Millionaire Charles Merrill could face years in prison for his civil protest of what he calls unequal, anti-gay U.S. tax law

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. — An openly bisexual millionaire, related to the Merrill Lynch and Johnson & Johnson families, might be facing jail time for his decision to protest gay inequalities in the U.S. tax code.

Charles Merrill — who once lived in Hendersonville, N.C., and originally hails from Southern Pines, N.C., but currently lives in New York City and Palm Springs — decided in 2004 to withhold his income taxes to the government as a willful, civil disobedience of U.S. tax law. Since then, he has withheld his taxes every year as a protest against the inequalities present in the tax code and marriage laws of the nation.

The Internal Revenue Service will go to trial against Merrill on Nov. 17, 2008 in the U.S. Tax Court in San Diego, Calif. The fine for each year of Merrill’s civil disobedience is three years in jail or a $25,000 fine.

Merrill, a cousin of the co-founder of Merrill Lynch, was married for 23 years to Evangeline Johnson, the only daughter of Johnson & Johnson founder Robert Wood Johnson. Having been married and now having lived with his partner, Kevin Boyle, for 16 years, Merrill knows firsthand the inequalities that exist in the tax code and marriage laws when applied to same-sex couples.

“Marriage between ‘gender neutral’ couples is legal in California, but our union is not recognized by the Federal Government and we don’t get the over 1,000 Federal benefits automatically extended to heterosexual couples,” Merrill said in a press statement from his Waldorf Astoria suite. “This inequality, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, was voted on by congress and signed into law by President Clinton. What a can of worms that has turned out to be…”

Merrill continued, “President Bush believing in and talking to an imaginary sky god and wanting to make an amendment to our Constitution that would ban two people in love from getting married. The Government has no business in checking out the gender of two people who want to be married. Presidential Candidate John McCain was living in adultery with his present wife Cindy while still married to his former wife. According to the Bible, he should have been stoned to death for adultery.”

Because Merrill’s relationship isn’t recognized and treated equally, he said, the words over the U.S. Supreme Court — “Equal Justice Under The Law” — are “meaningless.”

Mark Hanson of the IRS Media Relations Office told Q-Notes he was not familiar with Merrill’s case. When asked whether it is usual IRS policy to go after American citizens who are taking principled stands because they feel as though they’ve been treated unequally by their government, Hanson had no comment.

“We’re not able to comment on any sort of on-going matter like that,” he said. Hanson added that the IRS is unable to discuss the specifics of any individual citizen’s tax information.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.