue that gay marriage would entitle gay couples to typical marriage benefits including claiming a tax exemption for a spouse, receiving Social Security payments from a deceased spouse and coverage by a spouse's health insurance policy.

No one knows for sure what that bill would be if the country did legalize same–sex marriage, but we can at least gather hints. For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost to the federal government of extending employment benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees (ex., the post office) would be $596 million in mandatory spending and $302 million in discretionary spending between 2010 and 2019. That's really a drop in the bucket when talking about the federal government's budget.

A joint study by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies analyzed the cost to American businesses of same-sex marriages. They looked at health-care benefits and concluded that at most, 190,000 businesses out of approximately 2.9 million firms would experience a health plan enrollment of a new gay spouse. In a large business, where employee benefit costs are in the millions of dollars, the company might see an average rise in costs of just under $25,000 a year. In small businesses, the dollar impact would be very small, possibly as low as $40 a year at most.

Defined contribution plans, which make up over 80 percent of all retirement plans, would not be affected at all since employer contributions are not based on family status. Defined benefit plans (pension plans) are more complicated although they only represent about 20 percent of all employees and only 8 percent of small businesses. The costs to a pension plan, depending on the employee's choices, would not change much either.

As far as Social Security benefits, the number of new surviving spouses receiving benefits would not be large enough to make much of a difference to overall benefits. As for the income tax benefits of being married, we all know that blade cuts both ways. Some couples would benefit depending upon their income, but others in a higher tax bracket, would actually pay more taxes.

Overall, the economic impact of gay marriages, in my opinion, would be a net positive for our nation, for the taxpayer and for the future productivity of our economy. The moral issues involved are a completely different topic and one that this writer will leave to the hot heads on either side. I'm too old to judge anyone, even myself.


Bill Schmick is an independent investor with Berkshire Money Management. (See "About" for more information.) None of the information presented in any of these articles is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at (toll free) or email him at wschmick@fairpoint.net. Visitwww.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill's insights.

October 23, 2011

Minnesota Companies on The Side of Gay Marriage

                                       


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Taft is a businessman and a Republican, great-grandson to President William Howard Taft and heir to an Ohio Republican dynasty. But it was Gov. Mark Dayton whom he spoke alongside at a recent fundraiser in favor of gay rights and against Minnesota's marriage amendment.
What put him on a stage with the Democratic governor? Taft thinks voting to ban gay marriage in the state Constitution would be bad for business.
"I'm doing it because I truly do believe that keeping Minnesota competitive depends a great deal on attracting and retaining the best talent the world has to offer," Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management U.S., told The Associated Press during an interview in his 19th-floor, downtown Minneapolis office.
Opponents of the marriage amendment on the 2012 ballot see natural allies in the state's prominent companies, long seen as integral to preserving the state's fabled quality of life. But the symbolic and financial firepower of companies like Target, General Mills and others with a history of supporting gay causes may not be so forthcoming.
The Associated Press contacted representatives for the 13 Minnesota-based Fortune 500 companies that currently offer domestic partner benefits — nearly three-quarters of the state's complete Fortune 500 roster — and only one, a spokeswoman for Little Canada-based medical device maker St. Jude Medical, said the company would publicly oppose the amendment.
That's not what amendment opponents might have hoped for. "It's our preference that employers who are committed to fairness and equality for all their employees would find opposing the amendment a reasonable position," said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing for the Human Rights Campaign, the national gay-rights group that's already engaging in Minnesota's battle.
"We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of economic and jobs growth in Minnesota," said Rachel Ellingson, vice president for corporate communications at St. Jude Medical. "We believe that it is important for the state to be viewed as inclusive in order to recruit and retain the best talent."
The ability to harness corporate wealth into donations will be a key goal of both supporters and opponents of the marriage amendment. With incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar so far facing little serious opposition, the campaign could end up as the state's priciest in 2012: after initial predictions of a $10 million campaign, one activist who will be heavily involved with fundraising recently doubled the stakes.
"There's an expectation it could be $10 million on each side, $20 million total," said Ann Kaner-Roth, executive director of the gay rights group Project 515. "I think that's not out of the realm of reality."
But it won't be with donations directly from Minnesota corporations. Even St. Jude Medical, Ellingson said, would not donate money as a company to defeat the amendment.
Of the other 12 companies, representatives for eight told the AP their companies would not take a public position. Those companies are Target, General Mills, Best Buy, Supervalu, Land O'Lakes, Medtronic, Xcel Energy and Ecolab. The other four companies — 3M, Ameriprise Financial, UnitedHealth Group and U.S. Bancorp — did not respond to several inquiries.
"Target is committed to an inclusive culture among our team members and throughout the community," spokeswoman Jessica Carlson said. "Target does not have a public position on the proposed amendment, but we are encouraging our team members to exercise the right to vote."
The Minneapolis-based retailing giant learned the hard way last year that jumping into the political fray can carry a downside — particularly when it touches on social issues with deeply felt convictions on both sides. The company donated $150,000 to a business-oriented political fund that in turn supported Tom Emmer, the conservative Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota with a lengthy record of opposing gay-rights causes, sparking an uproar by the HRC and other gay-rights groups that considered Target an ally for previously donating to their causes.
But ensuing attempts to mollify gay rights groups triggered whispers of a backlash by more conservative customers. "You're never going to make everyone happy with any one position," said Sainz, the HRC official.
In addition to offering domestic partner benefits, a few of the companies staying neutral in the gay marriage fight have long records of giving money to gay-rights causes. In 2011, five of the 13 companies were corporate sponsors of the Twin Cities gay pride festival: Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Medtronic and U.S. Bancorp through its subsidiary, U.S. Bank.
Several of the Minnesota companies to respond said it would violate company policy to take a position on policy issues not linked to their area of business. "We typically do not take positions on ballot questions that do not concern energy policy," said Steve Roalstad, director of media relations for Xcel Energy.
Even Taft's company, RBC Wealth Management U.S., is taking that approach by citing its own policy of taking positions only on financial policy matters. But Taft himself has agreed to serve on the steering committee of Minnesotans United for All Families, the coalition opposed to the amendment; he said part of his role would be to convince business leaders to donate money and time to defeat it.
Taft himself donated $10,000. He said his own views on gay rights issues began to shift after his daughter, now 31, came out as gay when she was still in high school. He said he wouldn't take issue with any Minnesota companies that stay on the sidelines — but said he thought it was a bad business decision.
"At some point you have to decide, as an individual and as a corporation, what do you stand for?" Taft said. "And you have to be true to that."

October 17, 2011

Gays a Large Presence in Advertising: Gay Market $5-8 Billions


 
The couple cuddles together, beaming down at their new wedding bands.
It could be a typical jewelry store ad except for one key — and for some controversial — difference.
This couple isn’t a man and a woman but two men next to the words “Tivol & Tomorrows.”
Same-sex wedding bands? Or just two male friends admiring their rings?
The ad, which was featured in several local magazines and on a couple of billboards in the last few weeks, is part of a campaign from the Kansas City jeweler that tries to target all of its customers, from same-sex couples to newlyweds.
As for the “Tivol & Tomorrows” ad, jewelry store officials say it’s up to viewers to decide the message.
And decide they have, with some people praising Tivol for its positive presentation of same-sex couples and others chastising the company for the same thing.
“We did not go into it wanting to be political,” said Adam Gebhardt, director of marketing for the 101-year-old family-owned Kansas City company.
“Nothing is overt, and all the ‘Tivol & T’ ads are open to interpretation,” Gebhardt said. “But some have exaggerated the content in their minds, saying the two men were holding hands or kissing, and none of that is true. One woman asked, ‘How am I going to explain it to my children?’ ”
Gay ads are coming out of the closet. Not only is the content more mainstream — less racy, more mundane activities — but the ads also aren’t limited to niche publications.
It’s now fairly common to see ads targeted at gays in magazines, but it’s unusual to see them on billboards, experts said.
“It’s newer to outdoor. That’s as out as you can be, being exposing to everyone,” said Mike Wilke, a New York-based consultant on gay and lesbian advertising and founder of CommercialCloset.org, which tracks such ads. “Even network TV can be somewhat more targeted — certain times, certain programs.”
Wilke, a native of Kansas City, said most advertising is targeted to gender, to age, sometimes to race. “But advertising in mainstream outlets doesn’t often speak to gay people,” he said. “Gays don’t expect to see themselves in advertising.”
The “Tivol & Tomorrows” ad is one of several in the company’s recent “Tivol & T” campaign. For example, a “Tivol & Texting” ad shows a man texting on a cellphone while his wife holds their newborn in a hospital bed. With “Tivol & Tee Time,” a man is teeing off at the golf course with a Tivol watch on his wrist. The campaign was created by The Collaboration, a Kansas City branding and marketing agency.
Tivol recently took down at least one “Tivol & Tomorrows” billboard and replaced it with a new holiday ad.
“There are always going to be people who don’t like an ad for one reason or another,” said Mike Swenson, president of Barkley PR/Cause Marketing in Kansas City. “Are some people negative about the Tivol ad? I’m sure there are. But it’s smart marketing. They are going after a demographic with higher than average disposable income.”
Indeed. Advertising Age said estimates on the spending power of the gay and lesbian market ranges from $500 billion to more than $800 billion. With same-sex marriage gaining approval in more states, a new wedding industry segment is opening at a time when the economy is struggling. GayWeddings.com, for example, has more than 35,000 vendors in its directory catering to same-sex couples.
Still, the ads can cause some backlash.
Earlier this year, J.Crew president Jenna Lyons was featured in an ad painting her young son’s toenails hot pink, “igniting a gender identity controversy,” according to advertising experts. The clothing retailer’s new online catalog showcases a gay designer standing apart from his boyfriend but with one hand grasping his arm.
Swedish furnishing store chain IKEA drew some negative reaction by running an ad in Italy showing two men standing with their backs to the camera but holding hands, with the headline “We are open to all families.”
Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards said it also wants to be inclusive. So it not only became a founding corporate partner for the new Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, based in Kansas City, but three years ago introduced four cards targeting same-sex relationships.
“Much like the job-loss cards that have been getting so much buzz lately, these cards represent what we define as a niche need,” said Linda Odell, spokeswoman for Hallmark.
Independent retailers can choose whether to offer the cards, and Hallmark doesn’t expect the same-sex cards — or any other niche card — to be top-sellers.
“But we do want people who are looking for a card for such situations and relationships to be able to find what’s right for them from Hallmark,” Odell said.
Still, several gay organizations prefer ads that treat their lives as nothing out of the ordinary.
“In gay publications you probably see more skin, but the (mainstream) ads should be subtle. We do want to be seen like any other couple,” said Dan Nilsen, founder and president of the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “Tivol will probably get more customers because of it — gays and our straight friends who support us.”
Tien-Tsung Lee, strategic communication track chair at the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, agreed. His research shows younger consumers, especially young women, are more accepting of gay and lesbian relationships so probably wouldn’t be put off by a same-sex ad.
Running gay ads also can boost a brand’s image, setting up a company as more cutting edge and progressive. Some companies try to have it both ways, targeting the more liberal market without offending more conservative people by designing what Wilke calls “gay vague” ads. They include gay references that may be overlooked by heterosexual viewers while giving a “wink” to gay consumers.
But to Wilke, there’s nothing vague about the Tivol ad.
“One has his arm around the other, so they are touching,” Wilke said. “That intends to suggest a relationship. And the rings are not the typical simple gold band.
“Tivol is doing it with a whisper and not a shout. … They have a certain sophistication in their advertising, and they did a great job with this one.”
To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send e-mail to jsmith@kcstar.com.   kansascity.com/

 

July 2, 2011

FORBES: New York Gay Marriage Law Changes Couples’ Financial Lives



Gay kiss in flickr (5)
Image by Steve Punter via Flickr
According to the American Community Survey, 272,493 residents of New York City identify themselves as homosexuals, ranking the city as having the highest gay population in the United States.
At the same time, there are an estimated 42,600 same-sex couples in New York, as reported by the same survey in 2009; of whom 21%, nearly 9,000, are already legally married, as also reported by Williams Institute/Harris Interactive Same-sex Couple Survey in 2010. Surveys also point out that 7,200 same-sex couples in New York are raising about 14,000 children. For decades, same-sex couples were not able to receive the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples.
Last Friday, New York State made same-sex marriage legal, making New York the largest state to allow and recognize marriages for gay and lesbian couples. The law will take effect by the end of July, granting same-sex married couples with various legal rights and financial benefits.
Now, like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples who marry and live in New York State will be able to file their state tax returns jointly. Married couples with lower incomes will end up paying less in taxes.  “There are hundreds of different protections and benefits under New York law,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy organization for the gay community. Amongst many legal rights that same-sex couples will gain is the right to be first in line to inherit their spouses’ assets, even if there is no will.
Though gay and lesbian couples have gained more rights than they ever had with this single piece of legislation, they are still not on equal footing with heterosexual couples. Since federal law declares that marriage is between man and a woman, married gay couples in New York will still have to file their federal taxes separately. Also, they will owe extra income taxes on health insurance benefits that straight couples do not have to pay.
But for right now, many couples are elated that they get to formalize and legalize their relationships through marriage.
At the gay pride parade in New York City on Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “I believe New York has sent a message to this Nation loud and clear: It is time for marriage equality all across this country.” In the near future, gay couples all across the United States may experience the benefits that New Yorkers are currently experiencing.
by Ilana Greene

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