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Hyattsville City Council Passes Human Rights Act
This evening the Hyattsville City Council, in a 9-0 vote, passed the Hyattsville Human Rights Act. The city becomes the first small city in Maryland and the first jurisdiction in Prince George's County to prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals.
This measure, sponsored by Councilmember Patrick Paschall, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodations based on age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or physical characteristic.
Hyattsville joins Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery Counties in prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals.
Equality Maryland's Executive Director, Carrie Evans, testified in support of this measure and underscored the importance of local jurisdictions passing these laws while efforts at the state level are underway. Evans testified, "Passing this ordinance in Hyattsville will make measurable differences in people’s lives. Equality Maryland is part of the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, a coalition of more than 50 organizations, working on passing similar protections at the state level and your passage of this local law will help greatly in that effort."
By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
11:52 AM EST, November 19, 2013
Advocates and health care providers for LGBT and HIV-positive residents in Maryland have been scrambling for months to gather information on how the Affordable Care Act will impact their clients -- and now they're looking to share the information.
"We really need help to get the word out," said Doug Rose, a volunteer with Equality Maryland, at a public meeting on the health care rollout in Mount Vernon on Monday night. "I think a lot of people still don't know what to do."
Rose said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and those who are HIV-positive have experienced historic discrimination in the health insurance market -- with women and gay men at times facing steeper fees -- that the ACA now forbids.
"My message today is really, for most people, it's pretty simple," he said, of taking advantage of new coverage options.
The meeting at Chase Brexton Health Care's new facilities on North Charles Street, held in partnership with Equality Maryland and Free State Legal, was the first of four such events planned by the advocacy organizations this month.
The room was staffed with ACA advisors and navigators, stocked with sandwiches and refreshments, but only a few people showed up for the free advice on navigating the new health care law.
Both a man and a woman, who did not wish to be identified, asked questions about seeking health insurance under the state's expanded Medicaid program after a brief presentation from Rose and other panel members from Chase Brexton and Free State.
According to the panelists, the Medicaid expansion will offer some HIV-positive Maryland residents with more coverage than existing offerings, like Ryan White programs, but that many Ryan White wrap-around services like food assistance and transportation services will continue.
They also said the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program could continue to be a resource for individuals who obtain health insurance through the open market.
Other issues are less clear, they said. Advocates are still working to determine if some procedures, like sex reassignment surgeries, or treatments, like hormones for transgender residents, will be covered under the new plans.
"Advocates are looking at these things. We are tracking these things," Rose said.
Representatives from Chase Brexton said LGBT and HIV-positive residents can contact their staff at ATeam@chasebrexton.org -- regardless of whether they are Chase Brexton clients -- to be connected with assistance in finding a health care plan.
Anne Blackfield, director of outreach and pro bono services at Free State Legal, said her organization is also available to provide legal advice on complicated issues such as filing jointly for coverage as a married same-sex couple.
"No matter what, we're very fortunate to be living in Maryland, because everyone here wants this to be a success," Rose said, noting that advocates are working closely with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to understand the law's impact on the LGBT community. "If things get rocky, just be patient and know that everything will be OK."
The next event is at 6 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Columbia, at 5500 Knoll North Drive, Suite 370. There are two events on Thursday: the first at 12 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Easton, at 8221 Teal Drive, Suite 202; the second at 6 p.m. at the Chase Brexton center in Randallstown, at 3510 Brenbrook Drive.
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun
The right to marry now extends to more Marylanders than ever before. Under the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which took effect January 1, 2013, same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses knowing that their unions will be recognized by the state. Federal recognition came some six months later with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. These are exciting developments for the LGBT community, and couples who choose to marry will now enjoy many important benefits. Among these are the right to file joint tax returns, to receive Social Security and other government benefits, and to obtain health insurance from a spouse’s employer.
Being married also offers benefits in the realm of estate planning. Whether married or not, any couple in a committed relationship can help protect themselves and their loved ones with certain essential documents, including Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directives. With a valid Will, you can designate who will settle your estate, who will inherit your assets, and who will serve as the guardian of any minor children. A Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive allow you to designate someone to manage your finances and health care if you are unable to do so yourself.
But even with these documents in place, an unmarried couple may face serious disadvantages if either partner should die. With the purchase of a marriage license and the exchange of vows, the same couple immediately acquires significant legal benefits:
The first is avoiding the Maryland inheritance tax. This 10% tax applies to assets left to anyone who is not a spouse or other close family member. For unmarried couples, the result can be a hefty tax bill. Especially if the estate includes few liquid assets, the inheritance tax may be difficult to pay. Some surviving partners have had to tap into their savings, invade their retirement accounts, or even sell the family home just to pay the tax. By turning strangers into kin, a marriage license makes this tax go away.
Another benefit is avoiding estate taxes, or at least delaying them. In Maryland, any portion of an estate that exceeds $1 million in value is taxed at the rate of up to 16 percent. The estate tax is less of a concern at the federal level, where only the portion of an estate that exceeds $5.25 million in value is taxed, but at the much higher rate of 40 percent. (Note that for purposes of either tax, the value of the estate includes the value of any life insurance or retirement accounts owned by the decedent.) Married couples avoid these taxes simply by virtue of their marital status; any bequest to the surviving spouse is tax-free. Taxes may still be due when the survivor dies, but even these can be avoided or reduced. Your attorney can prepare Wills that include provisions for a bypass trust—an effective estate-planning tool reserved to married couples.
Another important benefit is the right to title real estate as tenants by the entirety. This form of ownership is reserved to married couples and helps protect the family home from creditor claims. If either spouse is sued individually or files for bankruptcy, creditors are generally prevented from seizing and selling the property to satisfy the debt. And if either spouse dies, the property transfers automatically to the survivor. Retitling a house as tenants by the entirety is a simple matter of recording a new deed.
With all of these incentives in place, many gay and lesbian couples are asking whether there is any good reason not to get married. This is a fair question. One potential downside is the “marriage penalty” under the federal income tax code. This penalty applies to married couples with similar incomes, but the number of couples actually affected varies from time to time as the tax code is adjusted. Your accountant or tax preparer can tell you whether the penalty would apply to you and how much it is likely to be.
For most couples contemplating marriage, the legal benefits are of course a secondary consideration. Marriage may provide advantages that even the most carefully prepared estate plan cannot, but it is still chiefly a union of love and commitment, not a business venture. Even so, no matter how long a couple may have been together, marriage’s legal advantages are well worth considering.
Lee Carpenter is an associate at the Baltimore law firm of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes and can be reached at (410) 576-4729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information is intended to provide general information about legal topics and should not be construed as legal advice.