Recently, the New York Times and other sources reported that photographer Annie Leibovitz had been borrowing money. The truth is, she's been saddled with what Salon's Nancy Goldstein calls "the gay tax."
Goldstein cites a piece by After Ellen's Julia Miranda, which explains that most of Leibovitz's financial woes stem from inheriting the estate of her longtime partner, Susan Sontag. Writes Miranda:
Same-sex couples do not have the same privileges as straight married couples when it comes to inheritance. If your partner passes away and leaves her estate to you, you have to pay up to 50 percent of the value of your inheritance in taxes. However, if you and your partner were recognized as a married couple, you wouldn't have to pay a dime.
Sontag left several properties to Leibovitz, who was forced to pay half of their value in order to keep them. Hence, the gay tax. Goldstein has personal experience with this issue; she notes:
In my household it comes to around $329.25 monthly: that's the gay tax my wife and I shell out for me to be on her health insurance plan, because her company must treat that benefit as additional taxable income. It doesn't matter that our Massachusetts marriage is recognized in New York. Companies pay for their employees' health insurance with pre-tax money through a federal program, and same-sex marriage isn't federally recognized.
Is it a shame that Leibovitz is making headlines for spoofing her own photographs instead of for her struggle? Since she is so high-profile, so visible, couldn't she be a galvanizing voice in the fight for gay marriage? Or is this a case where the personal need not be political?