facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast phone blog search brokercheck brokercheck Play Pause
What's So Gay about Money? Thumbnail

What's So Gay about Money?

Beginning in the 1980’s, Christopher Street Financial adopted the in-your-face slogan “Gay Money. Straight Advice.”

What does that really mean?  

In an earlier blog, we shared that CSF was founded to serve the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community.   

What exactly are those needs?  

Just like the term “gay” has evolved over the decades, so have our answers to these questions.

Let’s travel back in time for some context:  When CSF was founded in 1981, it was only twelve years after Stonewall. Gay rights were different then. And by “different,” I mean, there weren’t ANY gay rights. Remember, until 2003, gay sex was outlawed in fourteen states. During this era, it was completely legal to discriminate against those who were LGBTQ+, or even perceived to be LGBTQ+. This was true everywhere – in employment, military service, housing, parenting, and, of course, marriage.  

When I arrived at CSF in 1997, I quickly became a convert for the cause of marriage. We were ahead of the movement because we witnessed true horror stories. These stories were events which would not have occurred if these relationships were recognized legally, including: 

  • Partners who were refused visitation in hospitals because they were not “next of kin”
  • Couples who shared homes together for decades who found themselves out on the street after their partner’s death
  • Couples like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer who were forced to pay estate taxes on their own joint assets
  • Families who subjected themselves to home inspections and jumped through legal hoops to adopt their OWN children.
  • A partner who lovingly added her partner’s name to her real estate and investment assets, inadvertently triggering a gift tax

These were the more dramatic consequences of marriage INequality, but we witnessed daily financial indignities as well. We held clients’ hands who were legitimately distressed that they could not adequately protect each other. For many other clients, we helped them to realize the reality of their situation and supported them to take necessary actions to protect their assets, and each other.  

During this era, CSF’s team of financial, legal, and tax specialists worked fervently to engineer structures that could provide same-sex couples with equivalent protections. We created different kinds of trusts, we drafted ownership and cohabitation agreements, we changed deeds and titles on client assets, we documented accounting for joint assets. The financial planning differences between married and unmarried couples were so significant, that the financial planning industry created an advanced professional designation called the Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor (ADPA).  Financial advisors held conferences and formed organizations to collaborate on tactics to address these issues. This experience made us all passionate advocates and activists in the fight for marriage equality.  

But, despite limitless creativity and the best legal and tax minds, nothing was an adequate substitute for legal marriage.  

So, if you asked me the question then, “What is different about money if you’re gay?’, the answer was simple:  Nothing.  Nothing was different…if you were a single person who was gay or lesbian.  

But, the answer was EVERYTHING…everything was different if you were in a committed same-sex relationship in which you were planning a future. In that case, we had lots of work to do.  

Happily, that all changed in 2015 with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. Now we had the choice. We had the choice to avail ourselves of the benefits AND the responsibilities of marriage. While there are couples at CSF (gay and straight) who have elected NOT to marry, most long-term couples have gone forward. In either case, we were, and are, privileged to share these decisions with our clients.  

For a brief moment, I wondered if CSF’s specialized expertise would be obsolete? Would LGBTQ+ people still seek us out? Or would any old “Main Street” advisor meet their needs now?  

I was happily surprised when new couples continued to reach out. The inquiries were different though. They wanted to understand what their upcoming wedding would mean. What does this marriage contract really change for us?  I called this conversation “What Happens When I Say ‘I Do’?” Over time, more clients sought out consultations after they were already hitched.  I called that conversation, “What Did ‘I Do’?!?”

The most compelling reason that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to gravitate to CSF is the same reason they have sought us out since 1981:  they are looking for a partner who can relate to them. Financial decision making is intimate, and CSF implicitly offers a safe space for our clients (gay and straight) to be themselves. Our clients want to be in front of someone that makes them feel comfortable and shares their values. As with other marginalized groups and minority communities, LGBTQ+ people often seek out opportunities to support each other and to connect.  

Whatever the reason, we are so grateful to be their partner in life.