This afternoon, just five days left before wedding bells officially ring for same-sex couples in Washington, the City of Seattle was to have unveiled plans to give gay city workers a $90 monthly allowance if they tied to the knot under the state's new marriage equality law.
The plan collapsed late Tuesday when Mayor McGinn was told by the City Attorney's Office that his approach might not pass legal muster.
"Based on this latest advice, we ... are now evaluating our options for next steps in our work to help address these inequalities [created by the Defense of Marriage Act]," McGinn said in a statement.
President Clinton signs discriminatory DOMA into law
The benefit plan envisioned by McGinn and the city council was to grant the allowance, estimated at $1,080 over the 12-month period, to compensate for the fact that gay couples, unlike opposite-sex mates, are subject to federal income and payroll taxes on the value of their health coverage policy -- an average rate of about 15 percent.
This is due to the discriminatory impact imposed by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.
"If the federal government has an unjust law, I don't think it is fair to punish our workers who are following the rules," McGinn said earlier Tuesday, before the plan was nixed.
What prompted behind-the-scenes efforts to create the stipend, which would have cost taxpayers an estimated $162,000, was the marriage act that President Clinton signed into law September 21, 1996.
Clinton, many observers believe, was worried about upsetting center and right-of-center voters in his reelection campaign against Sen. Bob Dole. His worries were likely unfounded, as he trounced the crusty Kansan in the fall election.
According to one source quoted in a KIRO report on Tuesday morning, "The city wants to mitigate at least part of that (15 percent tax) by providing employees in same-sex marriages an allowance to help offset some of the extra taxes they pay the federal government."
Councilman Tom Rasmussen, however, expressed reservations that the monthly allowance, that was worked into the 2013-2014 budget, was done so without public comment -- and that even much of the gay and lesbian community was not made aware of it.k
The Seattle Times reports that Rasmussen, who is gay, questioned whether the city should provide public money to lower some people's federal tax bill.
""We've fought discrimination in Seattle for decades," said Rasmussen. "This discrimination is at the federal level. Should we as a city spend city taxpayer dollars? I question whether this is the best way to address it."
Rasmussen added that it might be best to work at the federal level to repeal DOMA.
There are 150 city employees who have a gay partner enrolled in a city-provided health plan. The $90 per month allowance would have only gone to those who tie the knot once the same-sex marriage bill takes effect.
At 12:01 a.m. Dec. 6, gay couples will be permitted to get a license, and, three days later, on Dec. 9, enter into marriage.
Mayor McGinn's press secretary Aaron Pickus yesterday declined to confirm any details regarding the press conference, when the benefit package was to be announced.
Pickus did, however, say that the city, having anticipated passage of R-74, earlier this year devised the compensatory allowance in an internal workshop, which included representatives from the mayor's office, the city council, and law department.
Council President Sally Clark did not return numerous calls to her by The Daily Weekly.
In mid-October, in a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government refusal to recognize same-sex marriage -- including those now considered legal in nine states -- was unconstitutional. The court said DOMA discriminates against gay Americans, who they called a "politically powerless minority."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court remains quiet as to whether it will review a growing number of challenges to DOMA.
As far Seattle goes, it's back to drawing board.