The New York Times found out the answer isn’t simple. They created scenarios in which Lesbian couples and Gay male couples had two children (with one partner staying home to care for the children for five years), made $140,000 a year, lived in New York, California, or Florida, were together for 46 years, and in which the first partner died at age 81. They further looked at income variables through two scenarios: in one, both made the same amount; in the other couple, one person made $110,000 and the other, $30,000.
Worst case scenario: one couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. Even in the best case, there was a significant penalty: the lowest “penalty” for being gay (compared to a completely similarly-situated married heterosexual couple) was $41,196.
Although health care insurance costs and tax discrepancies affect all same-sex couples, older couples often incur the largest “Gay penalties,” due to discriminatory policies for Social Security, pensions, retirement accounts, and asset transfer and inheritance laws.
Note: The New York Times charges a fee for accessing articles older than two weeks. This one was linked to a 25-page report; it’s not yet clear if that report will be accessible from the same archived article for the same price. If you need to search the archives, the original article was entitled, “The High Price of Being a Gay Couple,” was written by Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber, and was published on October 3, 2009.