The Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice announced today that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s late June deci­sion strik­ing down the poor­ly-con­ceived “Defense of Mar­riage Act”, Amer­i­can LGBT spous­es will be able to file joint or sep­a­rate tax returns as mar­ried cou­ples begin­ning next year, no mat­ter where they hap­pen to live.

“Today’s rul­ing pro­vides cer­tain­ty and clear, coher­ent tax fil­ing guid­ance for all legal­ly mar­ried same-sex cou­ples nation­wide. It pro­vides access to ben­e­fits, respon­si­bil­i­ties and pro­tec­tions under fed­er­al tax law that all Amer­i­cans deserve,” said Sec­re­tary Jacob J. Lew in a state­ment released by the Trea­sury.

“This rul­ing also assures legal­ly mar­ried same-sex cou­ples that they can move freely through­out the coun­try know­ing that their fed­er­al fil­ing sta­tus will not change.”

The IRS will not, how­ev­er, rec­og­nize domes­tic part­ner­ships or civ­il unions, so LGBT cou­ples liv­ing in states where full mar­riage equal­i­ty is not yet a real­i­ty will either have to con­tin­ue wait­ing or obtain a mar­riage license from a dif­fer­ent state.

Wash­ing­ton, Cal­i­for­nia, Min­neso­ta, Iowa, Maine, New Hamp­shire, Ver­mont, Mass­a­chu­setts, Con­necti­cut, Rhode Island, New York, Del­ware and Mary­land all per­mit LGBT cou­ples to wed, as does the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, five Native Amer­i­can tribes, and six coun­ties in New Mexico.

Sev­en oth­er states rec­og­nize some form of civ­il union or domes­tic part­ner­ship. These include Ore­gon, New Jer­sey, Hawaii, Col­orado, Neva­da, Wis­con­sin, and Illi­nois. Like the thir­teen states men­tioned above (plus the Dis­trict of Colum­bia) these are all “blue” juris­dic­tions that vot­ed for Barack Oba­ma in 2008 and 2012.

Sad­ly, none of the states that sup­port­ed John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Rom­ney in 2012 have tak­en any steps on the path towards mar­riage equal­i­ty. Most have enact­ed con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sions declar­ing that mar­riage is only for het­ero­sex­u­al cou­ples. These states will like­ly remain the last bas­tions of inequality.

LGBT cou­ples who have been mar­ried for a few years can choose to file orig­i­nal or amend­ed returns for 2012, 2011, or 2010 if they were mar­ried in those years, the IRS said. (The statute of lim­i­ta­tions gen­er­al­ly per­mits refund claims to be filed for three years from the date that a tax­pay­er filed a return).

“This announce­ment makes today a day of cel­e­bra­tion and relief for mar­ried same-sex cou­ples all over Amer­i­ca,” Free­dom to Mar­ry’s Evan Wolf­son said in a state­ment sent to NPI. “At long last, the IRS will treat them as what they are: mar­ried. Free­dom to Mar­ry com­mends the administration’s swift imple­men­ta­tion of the Supreme Court’s land­mark rul­ing for fed­er­al equal­i­ty in an area that will have a direct, tan­gi­ble impact on fam­i­lies’ finan­cial health.

“The fact that this new respect applies only to mar­ried cou­ples – not those joined by domes­tic part­ner­ships or civ­il unions – high­lights the need for an Amer­i­ca where every­one can mar­ry the per­son they love in any state, and have that mar­riage respect­ed at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment,” Wolf­son added.

On that note, we’d like to remind our read­ers that a cam­paign is under­way to bring mar­riage equal­i­ty to Ore­gon in 2014.

Because Beaver State vot­ers approved a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment out­law­ing mar­riages between LGBT cou­ples in 2004, Ore­gon’s Leg­is­la­ture is not able to make mar­riage equal­i­ty a real­i­ty through statute as Wash­ing­ton’s Leg­is­la­ture did last year. The only way to get it done is through a new con­sti­tu­tion­al amendment.

In a way, this sim­pli­fies things, because a change in statute would like­ly have been sub­ject to a pub­lic vote via ref­er­en­dum anyway.

I should men­tion that in Ore­gon, unlike Wash­ing­ton, con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments may be pro­posed direct­ly to the peo­ple via bal­lot mea­sure, and require only a major­i­ty vote of the peo­ple to be approved.

We at NPI believe this to be very unwise… a plan of gov­ern­ment should not be change­able by major­i­ty vote because a plan of gov­ern­ment is what pro­tects minor­i­ty rights. (Of course, in oth­er cir­cum­stances, major­i­ty rule should prevail).

In Wash­ing­ton, much to the dis­may of Tim Eyman, our Con­sti­tu­tion can­not be amend­ed by bal­lot ini­tia­tive; amend­ments must orig­i­nate in the Leg­is­la­ture and get a two-thirds vote there first, then obtain a major­i­ty vote of the people.

How­ev­er, until the day comes when Ore­gon adopts Wash­ing­ton’s sound approach to amend­ing its Con­sti­tu­tion, Beaver State pro­gres­sives can take advan­tage of the shift in pub­lic opin­ion in favor of the free­dom to mar­ry by putting their own con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment on the bal­lot to reverse the pro­vi­sion adopt­ed in 2004.

And that’s just what they are doing. Their mea­sure is called the Free­dom to Mar­ry and Reli­gious Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tive. So far, about 72,000 sig­na­tures have been col­lect­ed. Around valid 116,284 sig­na­tures are need­ed to place the mea­sure on the Novem­ber 2014 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot along­side the con­tests for gov­er­nor (John Kitzhaber is up) and U.S. Sen­a­tor (Jeff Merkley is up).

If you are a res­i­dent of Ore­gon and would like to par­tic­i­pate in the cam­paign, vis­it Ore­gon Says “I Do!” to learn how you can help qual­i­fy the mea­sure for the bal­lot. You may also call 1–866-493‑6792.

UPDATE, 3:45 PM: Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell responds to the ruling:

Today, the IRS sent a clear mes­sage: America’s fed­er­al tax sys­tem will not dis­crim­i­nate based on who you love. Today’s deci­sion means that all cou­ples legal­ly mar­ried in Wash­ing­ton state can file a joint fed­er­al tax return, regard­less of where they choose to live. I’m proud to have helped work in sup­port of this deci­sion to bring about much-need­ed clar­i­ty for same-sex cou­ples across the country.

In June, we wit­nessed his­to­ry as the Supreme Court acknowl­edged that same-sex cou­ples deserve equal treat­ment under the law. Today, our nation took anoth­er step toward equal­i­ty for all Amer­i­cans. I will con­tin­ue to work on the Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee to ensure equal­i­ty in the tax code, and to make sure fed­er­al laws and reg­u­la­tions treat all mar­ried cou­ples as equals.

Our thanks to Sen­a­tor Cantwell for her work on the Finance Com­mit­tee to improve our tax code, which has not only been prej­u­diced against LGBT cou­ples to date, but also rid­dled with loop­holes and exemptions.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “IRS: LGBT couples who are married can file joint tax returns beginning next year”

  1. Here in TN, they’ve gone as far as to declare this Sat­ur­day “Tra­di­tion­al Mar­riage Day” in which the bill pass­ing this new state hol­i­day quotes The Holy Bible. Why does the State feel it has the right to con­tin­u­al­ly define mar­riage? Exact­ly what is “Tra­di­tion­al” Mar­riage in Ten­nessee see­ing as even Inter­ra­cial Mar­riage is STILL out­lawed by the State Con­sti­tu­tion along with Same Sex Mar­riage?

Comments are closed.