Houston Couple Denied Service by a Tax Preparer Speaks Out for LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections

Kim Bowman & Debbie Beach • Houston, TX

Same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Texas for nearly four years now – but the reality is that in Texas and a majority of other states, LGBTQ people still don’t have full and comprehensive protections from discrimination.

Kim Bowman and Debbie Beach learned that the hard way in early 2019, when they visited an H&R Block location outside of Houston’s city limits and attempted to file their taxes.

The women have been together for more than two decades – but before same-sex couples won the freedom to marry in Texas, they had to file their taxes separately, declaring themselves single despite being in a loving, committed relationship. Since their marriage, they had been filing together as a married couple at a different H&R Block location, but their typical agent was away on vacation the week Kim and Debbie wanted to file. Instead, they went to a different H&R Block branch – and the agent who greeted them was the same man who had prepared Kim’s individual filing a few years ago.

The agent went through the first few standard steps with Kim and Debbie, taking their names, drivers’ licenses, birth dates, and Social Security numbers. It was an uncomfortable few minutes, with the man asking for some information multiple times. Then, he abruptly got out of his chair and went to see the office manager, who returned with him and began looking over Debbie and Kim’s paperwork.

“Is there a problem?” Kim said, and the manager replied that she would be preparing the return in place of her colleague.

“Why?” Debbie asked.

“I could not do it in good conscience,” the male clerk said.

“Why not?” Debbie pushed.

“Because we’re married,” Kim assumed.

Debbie quickly became emotional.

“Because we’re gay?” she asked the man, who nodded yes.

“That’s discrimination – we are married legally,” Kim said. “It’s the law!”

Debbie expressed her dismay that he would express prejudice against them. Although the man listened, he didn’t reply, just stood with his arms crossed. Kim and Debbie, outraged at the blatant discrimination, got up to leave while the female manager explained to them that if the women came back later, she would personally prepare their return. She called and apologized and, in fact, prepared their returns pro bono later that day.

“The whole incident was very disturbing, demoralizing, and demeaning,” Kim reflected later. Debbie had experienced discrimination in the past, including being fired from a job and even violently attacked for being gay, and she was deeply hurt by this encounter at H & R Block.

They consulted with a friend, who encouraged Kim and Debbie to share their story. They posted about the experience on Facebook, which later attracted the attention of local reporters.

Speaking out was one of the only things that the couple could really do: In Texas, there aren’t nondiscrimination protections in place to prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in places of public accommodation.

Few Americans enjoy the sometimes onerous process of paying taxes – but it’s something that all Americans have to do. And when same-sex couples like Kim and Debbie have to overcome roadblocks to fulfill their civic duty and pay their taxes, it threatens the economic health of the entire country. It’s another reminder that discrimination doesn’t just hurt LGBTQ people – it hurts all people in our country.

Kim and Debbie, of course, were offended after being denied service – but at the end of the day, they were able to remedy the issue and file their taxes. Not all discrimination is so easily fixed.

Few Americans enjoy the sometimes onerous process of paying taxes – but it’s something that all Americans have to do. And when same-sex couples like Kim and Debbie have to overcome roadblocks to fulfill their civic duty and pay their taxes, it threatens the economic health of the entire country. It’s another reminder that discrimination doesn’t just hurt LGBTQ people – it hurts all people in our country.

Discrimination happens to LGBTQ people every day: Couples are denied service at restaurants or businesses, transgender people are denied mortgages or leases, LGBTQ people are fired for simply being who they are. But it doesn’t need to be that way – federal lawmakers can stand up right now and pass a federal law protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination.

It’s as easy as recognizing that no LGBTQ person should have to endure the humiliation and discrimination that Kim and Debbie faced. It’s time.

“I believe that all people should be treated fairly and equally under the law, not just heterosexual individuals or couples,” Kim said. “Texas has many legislators who have antiquated and narrow minded views regarding LGBTQ individuals. We need to elect officials on a statewide and federal level who will pass inclusive legislation that protects the rights of all citizens and prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

You can take action on behalf of LGBTQ people like Kim and Debbie by signing Freedom for All Americans’ pledge in favor of the Equality Act, which would establish comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. 



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