Connect with us

Congress

Schiff, Chu introduce bill to decrease LGBTQ+ surrogacy costs

Measure has 17 Democratic co-sponsors

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON — As the future of reproductive rights in the U.S. remain uncertain, U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced a bill on Wednesday aimed at equalizing healthcare access and lowering the costs for LGBTQ+ people and couples who want to have children. 

The Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act, co-sponsored by 17 other Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives and endorsed by multiple reproductive rights groups and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, would seek to reform the nation’s tax system in order to crack down on certain inequities in reproductive healthcare for same-sex families. 

The bill would require the Internal Revenue Service to allow LGBTQ+ people and couples to claim assisted reproductive treatments as deductions, which decrease one’s net income that determines how much they must pay in taxes to the federal government.

Schiff has asserted that the current tax system, which already often allows heterosexual couples to claim assisted reproductive treatments as deductions, must be changed. 

“Every person regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or relationship status deserves the same opportunity to start and expand a family,” Schiff said in a statement introducing the bill. “But right now, our tax code is sorely outdated and makes it harder for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples to afford treatments to bring children into their families, such as [in vitro fertilization].”

According to the language of the bill, assisted reproductive treatments that would be made more financially accessible would include “any methods, treatments, procedures, and services for the purpose of effectuating a pregnancy and carrying it to term, including gamete and embryo donation, intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, intracervical insemination, traditional reproductive surrogacy and gestational reproductive surgery.”

The IRS has, in the past, asserted that tax deductions for in vitro fertilization and other surrogacy-related costs can be classified as such due to the patient’s own medical conditions that cause infertility. While IVF treatment is included in IRS policy as an expense that could count as deductible, the policy includes it only as a treatment for an inability to have children. In the instance of same-sex couples or LGBTQ+ individuals, the IRS has argued that surrogacy and IVF are not needed as a result of a medical condition causing infertility, but rather a choice not to have one’s own children.

In a private letter ruling released in April 2021, the IRS detailed its reasoning for denying such deduction requests.

“Only costs and fees directly attributable to medical care for diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body of the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or taxpayer’s dependent qualify as eligible medical expenses,” the IRS wrote. “Expenses involving egg donation, IVF procedures, and gestational surrogacy incurred for third parties are not incurred for treatment of disease nor are they for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of taxpayers’ bodies.”

Past attempts to challenge the IRS’s policy have been unsuccessful in the court system. 

A 2016 lawsuit brought by Joseph Morrissey, a gay man seeking to have children with his partner via a surrogate, argued that the IRS violated the Constitution in denying his request to count the medical costs of surrogacy as a deduction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit later found that the IRS had not violated Morrissey’s constitutional rights, as the IVF-related care did not pertain to Morrissey’s biological ability to have children.

But in order to provide equitable healthcare to all Americans, Chu believes that passing her bill is necessary.

“Every American deserves access to quality reproductive care and the Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act will even the grounds for taxpaying families seeking deductions on reproductive expenses — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ability status or marital status — and will ensure greater access and affordability for critical family planning care,” Chu said.

The lawmakers’ push to secure such equity in healthcare comes amid one of the most tumultuous times in the last half-century for such freedoms. As the nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, many are skeptical of the court’s willingness to uphold any nationwide right to abortion and fear the broader affects such a decision could have on rights established by other past cases.

In stressing what he sees as the importance of ensuring reproductive freedoms, Schiff appeared to make a veiled reference to the impending decision in his statement. 

“Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to make sure everyone has access to affordable family planning care, and to protect people’s rights to make health care decisions for themselves and their families,” Schiff said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Congress

Senate to revisit Respect for Marriage Act after Thanksgiving

President Joe Biden has urged Congress to expeditiously send the Respect for Marriage Act to his desk where it will become law

Published

on

U.S. Capitol building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just before midnight on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that consideration of the Respect for Marriage Act and an associated amendment will resume on Nov. 28, when the chamber reconvenes following the Thanksgiving break.

The historic legislation would preserve the more than 1,100 rights and benefits enjoyed by married same-sex couples regardless of whether the constitutional right to marriage equality survives the U.S. Supreme Court’s supermajority.

Support for the Respect for Marriage Act is bipartisan, with a dozen Republican Senators joining the entire Democratic caucus in a cloture vote yesterday to advance the bill to a full floor vote. Likewise, this summer, the House passed its version of the Respect for Marriage Act with unanimous support from Democratic members and 47 of their Republican colleagues.

President Joe Biden has urged Congress to expeditiously send the Respect for Marriage Act to his desk where it will become law.

Senator Tammy Baldwin speaking on Senate floor before the vote.
(Screen shot/CSPAN)

Out Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was widely credited with building momentum for the legislation and forging consensus among members of the upper chamber. On Thursday, she spoke in personal terms about the bill in an address to her colleagues from the Senate floor.

Writing a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “said the rationale used to overturn Roe v. Wade should be used to overturn cases establishing rights to contraception, same-sex sexual relations, and same-sex marriage,” Baldwin said.

With the Respect for Marriage Act, she said, “Congress is acting with the full throated endorsement of the American people” because the Supreme Court “should not be in the position to undermine the stability of families with the stroke of a pen.”

Also addressing their colleagues today with messages of support for the bill were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have all been vocal champions of the Respect for Marriage Act. These lawmakers worked to ensure concerns among some in the Republican caucus were assuaged with an amendment that preserves “religious liberties” and upholds “conscience protections.”

Continue Reading

Congress

Biden & LGBTQ orgs celebrate 12 GOP votes for Marriage Act

RFMA will require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed where they are legal preserving more than 1,100 federal rights & benefits

Published

on

President Joe Biden signs an executive order protecting members of the LGBTQIA+ community, for a Pride Month reception on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON — The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) is expected to be called for a full Senate vote as early as Thursday after clearing an initial cloture vote Wednesday with 50 Democratic and 12 Republican votes.

The bill is among the highest priority items for Congress to address before the new members are seated in January, and it marks a significant nexus of bipartisan agreement in a sharply divided legislature.

President Joe Biden, members of Congress, LGBTQ, civil rights, and legal advocacy organizations celebrated Wednesday’s vote to advance the legislation, which aims to maximize protections for same-sex couples while abiding the legal framework necessary to withstand potential legal challenges.

The RFMA will require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in places where they are legal, preserving the more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits that are conferred by marriage.  

Pledging to “promptly sign it into law,” Biden lauded the lawmakers who voted on Wednesday to support the bill. “The Respect for Marriage Act will ensure that LGBTQI+ couples and interracial couples are respected and protected equally under federal law,” the president said in a statement, “and provide more certainty to these families since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.”

The high court’s ruling earlier this year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is credited as the impetus behind the RFMA, particularly since Justice Clarence Thomas published a concurring opinion in that case vowing to revisit precedents governing marriage equality, among other matters.

California Sen. Alex Padilla (D), a cosponsor of the legislation, said: “Over the last two months, Senate Democrats, led by Senator Baldwin, have made bipartisan strides towards an agreement on this legislation, and I thank our colleagues who joined us in voting to protect this fundamental right.”

Kelley Robinson, incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release, “Today’s strong bipartisan vote of 62-37 for cloture is an incredible victory that cannot be taken lightly—this vote was the bill’s biggest procedural roadblock, and now we steer our focus forward to the Senate’s final vote on this historic legislation.”

GLAAD President and CEO Kate Ellis said in a press release, “As extremist politicians push anti-LGBTQ playbooks on the state level and right-wing U.S. Supreme Court justices overturn other legal precedent, the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act is an opportunity for our leaders to come together to send a message of equal treatment for everyone.”

“Equality California applauds the vote today to protect federal marriage equality across the country — one that cannot be easily overturned, regardless of political control,” the group’s Executive Director Tony Hoang said in a press release.

“Today 62 U.S. Senators voted for cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act, H.R. 8404, a filibuster-proof majority of the U.S. Senate agreeing to move the RMA forward to the Senate floor. The importance of this vote cannot be overstated – it is in some part proactive defensive legislation of the conservative majority of the Supreme Court’s clear threats against marriage for same-sex couples. We support the RMA—a bipartisan compromise – because it would protect millions of same-sex and interracial couples by ensuring their marriages be respected by federal and state governments. It would remove the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) off the books and replace disrespect with respect.  The RMA and our families enjoy strong interfaith support, and it is worth noting that this bill would not change existing constitutional religious freedoms,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.

Continue Reading

Congress

Respect for Marriage Act written to withstand legal challenge

“This bill is careful with how to thread the needle protecting state and federal marriages without addressing a host of other issues”

Published

on

Senator Alex Padilla and Vice President Kamala Harris
Sen. Alex Padilla and Vice President Kamala Harris. (Photo credit: Office of Sen. Padilla)

WASHINGTON – The Senate’s version of the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) was written to “provide the strongest protections possible while being very thoughtful to ensure the best legal defense” in the face of a possible litigated challenge, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Ca.) said.

“Might there be legal challenges to it? I hope not. But in the case that there are, I believe it will be upheld,” Padilla told the Washington Blade by phone on Wednesday, ahead of the Senate’s expected procedural vote on the legislation.

It is the prerogative of any senator to propose additional amendments to the RFMA, as with any legislation, but the appetite among the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers backing the bill is for none to be added at this stage, Padilla said.

The California senator credited Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi), the Democratic lead on negotiation over the bill, for securing “the Republican support necessary to overcome the filibuster.”

“I’m grateful that my Republican colleagues were willing to see the light and act accordingly here,” Padilla said.

As written, the RFMA “makes clear that federal government will not discriminate on marriage on the basis of sex or race [while requiring that] states must acknowledge marriages happening in other states,” said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBTQ organization.

The legislation “is really important as insurance for what’s happening next,” she said, during a media briefing jointly hosted by HRC and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). “We don’t know what lays in front of us,” Oakley said.

Writing a concurring opinion earlier this year in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signaled his interest in revisiting the High Court’s rulings establishing constitutional protections for same-sex marriage.

“Part of the urgency” to pass the RFMA during this legislative session “has been the fallout from the Dobbs decision at the Supreme Court, where extremists undid 50 years of Roe v Wade protections and jeopardized other rights,” Padilla said.

“With a target on [same-sex] marriage, we appreciate that Congress is stepping up to do something,” GLAD’s Senior Director of Civil Rights and Legal Strategies Mary Bonauto said during the media briefing this morning.

“This bill is careful with how to thread the needle,” she said, “protecting state and federal marriages without addressing a host of other issues.”

“There are limitations to the bill,” Oakley conceded. “But what it is doing is really important – symbolically, legally, and practically,” she said, noting that there are more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits conferred through marriage that will be protected for same-sex couples through passage of the RFMA.

“Not to get ahead of ourselves,” Padilla said, but the RFMA will hopefully pave the way toward eventual passage of the Equality Act, which would expand civil rights protections to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in employment, housing, credit, jury service, and federally funded programs.

Continue Reading

Congress

House GOP Conference selects Kevin McCarthy for Speakership

Rep. Biggs, a former chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had launched a late challenge to McCarthy on Monday

Published

on

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking at a campaign event in Pennsylvania in October, 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube

WASHINGTON – In a closed-door conference meeting on Tuesday House Republicans voted 188 to 31 to select House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as their choice to be the next Speaker of the House. McCarthy easily beat Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in the secret ballot.

Biggs, a former chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had launched a late challenge to McCarthy on Monday night, announcing on far-right leaning American conservative media outlet Newsmax that he would be an alternative in today’s House GOP caucus election.

“We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives,” Biggs told Newsmax. 

Biggs also appeared on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast Tuesday telling Bannon that there are a “significant number of hard no’s” for McCarthy in the House GOP.

The Hill reported that Tuesday’s vote comes as the final breakdown of House control remains unknown, with 14 House races undecided and election projections putting Republicans just one vote shy of securing the majority. The exact size of the slimmer-than-expected majority will have major implications for the rest of McCarthy’s path to the gavel.

The secret-ballot House Republican Conference vote is just the first step for McCarthy to ascend to the Speakership. He must win a majority in a public vote on the House floor — at least 218 votes, assuming a fully sworn-in House — on the first day of the next Congress on Jan. 3.

Continue Reading

Congress

Senate Majority Leader schedules vote on Respect for Marriage Act

Senator Schumer is expected to bring the Respect for Marriage Act to the Senate floor for a vote on Wednesday

Published

on

Sen. Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-Ny.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to pass the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), which would codify some of the protections for same-sex and interracial couples that were established by the U.S. Supreme Court, but could be weakened or overturned by the High Court’s conservative supermajority.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) just filed for cloture on the legislation, an aide to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi) told the Washington Blade. The “first vote will be on Wednesday,” he said in an email.

Baldwin is widely credited with driving momentum behind the bill. She, along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Me.), Rob Portman (R-Oh.), Thom Tillis (R-Nc.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), released a statement on Monday urging Senate leadership to put the RFMA on the floor for a vote, explaining they had added protections for “religious liberties.”

CNN reported multiple sources said the coalition of Senators is confident they have the votes necessary for the bill to pass.

This summer, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Biden is ready to sign the bill into law. “He is a proud champion of the right for people to marry whom they love and is grateful to see bipartisan support for that right,” she said.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest LGBTQ organization, celebrated Schumer’s announcement earlier today that the upper chamber will “vote on the Respect for Marriage Act in the coming weeks so that no American is discriminated against because of whom they love.”

The legislation, HRC said in the press release, will “codify federal marriage equality by guaranteeing the federal rights, benefits and obligations of marriages in the federal code; repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and affirm that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states.”

The impetus behind the Respect for Marriage Act came with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to abortion in America.

Justice Clarence Thomas authored a concurring opinion in which he pledged to revisit precedents governing same-sex marriage and other matters that were decided on the basis of the right to privacy.

Continue Reading

Congress

Out U.S. Rep. introduces bill to create U.S. LGBTQ history museum

“It is vital to remember our collective past when certain states seek to constrain & repeal existing rights by passing laws that harm LGBTQ+”

Published

on

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation that would set up the process to create a National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History & Culture, potentially as an official site within the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Pocan, one of nine openly gay members of the U.S. House and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said in a statement Thursday the measures would are effort to preserve LGBTQ history “as our community faces unprecedented attacks and attempts to erase our history.” The pair of bills is H.R.9070 and H.R.9071.

“It is vital to remember our collective past – particularly when certain states seek to constrain and repeal existing rights by passing bills that harm LGBTQ+ youth and our community at large,” Pocan said. “Let’s tell these stories, and honor the many contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made to this nation with a museum in Washington, D.C.”

The first bill, according to a news statement, would creates an eight-member commission of individuals with expertise in museum planning or LGBTQ+ research and culture “to look into the viability of establishing such a facility in the nation’s Capital.”

Among other things, the commission would be charged with recommending a plan on action for museum, including fundraising for the museum, and submitting to Congress a plan for construction of the museum, the statement says.

The bill would also instruct the commission to address whether the museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution, based in the nation’s capital and the world’s largest museum and research complex, per the news statement. The full study, the statement says, would have to be completed in 18 months.

If the Smithsonian were to adopt the a museum on LGBTQ history and culture, it would be similar to other museums under its jurisdiction focused on minority populations in the United States, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian.

The second bill, according to a news statement, would be eligible for consideration by Congress after the commission completes its work and issues its recommendations and allow for formal creation of the museum. More than 50 lawmakers, including all nine openly gay members of the U.S. House, co-sponsor the legislation.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Advertisement

Popular