Know your rights

Back to the survival guide main page.


Contents

This page explains what rights LGBT people enjoy. If anything is missing or factually wrong, please let us know by emailing us at mail [à] klambda [ · ] org.

This page is for informational purposes only. We can only tell you general facts. We can’t help you with legal or tax matters. That’s what lawyers and tax consultants are for.


Marriage and similar institutions

In the United States, same-sex couples can marry in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, D.C. Additionally, the Coquille Indian Tribe, based in North Bend, Oregon, has allowed same-sex couples to marry under Coquille law since 2009 (news); the Suquamish Tribe, on the western shore of Puget Sound in Washington, enacted marriage equality in August 2011 (news); and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (in Michigan), Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (in Michigan), and Santa Ysabel Tribe (in California) have allowed same-sex marriage since 2013.

Oregon offers domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage. The other states that offer either domestic partnerships or civil unions, with varying levels of legal rights and benefits, are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Although California allows same-sex marriage, its domestic partnership law remains in effect, which means that same-sex couples in California may either marry or form a domestic partnership.

Legally married same-sex couples enjoy the federal benefits of marriage due to United States v. Windsor, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 2, however, is still in effect. Under Section 2 of DOMA, states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The constitutionality of Section 2 is questioned.

Internationally, persons of the same sex can marry in Canada (nationwide since 2005), Mexico City (since 2010), and the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (since 2012), as well as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, and the constituent countries of England and Wales in the United Kingdom. Some countries allow an alternative — in the United Kingdom, for example, it is a civil partnership; and in Germany, it is an eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft, “registered life partnership.”


Federal

Sexual acts between people of the same sex have been legal nationwide since 2003, thanks to Laurence v. Texas. Since September 20, 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was fully and finally repealed, allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve openly in the United States armed forces. Since June 26, 2013, married same-sex couples enjoy the federal benefits of marriage. Federal regulation requires hospitals accepting Medicare and Medicaid funds to grant visitation and medical decision-making rights to gay and lesbian partners. Since 2009, federal hate crime laws protect LGBT people. Under Romer v. Evans, local governments cannot deny protected status to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Federal law does not forbid discrimination against LGBT people in employment or housing. Despite the repeal of DADT, there are no specific protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the armed forces. Furthermore, transgender people still face challenges in the armed forces.


Oregon

Sexual acts between people of the same sex have been legal in Oregon since 1972 (31 years before Laurence v. Texas). State law forbids discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Same-sex partnerships have full joint adoption rights in Oregon. State hate crime laws have protected lesbian, gay, and bisexual people since 2001, and transgender people since 2007. Oregon has passed anti-bullying legislation, requiring school districts to address bullying of LGBT students.

Since the passage of Measure 36 in 2004, the Oregon Constitution has forbidden marriage for same-sex couples.

Domestic partnership

In Oregon, same-sex couples can form a domestic partnership. This legal relationship bestows all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of marriage to the furthest extent possible under state law. However, lack of federal recognition of these relationships means domestic partnerships do not enjoy equal treatment under federal law compared to married couples. More information on Oregon domestic partnerships can be found in Basic Rights Oregon’s Domestic Partnership Resource Guide.

Taxation

Remember, this is general information only. Talk to a tax consultant to learn about your particular situation.

The lack of federal recognition of Oregon domestic partnerships causes special challenges. In particular, it leads to tax inequities.

In general, to complete an Oregon income tax return, the tax payer must enter information from their federal income tax return. The filing statuses (e.g., “single” or “married”) of both forms must match. (There’s an exception for domestic partners; see below.) Then when the tax payer files their state return, they must include a copy of their federal return.

In Oregon, domestic partners are treated like married couples for state tax purposes (although they must file as “registered domestic partners” instead of “married”). But they face a special burden when filing their taxes. To complete their state return, they must include information from a federal return for married couples — but the federal government does not recognize marriage-like legal unions between same-sex couples for tax purposes!

This means they must file federal “single” or “head of household” returns (as appropriate) with the IRS first — and then fill out another federal return as if they are married. This “as if” return is not filed with the IRS. Instead, it is used to complete the Oregon return. The “as if” return must be included when the Oregon return is filed. This process is explained in greater depth by the Oregon Department of Revenue at its page on personal income tax information for registered domestic partners.


California

California allows same-sex couples to marry. A federal district court has overturned Proposition 8, the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This court ruling has not affected domestic partnerships in California, meaning that, for the time being, same-sex couples can either marry or form a domestic partnership.

Applications for domestic partnership can be sent by mail to the California Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento, or submitted in person at the Sacramento or Los Angeles office. For more information, visit the domestic partnership homepage at the California Secretary of State’s website.