A Dallas man says the Dallas Central Appraisal District is discriminating against him and his husband because they're gay.
Keith Yonick says DCAD mishandled the couple's paperwork for a tax exemption for their new home, refusing to process their homestead exemption until they produced records that aren't required by law. In the process, the agency blew a deadline, costing the couple nearly $8,000 in additional taxes they shouldn't owe, Yonick claims.
Cheryl Jordan, a spokeswoman for DCAD, says the district began investigating after receiving Yonick's complaint Friday. She declined to comment further.
Yonick and his husband bought a house in North Dallas in April 2018. Earlier this month, Yonick applied for a homestead exemption, which allows homeowners to knock thousands of dollars off the value of their primary residences for property tax purposes. He filled out the postcard application, checked a box indicating he was married, had the application notarized and mailed it off.
A few days later, Yonick got a notice from the appraisal district saying that his application was pending because he hadn't included copies of his and his husband's driver's licenses. He remembered putting the copies in the application, but he assumed the agency must have lost them somehow.
So Yonick brought an updated application to the appraisal district's office. While the clerk was looking over his application, she noticed that he'd marked himself as married. She told him she'd need to see a certified copy of his marriage license.
Yonick, who works in real estate, had never heard of anyone being required to show a marriage license for a homestead exemption. He told the clerk that he and his husband were married in New York, and their only copy of their marriage license was framed and hanging on his mother's wall. He said it could take some time to get a copy sent from New York.
Yonick said the woman told him that "this happens at least once a week with you guys." She told him that if he and his husband didn't have the same last name, she would need proof that they were married before she would process their application.
The deadline to submit the application is April 30, so Yonick paid to have an expedited copy of the license sent from New York. On April 12, Yonick took the license to the office, only to find that the clerk he'd talked to wasn't there. He spoke with a manager, who told him that the marriage license he'd brought in wasn't exactly what they needed to process his application. When Yonick became upset, she told him she'd never heard of anyone at the agency requiring a married couple to produce their marriage license.
The manager gave Yonick his exemption. But by this time, updated home values had already gone out. Yonick's home value increased by more than 30%. State law dictates that assessors can't raise the value of a home with a homestead exemption in place by more than 10% in a single year. Because of the delay by DCAD, Yonick and his husband weren't eligible for the cap. Yonick asked the manager if his home value would have gone up as much if his exemption had been filed properly.
"Absolutely not," she told him.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The incident came shortly after another interaction Yonick had with the appraisal district, in which an appraiser told him, incorrectly, that he and his husband couldn't be married because same-sex marriage is illegal in Texas. Yonick said the man then suggested he might like to marry a woman, instead.
Yonick thinks the department singled him and his husband out because they're gay. Days after Yonick finally got his exemption, some friends of his also applied for an exemption on their home. The friends are a straight married couple with different last names. They told him DCAD never asked them to produce a copy of their marriage license.
Yonick says his dealings with DCAD have been the first time he's felt like anyone discriminated against him because he's gay. Growing up in southeast Dallas, he'd heard neighbors tell him they'd been discriminated against because of their race or age, he said, but he'd never experienced it himself. He'd hoped the city had moved beyond anti-gay discrimination, he said.
“In my Dallas, Texas, this doesn't go on. But for this one day in time, it did," he says. "It's not a good feeling.”