American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Suze Orman and the Cost of Marriage Inequality

CNBC Host Suze Orman moderated a panel discussion Thursday at New York University on the economic harms caused by the federal government failing to recognize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

The panel, called “The Cost of Marriage Inequality,” was sponsored by the Respect for Marriage Coalition, which includes AFER and more than 80 organizations supporting the freedom to marry, and the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. It also featured Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, the first state governor to call for marriage equality in his inaugural address.

Said Suze:

“Every state in the union could pass marriage equality legislation and it would not be enough. Only when our federal government steps up and treats all legally married couples equally under the law will the discrimination end.”

Two couples – Jo-Ann Shain and Mary-Jo Kennedy from New York, and Colette Hayward and Margaret Selby from Maryland – also discussed how the lack of federal government recognition has disadvantaged them personally – and how things would be different if the federal government recognized their marriages.


“We took care of each other when we were sick, in good times and bad times; we were in it for the long haul, but we couldn’t marry until July 24, 2011-the first day same-sex couples could legally marry in New York. Because … the federal government [doesn’t] recognizing our marriage, we have faced and will continue to face several financial burdens including taxes on health benefits, higher taxes, loss of Social Security survivor benefits and additional legal costs.”


“When we got married in Massachusetts in 2009, it was important to both of us that my employer – the Baltimore County Police Department – recognize our marriage and allow me to put Colette on my benefits policy. After all, I’ve been an officer in the department, and those benefits are available to every other married police officer.”

Marriage inequality hurts families, businesses, and our economy at large. Married gay and lesbian couples and their families are not eligible for federal purposes, and their spouses are not entitled to the same economic benefits and protections available to married straight employees. Companies that offer competitive benefits to all employees are financially penalized because benefits for married same-sex families are treated as taxable income, costing millions of dollars annually. Meanwhile, businesses in states without equal marriage rights also face a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent among prospective LGBT employees.