Suze Orman moderates panel on the financial costs of marriage discrimination

This morning, CNBC financial expert Suze Orman moderated a panel discussion at New York University called "The Cost of Marriage Inequality." The discussion centered on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect for legal marriages between same-sex couples, and states where same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry.

The panel was organized through the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a partnership of more than 80 civil rights, faith, health, labor, business, legal, LGBT, student, and women's organizations working together to end DOMA and grow support for the freedom to marry. Freedom to Marry is proud to co-chair the Coalition with the Human Rights Campaign. 

The panel featured Lincoln Chafee, Governor of Rhode Island, where a marriage bill passed the House last month and will now face consideration in the Senate; Nanette Lee Miller, the West Coast Partner-in-Charge of Assurance from Marcum LLP; and two married same-sex couples: Colette Hayward & Margert Selby from Maryland and Mary Jo Kennedy & Jo-Ann Shain from New York, who we profiled last year to celebrate the first anniversary of the freedom to marry pasing in New York.

Suze Orman, an out lesbian who married her wife KT in 2010, has been a vocal advocate against DOMA for several years. Her financial prowess enables her to shed light on the ways that DOMA financially and emotionally hurts married same-sex couples. "Many married gay people are not prepared for the ramifications of marriage inequality," Orman explained during the panel. "And they don't have the money to lose. This has to change. It's the right thing to do."

The event this morning shed light on several ways that DOMA economically hurts same-sex couples, businesses, and state economies. 

For example, DOMA financially penalizes employers for providing health care protections to same-sex spouses of employees - in 2007, 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the United States offered domestic partner protections, including health insurance, costing these businesses $57 million for 2007 alone in payroll taxes. DOMA also limits employers' ability to treat all employees equally; for instance, DOMA forbids employers from providing Flexible Spending Account benefits to same-sex employees and their spouses, meaning that married gay and lesbian employees cannot save money by putting away pre-tax funds for medical care. 

The panel also touched on the fact that DOMA leaves elderly same-sex married couples especially vulnerable to economic hardship. DOMA prohibits widows or widowers who lose their same-sex spouse from collecting Social Security benefits, depriving them of approximately $5,700 per year that heterosexual widows or widowers receive. 

Before the panel, Suze Orman and Gov. Chafee appeared on MSNBC Live to speak with Thomas Roberts about the economic harms of DOMA.

Watch the interview here: