Tyler YMCA changes membership policy after lesbian couple’s complaint

YMCAThe Tyler YMCA quickly changed it membership policies after receiving a complaint from a lesbian couple that was refused a family membership. In January, the Tyler couple applied for family membership and their application was rejected because they did not fit the gym’s definition of family.

The couple created a Change.org petition that attracted more than 8,000 signatures.

In her petition, Suzy Sheridan said she and her partner have been together more than 20 years, but were told they’d need to show a marriage license before getting a family membership. She said 10 years earlier her family had a family membership when their son was on the swim team.

But rather than fight to exclude the couple, the YMCA revised their policy within a matter of weeks to be inclusive.

Now, the restrictions on the type of families accepted have been dropped and family memberships have been replaced with household memberships.

The new policy states:

“*Household Membership are 2 adults and children under 21 [24 if enrolled in college (full-time)-must submit proof of registration annually] Additional adults can be added for an additional monthly fee of $15.00 per month. Required documentation will be ID and proof of residency such as driver’s license with current address or bill showing name and matching address. This membership includes facility usage, fitness group classes and discounted programs.”

—  David Taffet

‘I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position’

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox issued a statement this afternoon, criticizing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings for failing to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality this week.

“As the executive director and CEO of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community center in the sixth largest LGBT community in United States, I am concerned that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is not supporting marriage equality alongside other big-city mayors,” Cox said. “Legally recognized marriage is a civil rights, an economic and a legal issue that directly affects the members of the LGBT community where he serves as mayor and who call Dallas home.

“In the last two years, two major LGBT conferences (Creating Change and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit) have visited Dallas, bringing millions of dollars in local economic impact. I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position,” Cox wrote. “LGBT families are shut out of the legal protections granted with marriage. The result is that couples and children in LGBT families are precluded from legal health benefits, economic benefits and the safety and security that so many others enjoy because the laws automatically protect them. I urge Mayor Rawlings to revisit and reconsider his decision.”

Below is video from this morning’s press conference in Washington, where Freedom to Marry formally launched the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign. According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, 80 mayors from across the country have now signed the pledge in support of marriage equality. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is co-chairing the campaign.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country,” Parker said. “Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

—  John Wright

What’s Shakin’ – Wolfman at Wortham, Vampires on Pacific St.

The Wolfman1. If you got your hard-core Halloween partying out of the way this weekend, why not curl up under the stars (and a blanket) for the 1941 horror classic “The Wolfman,” at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Herman Park. Show starts at 7:30 pm. In this version the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) has an estranged father, frequents antique stores, caries an ornate walking stick for no particular reason and (of course) engages in nocturnal behavior of a hairy and bestial sort. Sounds like some of my friends. Admission is free, but prime spots on the lawn fill up quickly so arrive early.

2. If you didn’t get your hard-core partying out of the way then you’ll be glad to know that the clubs of Pacific street are still going strong. JR’s Bar‘s “Anytheme Goes” party (808 Pacific) and Meteor‘s “True Blood” festivities (2306 Genesee) continue tonight with a costume contests at 11 pm, while South Beach‘s “Twilight” fete (810 Pacific) waits till midnight for its contest . Cash prizes are up for grabs at all three for best costume, best couple or group and most outrageous costume.

3. Broadway World reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D – NY, plans to introduce the Senate companion to the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” introduced by Rep. Pete Stark, D – CA, last May. The bill would remove barriers to otherwise qualified LGBT parents servings as foster parents or adopting. “By removing all barriers for LGBT families to serve as foster parents, New York City has increased its foster parent pool by nearly 26,000 prospective parents,” said Gillibrand. This legislation would open thousands of new foster and adoptive homes to children ensuring they are raised in loving families.” So far only three of Texas’ thirty-two congressional representatives, including Houston’s own Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, have signed on as cosponsors.

 

—  admin

Deadline approaching for LEAP scholarships

Vedda.Tony

Tony Vedda

Fewer students than expected have applied for college scholarships through a program run by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce.

The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Leadership Education & Advocacy Program (GLBT LEAP) is offering up to $7,500 in scholarships this year in its first-ever award cycle. GLBT LEAP is the chamber’s scholarship and leadership development organization.

The deadline to apply for scholarships is Oct. 15, and Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said today he’s been underwhelmed by the number of applications.

“There’s still another week,” Vedda said. “We’d sure like to see some more applications, because we want to give some people some money.”

The scholarships are open to all Texas residents beginning or continuing undergraduate work in January. Applicants will be evaluated based on financial need, academic achievement and community service. Preference will be given to LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who’ve been strongly supportive of the community.

To apply for a GLBT LEAP scholarship, complete the 2011 Scholarship Application Form at www.GLBTLEAP.org

Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 15. Completed applications should be sent to Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, ATTN: Scholarships, 3824 Cedar Springs Road, Ste. 417, Dallas, TX 75219.

For more information, email at scholarships@glbtleap.org

—  John Wright

Groups hope couples, lawyers will take the parenting pledge

New guidelines for same-sex parenting and custody aimed at stopping LGBTs from denying parental rights to ex-partners

Mary-Bonauto
GLAD’S MARY BONAUTO | (Photo courtesy InfinityPortraitDesign.com)

Dana Rudolph  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

Some of the most contentious lawsuits involving the rights of LGBT people have occurred when the biological parent of a child uses anti-LGBT laws to try and deny the child’s non-biological parent custody or visitation.

But several LGBT legal organizations have published a revised set of standards aimed at stopping such behavior, and they’re hoping parents and attorneys will take a pledge to abide by them.

The publication is “Protecting Families: Standards for LGBT Families,” produced by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council. It encourages lawyers to support and respect LGBT parents even when legal rights do not, and advises parents and lawyers to honor children’s relationships with both parents, seek custody resolutions that minimize conflict, and use litigation only as a last resort.

Mary Bonauto, the director of GLAD’s Civil Rights Project, authored the original version of the standards in 1999. She said the intent of the document is to urge same-sex parents to use whatever parental protections are available in their states, “for the sake of your children.”

These protections may assist with issues such as medical decision-making, but may also help maintain both parents’ relationships with the children when the couple breaks up.

The revised document is updated to reflect new laws in several states recognizing the relationships of same-sex couples, whether through marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships. But it cautions that same-sex parents should not rely on such laws to protect their parental relationships with their children.

“[W]e still have a huge architecture of discrimination against same-sex relationships,” said Bonauto. Many states do not recognize them at all or may not treat them in the same way as opposite-sex relationships. This may jeopardize the relationships of non-biological, non-adoptive parents to their children.

Even in Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry, courts may not look favorably upon a non-biological parent who has not also done a “second-parent adoption” of a spouse’s biological child, she said.

“There are still very parent-specific protections you should try to avail yourself of,” said Bonauto.

Some protections may be available even in states that have constitutional bans against marriage for same-sex couples.

If parents do break up, Bonauto said, going to court is damaging financially and emotionally. And it can destroy the couple’s ability to work together as parents.

There have been a number of recent cases across the country in which a biological or adoptive parent has tried to claim the other parent has no parental rights. Best known among them is the case of Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, which has grabbed headlines nationally.

Miller, the biological mother, asked courts in both Virginia and Vermont to deny Jenkins visitation and custody, and has taken issues to the U.S. Supreme Court five times, without success each time.

Miller was eventually ruled in contempt of court for defying a Vermont court order that she allow Jenkins visitation. The court then granted legal custody to Jenkins.

But Miller went into hiding with the girl at the end of 2009, and a man accused of helping her leave the U.S. was arraigned in a federal court last April.

Many similar cases exist, and the outcomes have been mixed.

The Delaware Supreme Court issued a ruling in March upholding the right of a woman to be identified as a de facto parent of a child she had been raising with her former same-sex partner — a child the partner adopted but that the woman herself did not.

The Nebraska Supreme Court in August ruled that a non-biological mom has a right, under the doctrine of in loco parentis — which recognizes a person who acts as a parent — to a custody and visitation hearing regarding the child she and her former partner were raising together.

But the North Carolina Supreme Court in December 2010 voided a lesbian mother’s second-parent adoption. The majority on the court said state statutes permit adoptions only if the existing parent gives up all parental rights or is married to the person seeking to adopt, as in the case of a stepparent.

Other cases with biological mothers trying to deny parental rights to non-biological mothers have reached the appellate or state supreme court levels in the past few years in states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin — again with mixed results.

In several of these cases, notably Miller v. Jenkins, attorneys from conservative legal organizations such as Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defense Fund have represented the biological mothers.

“They are making an industry of it,” Bonauto noted of the groups. But many individual, private attorneys, including ones in the LGBT community, are also representing biological mothers against non-biological mothers in such cases.

GLAD will soon be launching an online pledge where attorneys can promise not to take these cases and to endorse the revised standards. Parents, too, can pledge to uphold them.

New Jersey attorney William Singer, a member of the Family Law Advisory Council, said he hopes attorneys will discuss the standards with parents, not just at the time of breakups, but also at the time of family creation, “to try and impress upon both parents why it’s so important to maintain continuity of relationships for their children.”

The standards are available via GLAD’s Web site, GLAD.org.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FAMILY LIFE: Resource Directory

Adoption Resources

• ADOPTION INTERNATIONAL
Jody Hall, LLC
International Adoptions for the LGBT community
972-231-2933
AdoptMeInternational.org

• FAMILY TO FAMILY ADOPTIONS
Pregnancy & Adoption Center
1000 Austin Street, Suite B, Richmond TX
281-342-4042
Fam2Fam.org

• HOPE COTTAGE
Leslie Clay
Pregnancy & Adoption Center | PRIDE Training
4209 McKinney Ave, Dallas TX
214-526-8721 x 242
HopeCottage.org

• McKAY-KELLER CONSULTANTS, INC
Susan McKay, Attorney
Adoption Home Studies for LGBT families
214-341-9016
AdoptionAssistanceAndSupport.com

• PATHWAYS
Youth and family services non-profit | Adoption | Foster Care
817-391-0771
Pathway.org

• RAINBOW BABIES
General information on LGBT pregnancies and parenting
TheRainbowBabies.com

• THE WHOLE SOUL COUNSELING CENTER
Brenda Lee Roberts
Adoption Home Studies for LGBT families | Parent Facilitation | Collaborative Consultant
4849 Greenville, Suite 1118, Dallas TX
972-672-0038
BrendaLeeRoberts.com

Surrogacy Services

• SURROGACY ABROAD, INC
Dr. Samson Benhur
Surrogacy Services in India
875 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 3100, Chicago, IL
877-483-4634; SurrogacyAbroad.com

• SURROGATE SOLUTIONS, LLC
Surrogacy Services
P.O. Box 923 Hewitt, TX 76642
SurrogateSolutions.net

Legal Resources

• AMERICAN ACADEMY OF
ADOPTION ATTORNEYS
AdoptionAttorneys.com
SUZANNE BRYANT, PC
Adoption | Wills
1907 N. Lamar Blvd., Suite 220, Austin TX
512-476-4760
SuzanneBryantLaw.com

• REBECCA S. COVELL, PC
Wills | Estate Planning | Trusts | Probate
3710 Rawlins St., Suite 950, Dallas TX
214-443-0300
CovellPC.com

• LAUREN GAYDOS DUFFER, P.C.
Adoption | Family Law | Mediation | Collaborative Law | Surrogacy
690 E. Lamar Blvd., Suite 560, Arlington TX
817-548-5643
TXFamilyLawAtty.com

• CHRISTOPHER FARISH, PC
Family Law | Custody | Name Change | Probate | Wills & Estate Planning | Mediation | Surrogacy | Collaborative Law | Adoption
8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 600, Dallas
214-373-9100
QuaidAndQuaid.com

• STEPHANIE HALL, PC
Adoption | Family Law | Custody | Wills | Probate | Estate Planning
4514 Cole, Suite 600, Dallas TX
214-522-3343

• JOHN P. McCALL JR, PC
Family Law | Wills | Probate
214-942-1100
AttorneyMcCall.com

• MICHELLE MAY O’NEIL, PC
Adoption | Family Law | Custody
5420 Lyndon B. Johnson Frwy, Suite 500, Dallas TX
972-852-8000 or 866-959-4330
TheMayFirm.com

• JULIE QUAID, PC
Family Law | Custody | Name Change | Probate | Wills & Estate Planning | Mediation | Surrogacy | Collaborative Law | Adoption
8150 N. Central Expressway, Suite 600, Dallas
214-373-9100
QuaidAndQuaid.com

• PETER SCHULTE, PC
Family Law | Will | Estate Planning | Probate
4131 N. Central Expressway, Suite 680, Dallas TX
214-521-2200
PeteSchulte.com

• TIMOTHY T. THOMAS, P.C.
Wills | Estate Planning | Probate | Shared Parenting Agreements | Trusts
2501 Oak Lawn Ave., Suite 295, Dallas TX
214-324-9298
TTTLaw.com

• CHAD WEST, PLLC
Wills | Estate Planning
614 N. Bishop Ave., Suite 2, Dallas | Ft. Worth
214-509-7555
ChadWestLaw.com

• JENNY WOMACK, P.C.
Adoption | Family Law | Mediation | Surrogacy
15455 N. Dallas Parkway, Suite 440, Addison TX
214-744-4440
WilsonLakeLaw.com

• KIMBERLY VERMILLION WRIGHT, PC
Family Law | Adoption | Wills | Probate | Name Changes
6301 Gaston Ave., Suite 826
469-916-7868
WrightFamilyAttorney.com

Resources for Couples

• COLLABORATIVE PROFESSIONALS
OF DALLAS
Dispute Resolutions | Adoption | Custody
Non-profit organization
CPOfDallas.com

• COUPLES METRO DALLAS
Social organization for LGBT couples in committed relationships
CouplesMetroDallas.com

• TEXAS PARADISE WEDDINGS
Ka’i Roberts
Video production, DJ/emcee, first dance instruction
469-252-9938
TexasParadiseWeddings.com

Resources for Parents

• 2 DADDIES, 1 LOVE | 2 MOMMIES, 1 LOVE
Website Network for LGBT Parents
Cooper Smith Koch
214-329-9191 x. 104
TwoDaddiesOneLove.com

• FAMILY EQUALITY COUNCIL
Ensures equality for LGBT families
1050 17th St., NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036
617-502-8700
FamilyEquality.org

• HRC FAMILY PROJECT
Robb Puckett
Resources for LGBT Parents|Family-friendly events
214-403-0098

• SMU’S CENTER FOR FAMILY COUNSELING
at Resource Center Dallas
2701 Reagan St. Dallas, TX
214-393-3680

Resources for LGBT Seniors

• AUTUMN JOURNEY HOSPICE
Providing in-Home Health Care
5347 Spring Valley Rd.
Dallas, TX 75254
972-233-0525
AutumnJourneyHospice.com

• CLICK WHEELCHAIR SERVICES
Wheelchair retail and repair
1075 Duncan Perry Rd., Arlington, TX
866-670-6805

• GAIN at RESOURCE CENTER DALLAS
GLBT Aging Interest Network, educational
and social organization for GLBT Seniors
2701 Reagan St., Dallas TX
214-528-0144; RCDallas.org

• KIND COMPANIONS
Providing in-Home Health Care
214-924-9302
KindCompanions.com

• PARKGATE DALLAS RETIREMENT LIVING
Luxury retirement community for LGBT seniors
2801 Wycliff Ave., Dallas, TX
214-219-1091
ParkGateDallas.com

• PRIME TIMERS DALLAS/FT. WORTH
Social, educational and recreational organization for gay and bisexual men
P.O. Box 191101, Dallas TX 75219
972-504-8866
PrimeTimers-DFW.org

• SafeTREC and SafeKidZone
Cell phone personal security system
888-885-0887
SafeTREC.com

• SAGE
National organization, services and advocacy for LGBT seniors
305 Seventh Avenue, Sixth Floor, New York, 10001
212-741-2247
SageUSA.org

• VILLAGES OF LAKE HIGHLANDS
Senior living facility
8615 Lullwater Dr., Dallas TX
214-221-0444
VillagesOfLakeHighlands.com

• WITECK COMBS COMMUNICATIONS
Bob Witeck
Studies of LGBT siblings caring for
aging parents and LGBT retirement
202-887-0500
WiteckCombs.com

Religious/Spiritual Resources

• AGAPE MCC
4615 E. California Pkwy., Fort Worth TX
817-535-5002
AgapeMCC.com

• CATHEDRAL OF HOPE
A Congregation of the United Church of Christ
5910 Cedar Springs Rd., Dallas TX
214-351-1901
CathedralOfHope.com

• CENTER FOR SPIRITUAL LIVING
4801 Spring Valley Rd., Dallas TX
972-866-9988
CSLDallas.org

• GRACE FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST JESUS
411 S. Westmoreland, Dallas TX
214-333-9779
GFICJesus.com

• HARVEST MCC DENTON
3916 E. McKinney St., Suite B, Denton TX
940-320-6150
HarvestMCC.org
• NEW DAY UMC OF MANSFIELD
1475 Heritage Parkway, Mansfield, TX
817-225-2277; NewDayUMC.com

• THE OLD CATHOLIC CHURCH
2701 Reagan St., Dallas
877-216-4670; MyChalJudge.com

• THE ONE CHURCH
2515 Inwood Rd., Suite 213, Dallas TX
214-724-5658; Dallas1Church.org

Financial PLAN Resources

• MASS MUTUAL
Judy Sherman
Financial Services | Life Insurance
10000 N. Central Expressway, Suite 1200, Dallas TX
972-348-6350
MassMutual.com

• MAXWELL FINANCIAL SERVICES
Kay Maxwell
Financial Services
14673 Midway Rd., Suite 100, Addison, TX
972-991-7887
MaxwellFinancial.com

• NEW YORK LIFE
Brian A. Walker
Life Insurance | Child ID Program for LGBT kids
972-774-2046
Facebook.com/bwnyl

• TURTLE CREEK ADVISORS
Doug Simmang
Financial Services
3100 Carlisle, Suite 123, Dallas TX
TurtleCreekAdvisors.com

INSURANCE

• ALLSTATE
Alex Long Insurance Agency
Life | Home | Auto
2700 N. O’Connor Ste. 125, Irving TX
972-570-7000
AlexLongInsuranceAgency.com

• FARMERS INSURANCE
Angel Irvin
Life | Home | Auto | Financial Services
14651 Dallas Parkway, Suite 110, Dallas TX
972-367-6200

• STEVEN GRAVES INSURANCE
Life | Home | Auto
2919 Welborn St., Suite 100, Dallas TX
214-599-0808
StevenGravesInsurance.com

—  John Wright

FAMILY LIFE: HRC Family Project offers resources

LGBT parents in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex have a large number of resources available to them, from attorneys who specialize in LGBT family law issues, to support groups that give them the chance to meet and socialize with other families like theirs.

One of the newer — and perhaps lesser known — of these resources is the local HRC Family Project program.

The HRC Family Project is a program of the national Human Rights Campaign Foundation, but local leader Robb Puckett said HRC’s DFW Steering Committee wanted to find a way to “try and localize those efforts, to create something that is a real tool and a resource for LGBT families.”

Puckett said, “We’ve been trying to reach out and engage the LGBT families with children by creating opportunities for them to get together and build an even stronger community here in North Texas.”

One of the program’s most recent efforts, Puckett said, was the highly-successful LGBT Family Day at the Dallas Zoo, and the HRC Steering Committee has even added a second session of bowling to its annual Fruit Bowl to have a time especially dedicated to families with children.

He said that children are welcome to participate in both sessions of this year’s Fruit Bowl, coming up Aug. 7 at 300 Dallas, 3805 Beltline Road in Addison, but that the early session, from noon to 3 p.m., will be especially geared toward family activities.

“We also want to raise awareness of all the other resources that already exist here for families in our community,” Puckett said, and to that end, the program uses the websites TwoDaddiesOneLove.com and TwoMommiesOneLove.com as a resource for promoting events and opportunities.

For more information, go online to DallasFW.HRC.org, or on the committee’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/dfwhrc.

—Tammye Nash

—  John Wright

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 05.13Vern_Yip-1

Both historic and modern
The dancers from the Complexions Contemporary Ballet are likely in good spirits. They embark on their Dallas residency for the next year working with TITAS on the commissioned work Testament, a new work based on Negro spiritual songs sung by actor Cedric Neal and new choreography by the company.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 8 p.m.
$19–$125. ATTPAC.org.

 

Sunday 05.15

Time for some family bonding
LGBT families are more than welcome at this first Modern Family Fest. A full day of activities, entertainment and the most family bonding thing ever — food. With Off the Bone serving up barbecue and the Mister Cool Ice Cream truck, the adults might end up taking a nap before the kids do.

DEETS: Methodist Hospital Folsom Fitness Center Park, 262 West Greenbriar St. Noon.
$5 children, $10 adults. WedChild.org.

 

Thursday 05.19

Yip! Yip! Hooray
If you’re having a major interior design brain fart (and who hasn’t?), help is on the way. Vern Yip from Trading Spaces fame comes to town offering his expert advice on your design debacles. Now just comes the time to admit to them.

DEETS: I.O. Metro, # 5301 Alpha Road, Suite 34. 6:30 p.m. IO-Metro.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

HRC Family Project to host gay day at Dallas Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears aren’t as big a deal as the HRC Family Project’s latest event. The Project will host the LGBT Family Day at the Dallas Zoo on Saturday, which may be the first kind of “gay day” for the zoo. The blog 2 Daddies, 1 Love/2 Mommies 1 Love posted the event details. It’s an all-day affair but families can come and go as they please.

Families will gather at 10:15 a.m. at the carousel for a meet and greet and from there, they can either explore as a group or break off on their own. The group will then meet for lunch at the Serengeti Grill.

But they aren’t limiting it to just families. If you just like going to the zoo, they say you can join as well.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Tips for gay couples as tax time approaches

Tax laws weren’t written with LGBT families in mind, but there are ways to make them work for you

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A new tax ruling in California that appears to be a first step toward federal recognition of same-sex marriage will actually cost gay and lesbian couples there more money, according to Jon Chester of Sterling Bookkeeping and Tax Service.

In that ruling, the IRS said that registered domestic partners in that state must file as married filing separately.

“Married filing separately is the worst way to file a return,” Chester said. “We’re going to recognize you, but we’re going to have you file in the worst way a married couple can file.”

Ron Allen

Married filing jointly, he said, usually saves the most money and that filing is something same-sex couples cannot do on their federal taxes.

The so-called marriage penalty has been eliminated because a married couple gets to deduct twice the amount of a single person.

“But married tax brackets are much wider and save,” he said, so married couples filing jointly enjoy a tax advantage.

Chester had some other tips for same-sex couples in filing their returns.

He said that to take anything other than a standard deduction of $5,400, you must itemize.

Those deductions include property tax, charitable donations and medical expenses.

Chester said that if you support someone, you could take a deduction for that person.

Married couples who are recognized by the federal government regularly take deductions for dependents. He said gay people often do not think of that.

The person might be a child or a domestic partner. Chester suggested deducting for a parent that you support, even if that person doesn’t live with you. A parent in assisted living whose monthly bills you pay, for example, qualifies as a dependent.

He said it’s usually better for the partner making less money to claim any investment income and for the partner making more money to take any losses. The amounts can also be allocated proportionally, as long as no more than the total is claimed between the couple.

Jon Chester

Ron Allen, a CPA who used to work for the Internal Revenue Service, said that when a same-sex couple is sharing ownership and deductions on property, do three things to make the tax return audit-proof. Make sure both names are on the deed and on the mortgage and make payments from a joint account.

He said that for an account to be considered joint for tax purposes, both partners should make deposits into the account during the year. He suggested that even couples that kept their finances separate should make common household payments from a joint account.

Allen said that tax laws were not written with same-sex families in mind, but we must fit the laws to work for our families.

For instance, Allen asked, who deducts a dependent child when Texas doesn’t recognize a second parent adoption? He said that he has seen a number of cases where the adoptive parent stays at home and the non-adoptive parent earns most of the household income.

The non-adoptive parent may take deductions for the partner and child but will bear an extra burden of proof that married couples don’t need.

Allen said that when he went into business, he saw same-sex couples that used his practice because it was a safe place to reveal their relationship status. Now, he said, many of his clients come to him because tax preparers outside the community don’t know what to do with same-sex families.

Allen said that CPAs now are included in confidentiality rules. If one partner brings him tax returns for both members of the couple, he legally cannot answer any questions about the partner’s returns unless he has a power of attorney or a signed document.

“It’s just another case of us having to do something special,” he said. “A husband and wife don’t have to do these things.”

Couples dealing with issues of joint home ownership or other joint assets, adoption and disability and dependency issues should see a CPA who is experienced in handling these issues for the LGBT community, Allen said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright