Melding of Worlds Helps Grow Partnershipson March 11th, 2014 at 10:46 am
I knew when I started my job with Pride Foundation in late 2010 that my personal and professional worlds would merge at times, but never have they melded as meaningfully as in the last year, starting with something I never thought would be possible in my lifetime: I got married.
My life partner, and now husband, Jim and I met in the fall of 1996, seven years before marriages between same-sex couples in the U.S. were legally recognized for the first time in Massachusetts. In 1998, we celebrated our union with a commitment ceremony before friends and family in Boise, and assumed that would be the first and only time we’d ever exchange vows.
How very happy we are to have been wrong.
Last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, Jim and I decided it was time to walk down the aisle again. We knew Idaho would still not legally recognize our marriage due to a state constitutional ban on same-sex unions. Federal benefits, however, were gradually becoming available for same-sex married couples and, in particular, the Internal Revenue Service had decided those couples could now file their taxes together no matter where they resided. So, we tied the knot in Seattle in October and rejoiced about now being able to file our taxes jointly for the first time.
What we were not expecting, though, was the Idaho Legislature’s adverse reaction to the IRS tax-filing changes. Language was inserted into the state’s income tax administrative rules reiterating that Idaho will only legally recognize marriage between a man and a woman, and stating that same-sex married couples would not be allowed to file state taxes together. Jim and I felt it was an unnecessary and hurtful act, and decided to join several other legally married Idaho couples in publicly testifying against the changes.
“You’re telling Jim and I that our legal union is not due the same level of respect all married couples in Idaho deserve,” I told the Idaho House and Senate state affairs committees in January. “You’re telling us that we are not equal.”
It was one of those moments when I realized how intertwined my personal life has become with the work of Pride Foundation. It also reminded me how grateful I am about the professional partnerships I’ve developed along the way with like-minded organizations including the ACLU of Idaho and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest—both of whom are championing LGBTQ equality, and who stood alongside us in support while we testified.
Another great partnership to come from the melding of my worlds is with Wells Fargo Advisors in Boise, which generously financially sponsored Pride Foundation’s Idaho 2013 year-end grantee celebration. Dan Timberlake, a financial advisor with the company’s Boise-based office, originally reached out to Jim and I last fall just wanting to find out more about the Idaho LGBTQ community. After sponsoring the grantee event, he told me that he and Wells Fargo Advisors wanted to do more to help and educate on LGBTQ-related issues.
That led to Pride Foundation and Wells Fargo Advisors collaborating on a well-attended educational workshop in February in Boise about the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the impact its overturn by the U.S. Supreme Court would have on married same-sex couples in Idaho. We partnered with Boise estate attorney Chris Huntley and presented information about how same-sex couples in Idaho will have to file their taxes this year, and other implications after DOMA’s fall such as Social Security spousal eligibility and survivor benefits. We are now hoping to present similar workshops for the LGBTQ community in other parts of the state.
Fifteen years ago I found happiness in being able to stand up and publicly profess my love to another man. Today, that joy is equaled by how that personal commitment—and a marriage license—have contributed to the growth of Pride Foundation’s work in Idaho and the rewarding professional partnerships we’ve made with those striving to support the LGBTQ community, and help advance full equality for all of us.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.