Marietta is being forced to be nice to gay couples who work for it, but only when one-half of the couple dies. Still, even that's too much for a guy named Thunder and his City Council colleagues.
Marietta is being pushed to comply with a new IRS mandate calling on retirement plans to recognize same-sex couples if they were married in a state allowing gay marriage. That means if gay city employee squirrel away money in a retirement fund, they can leave that to their partners when they die.
It's a subtle change but one that impacts scores of cities across Georgia, like Marietta, with retirement payout plans managed by the Georgia Municipal Association. Amy Henderson, a GMA spokesperson, detailed to the Marietta Daily Journal the change that resulted from the Supreme Court dumping the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.
“Say there’s a payment that’s being made to a spouse that has taxes on it,” Henderson said. “That can now go to someone who is in a same-sex marriage.”
Henderson said the retirement system, which is heavily regulated by the federal government, has always worked the same way. With this update, nothing about the way a retirement plan rolls out will change, she said.
“Say an employee has been making contributions to their retirement and they die, that money has to be returned. Typically, it’s going to be returned to the spouse, or if there is no spouse, to the estate of the deceased,” Henderson said. “What’s changing now is the definition of the word spouse.”
Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin (photo) isn't pleased. A City Council committee is scheduled to consider the change to its retirement plan on Wednesday.
Mayor Steve Tumlin would not give his opinion on same-sex marriage, and he said the change the council plans to make to its retirement policy is mandated, not done by choice.
“I’m for following the law,” Tumlin said. “It’s a have-to — it’s not a preference. This change is the pure legalese from the ramifications of the Windsor case.”
And lest you think the IRS mandate for dead gays will change the mayor's approach to ones still living, think again.
Tumlin said he won’t suggest allowing same-sex couples to receive other benefits until the state or federal government mandates it.
“Our rates — and everything else — are based on the traditional marriage and traditional children,” Tumlin said. “The full change won’t come until the state changes. To get into a judgment that goes beyond Georgia law, I just have no comment from there.”
Council members Michelle Cooper Kelly, Johnny Walker and Andy Morris stressed to the Marietta Daily Journal that they agree with providing this small slice of equality to gay couples only under threat from the feds.
“My personal Christian belief is that the term ‘marriage’ is between a man and a woman. If the laws were changed in the future to provide benefits for same-sex couples, I would abide by them as I do now,” Walker said.
That's just how they – and guys named Thunder and Corkey – roll in Cobb County.