Love Comes at a Cost: The NYT Looks at Gay Finances

Love costs, especially if you are in a same-sex couple in America.  So says the NYT today in an A1 story about the price of being in a gay relationship. Part of the paper’s Your Money feature, it’s a fascinating look at the costs incurred by same-sex couples who can’t take advantage of (largely) federal benefits.

Our goal was to create a hypothetical gay couple whose situation would be similar to a heterosexual couple’s. So we gave the couple two children and assumed that one partner would stay home for five years to take care of them. We also considered the taxes in the three states that have the highest estimated gay populations — New York, California and Florida. We gave our couple an income of $140,000, which is about the average income in those three states for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18.

Here is what we came up with. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.

The multimedia presentation does a nice job of laying out the finances, although one really needs to understand the hypothetical assumptions for the analysis to make complete sense.  Nonetheless, it’s a great piece that takes a non-advocacy look at the financial costs of not being able to marry.

Marcus Mabry, an NLGJA member and NYT international business editor, is interviewed on the podcast talking about his personal take on the economic (and emotional) costs of being a same-sex couple, especially for those with children.  The reporters also talk to a financial planner who works with same-sex couples.  It cuts through the density of the article and is a good listen.

Commenters on the story have a few legitimate quibbles with the assumptions.  First, the inclusion of children into the mix really tilts the financial picture, yet most same-sex couples don’t have kids. Since most opposite-sex couples have children, the comparison makes sense, but it still distorts the picture a bit.  They also pick a fairly high family income–$120,000–which is supposedly the median household income for same-sex couples in New York, California, and New York.  The also say that “[n]early all the extra costs that gay couples face would be erased if the federal government legalized same-sex marriage,” which is an odd understanding of legal issue (it ignores, for instance, that even if the federal government allowed government benefits for same-sex married couples, it would do nothing for the hypothetical couples in California, New York, and Florida where state law bars same-sex marriage).

But those are small complaints.  This is a tremendous story that shows that fair and accurate coverage of LGBT lives need not be advocacy and be limited to the home section and the politics page.  There are smart business stories to tell about LGBT lives, just as there are smart sports stories and religion stories. It is also possible to approach these stories in an analytical, objective way that need not be part of a larger culture war analysis of same-sex marriage and LGBT lives.

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