PERSONAL FINANCE

Suze Orman: Gay couples in Florida face unfair tax penalties

 

srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Celebrity finance advisor Suze Orman says regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage, same-sex couples in Florida need to keep fighting to secure the same protection for their assets as those enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.

“We have to gather our forces in this state and do what has to be done to make sure marriage equality is accepted in the great state of Florida,” said Orman, who lives with wife Kathy Travis in Broward County’s Hillsboro Beach.

Orman, a well-known author and CNBC program host, appears in a new HBO documentary that begins airing June 27, The OUT List, which also profiles gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender public figures, including Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris and New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

“I’ve been gay my entire life,” Orman says, explaining why at age 62 she has become a leading national gay-rights figure. “It’s really important when people look at you, they see who you really are. Not who they want you to be, but who you really are. It’s important that people see the truth. They love the truth.

“Of course, they see me as the personal finance expert in the United States, but it’s also important that they see me as a lesbian woman because that’s who I am. Then, just maybe, some of those financial qualities can rub off and open the door to homosexuality that has always been closed before.”

The Supreme Court will soon announce whether it will toss out the portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages performed in and out of the United States.

“People ask, ‘What’s the big deal about being married,’” says Orman, who wed Travis nearly three years ago in South Africa. “When it comes to insurance, estate benefits, pensions, it’s really important that this happens on the federal level, not just the state level.”

Orman says her marriage-equality fight is for “a very selfish reason.”

“The financial discrimination that a gay couple, especially a wealthy gay couple, has put upon them is atrocious,” she said. “It’s no secret that KT and I are very wealthy women. KT was wealthy in her own right before I met her. Ms. Travis and I, if one of us dies, we’ll be losing approximately 50 percent of the estate we built over the years. If we were legally married and recognized by the federal government, I could leave Ms. Travis a billion dollars and never lose a penny to estate taxes.”

Orman said that even if she and Travis became primary residents of New York or California and had to pay state income taxes there, it would still be cheaper than living in Florida, where there is no state tax.

“We would be paying more in estate taxes here than we could ever pay in state income tax in New York or California,” she said.

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