Friday, March 22, 2013

Rhode Island’s Marriage Marathon

GLAD Attorney Janson Wu testifying at last night's hearing

Advocates for the freedom to marry often say that this movement is a marathon, not a sprint. Rhode Island is a case in point. Marriage bills have been filed every session since the late 1990’s, yet Little Rhodey is the only one of our New England neighbors that has not opened marriage to same-sex couples.

But this could be the year when loving, committed same-sex couples finally win the opportunity to say “I do.” Not in nearby Swansea or South Attleboro, Mass. or Pawcatuck, Conn., but in the state they call home. Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, a coalition of which GLAD is a part, is running a stellar campaign, thanks to dedicated local leadership and experienced veterans of other New England marriage campaigns. The House has already passed the marriage bill. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has pledged to sign it. Now, it just needs to pass the Senate, a more conservative body, but nonetheless where we have steadily built support.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Know Your Rights: Tax Deduction for Medical Care Related to GID

Post by Bruce Bell, Legal InfoLine Manager

GLAD has great news for transgender people who may benefit from claiming a tax deduction for medical treatment The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determines the types of medical treatment that may qualify for a medical deduction on a person’s federal income tax.  Even though the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) identified a medical condition (called “gender identity disorder (GID)” in its fourth edition, now called “gender dysphoria” in its fifth edition that will be released this May), until 2010 the IRS considered most treatment for GID to be cosmetic and, therefore, not eligible to be claimed as a medical deduction.

But this changed in 2010, when GLAD won the O’Donnabhain case in federal Tax Court.  As a result of this victory, the IRS now considers GID a medical condition, and therefore the expenses related to the treatment of GID may be claimed as a medical deduction. As it does with any medical deduction, the IRS requires medical documentation that the treatment you received was appropriate for your specific diagnosis. 

If you have had medical expenses for the treatment of GID in previous tax years, the IRS allows you to file an amended return for up to three years from the date of your original filing.  This means that in most cases, you still have until April 15, 2013 to file amended returns for the 2011, 2010 or 2009 tax years. 

In addition to taking a medical deduction on your income tax, you may be able to get reimbursed for expenses related to your medical care if you have a consumer-directed health plan such as an FSA, HSA, MSA or HRA, because these plans use the IRS code to determine allowable medical expenses.

GLAD strongly recommends that you consult with a tax professional about the best course of action for your particular case and that you have sufficient medical documentation for any expense you are claiming. 

If you have any questions about this, or any other LGBTQ/HIV legal issue, please contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine at 800-455-GLAD (4523) or at  This is a free, confidential service where you can receive information and resources tailored to your individual needs from a highly trained volunteer.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Know Your Rights: HIV Testing—Consent and Privacy Issues

Post by Bruce Bell, GLAD Legal InfoLine Manager

Strong legal protections for people living with HIV are essential prerequisites to effective risk-reduction and prevention strategies. By fighting discrimination based on HIV status, protecting people’s privacy, and improving access to information about HIV-related legal issues, we can strengthen the health of our communities.

GLAD’s AIDS Law Project continues to fight for strong privacy protections for HIV status and medical information, and to educate the public about the consent requirements for HIV testing across New England.

Because the laws vary from state to state, it’s important to understand what is and is not allowed or required where you live.  Read on for an overview, and visit or contact our Legal InfoLine for more information.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thoughts on President Obama’s Justice Department Brief in Support of the Freedom to Marry

"President Obama now tops the list  of influential supporters who have
filed briefs opposing Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court."
Post by Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD Civil Rights Project Director

President Obama’s Justice Department joined the litigation efforts for the freedom to marry with their February 28 landmark filing of a “friend of the court” brief to the United States Supreme Court arguing that California’s Proposition 8 is an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. 
As my colleague, GLAD Executive Director Lee Swislow, has said, the President’s support for the freedom of same-sex couples to express their love and commitment through marriage could not be more significant.

The Department of Justice brief addresses the constitutionality of Proposition 8 rather than the laws of other states that bar same-sex couples from marrying.   The question presented to the Supreme Court asks:  “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman,” and the Department’s brief answers “YES.” 

While the brief specifically addresses why Proposition 8 is invalid, it clearly does so in ways that could affect the legal debate beyond California.

For example: