Posts tagged: same-sex marriage
Four same-sex couples from Boise filed a federal lawsuit today challenging Idaho’s ban on gay marriage and its laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The four couples, three of whom are raising children, include Sheila Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, who applied for a marriage license at the Ada County Recorder’s Office on Wednesday, but were rejected because they are a same-sex couple. They have a four-year-old son. Another couple named in the lawsuit had the same experience, the same day.
The lawsuit, in which the four couples are suing Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Ada County Recorder Chris Rich, both in their official capacities, charges that Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage violates both the due process and the equal protection guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. Idaho’s ban also forbids recognition of civil unions; the sweeping ban was approved by Idaho voters in 2006 with 63 percent voting in favor. It states that “a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
Altmayer said in a news release, “Because Sheila is not recognized as a legal parent of our son, I fear what would happen to our family if I became ill and unable to make decisions for him. If we could marry, we would be legally recognized as a family and would have all the same legal protections as others.”
The four couples are represented by Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They include university instructors, a teacher of deaf children, and a military veteran who served with the Idaho National Guard in Iraq; all are women. The lawsuit asks that Idaho’s constitutional ban and all laws forbidding recognition of same-sex marriages be voided, and that the state permit marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. You can read the complaint here.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A state lawmaker contends Idaho's tax collectors risk violating the U.S. Constitution by requiring same-sex couples who are legally married elsewhere to do extra work when filing state income taxes. Boise Democratic Rep. John Gannon, a lawyer, says litigation in Ohio suggests Idaho's new rules requiring married gay couples to recalculate state taxes as singles after filing joint federal returns could be vulnerable. Recently, an Ohio federal judge ordered the state to recognize a gay couple's marriage in New York despite Ohio's constitutional ban. The judge's rationale was Ohio recognizes opposite-sex marriages contracted elsewhere but otherwise illegal in Ohio. Idaho follows a similar policy, Gannon says, making it potentially discriminatory now to single out gay couples on their taxes returns. The Idaho Tax Commission contends its new rules are legal.
Idaho state Tax Commission David Langhorst says the commission wasn’t taking any policy stand when it adopted new rules this week that will have the effect of forcing Idaho same-sex couples legally married elsewhere to recalculate their federal income taxes from joint returns, in order to file separately in Idaho. That’s because Idaho’s state income tax returns, like those in many states, are based on the taxpayer’s federal returns. Idaho’s previous rules required taxpayers to use the same filing status on their Idaho returns that they used on their federal returns. But now that the IRS has ruled that same-sex couples who were legally married in states that permit such marriages can file jointly, there was a conflict between that rule and Idaho’s constitutional provision banning state recognition of same-sex marriage.
According to the Tax Foundation, 24 states both ban same-sex marriage and have state income tax systems that are tied to the taxpayer’s federal returns. “Every one of them is struggling with this,” Langhorst said. “The CPAs were really the ones calling us and saying, ‘You guys have to do something about this.’”
Gale Garriott, executive director of the Federation of Tax Administrators, said, “For those that recognize same-sex marriage, I don’t think it’s going to be much of an issue at all. For those that don’t, and have to tell each of the taxpayers how to identify their share of the joint income and how that affects their forms, that could be a little bit of a challenge.”
However, that same challenge previously was in place for states that recognized same-sex marriage when the IRS didn’t, like Massachusetts and Connecticut. In those states, if their state income tax was tied to the federal system, same-sex couples had to re-calculate between their state and federal returns in order to file jointly with the state, but separately with the IRS.
It’s not an issue in Washington state for two reasons: Washington recognizes same-sex marriage, and it doesn’t have a state income tax.
The Idaho Tax Commission’s new rules say the only taxpayers who can file joint state income tax returns are those whose marriages are recognized under Idaho law. New tax form instructions for 2013 direct those who file federal joint returns as a same-sex couple to file their state returns as single or head of household. They can either re-do their federal tax forms to figure out the differences, or submit the calculations on a worksheet.
“It is a lot of work,” Langhorst said. But, he said, “It is the only way that we could avoid the real headache of rejecting their returns. That would be the alternative. Then they would not have legally filed.”
Garriott praised Idaho officials for establishing their new rules early. “If people are given good instructions and plenty of notice, and even some examples, then it shouldn’t be that big of a problem,” he said.
Idaho has changed its 2013 state income tax forms to require same-sex married couples who now will be filing joint returns at the federal level to recalculate their taxes and file separately for their state returns, the AP reports. “Your Idaho filing status must be the same as the filing status used on your federal return,” according to draft instructions posted on the Idaho Tax Commission's website. “This requirement does not apply to same sex couples who file a joint federal return; the State of Idaho does not recognize same sex marriages.” Click below for a report from AP reporter John Miller.
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the impact in Idaho of this morning’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage; Idaho’s sweeping ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions won’t change. However, same-sex couples living in Idaho who were married in other states may qualify for some recognition in federal programs or benefits, depending on how the Obama Administration and Congress react to the rulings.
Meanwhile, supporters of this morning’s rulings have scheduled a rally on the state Capitol steps at 4:30.
Here’s the latest from the ACLU on how this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings could affect same-sex couples living in Idaho who were legally married in other states: It depends. For some federal programs, the ACLU, which brought the case that resulted in the federal Defense of Marriage Act being overturned, says the Obama Administration could decide through regulation to extend recognition. For others, including Social Security benefits, any changes would require an act of Congress.
“Under current law, the federal government typically defers to the states in designating whether a couple’s marriage is valid,” said Monica Hopkins, Idaho ACLU director. “There’s no one rule across all federal programs, as to whether the validity of a marriage is determined by where a couple is living, which is the place of domicile, or where the couple got married, which is the place of celebration. So that’s the question there. … . So right now, I would say same-sex couples that reside in Idaho that were legally married in one of the 13 states or D.C. are in a sort of limbo, while they wait for the administration to implement this decision, hopefully swiftly and smoothly, and apply all relevant statutes.” Said Hopkins, “Much of the uncertainty can be completely corrected by saying it’s the place of celebration.”
She added, “We concur with the Attorney General – this doesn’t change anything about Idaho’s marriage laws. However, DOMA is a different question. … Now the question is up to the Obama Administration.” President Obama issued a statement today saying he’s directed top officials to review all the relevant statutes and implement the decision “swiftly and smoothly.”
Kim Beswick, a high-tech worker from Boise who has two young children with her same-sex partner and has lived in the state for two decades, welcomed the rulings. “Idaho unfortunately isn’t leading the way on this issue,” she said. “We have the constitutional amendment in place that absolutely forbids not only marriage but any of the individual rights of marriage. … I think these rulings show that’s certainly going to be at some point on the wrong side of history.” But she said the DOMA ruling could affect her family on everything from end-of-life decisions to federal taxes. “That has a big impact on us in a pretty far-reaching way.”
Idaho ACLU Executive Director Monica Hopkins says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, leaves open one question that could affect Idaho: What about same-sex couples who legally married in another state, but now reside in Idaho? Would they be eligible for federal benefits like family medical leave and Social Security survivor benefits?
“There are 1,100 places in federal laws and programs where being married makes a difference,” said Hopkins, whose organization brought the DOMA case on behalf of Edie Windsor, an elderly New York resident who was required to pay $363,000 in estate taxes after her same-sex spouse passed away, though the two had been legally married in Canada and the state of New York recognized the Canadian marriage. Windsor wouldn’t have owed any estate tax if she’d been married to a man.
“Now what we have to do is kind of untangle what this DOMA decision means,” Hopkins said, “because it has federal applications, but what does it mean for Idahoans who were legally married in a state that legally recognizes those marriages, but reside in Idaho?” Hopkins said she’ll be participating in a conference call mid-day today with the ACLU’s national attorneys to address that and other questions about the decisions.
David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University and a constitutional scholar, said, “I think the opinion is unclear on the issue of whether same-sex couples married in another state who move to Idaho are going to be entitled to some federal benefits. I think there’s room in the opinion to draw the conclusion that they will be entitled to some benefits, including (federal) tax filings, but it’s not immediately clear.”
Adler said, “The reasoning in the opinion employed by Justice Kennedy is going to have national implications for the discussion and debate on gay rights and same-sex marriage as it goes forward in this country.” He added, “While the immediate opinion does uphold the right of states to determine the status of marriage, the reasoning and the language of that opinion will be used to promote same-sex marriage across the country.”
Here’s what Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had to say this morning on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage: “There really isn’t a direct impact on Idaho law. It’s still in effect. … so there really isn’t a lot of change there.”
He noted that his office is still analyzing the decisions. “We’re trying to react to what we’ve been able to review and read very rapidly,” Wasden said. But overall, he said, “My job is to defend the Constitution and the statutes of the state, and those haven’t changed.”
I am still awaiting word from the experts, but it appears that today’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage won’t change anything in Idaho. That’s because the decisions defer to states to regulate marriage, even while striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The result is that couples legally married in the 12 states where same-sex marriage is permitted are eligible for federal benefits; a second decision declined to take up an appeal of a California appellate court ruling over that state’s Proposition 8. But Idaho has a sweeping constitutional provision banning not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions.
In 2006, Idaho voters approved HJR 2, an amendment to the state Constitution, with 63.35 percent of voters in favor and 36.65 percent against. The ballot measure asked, “Shall Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 28, to provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state?” Once it passed, this section was added to Idaho’s Constitution:
“Section 28. Marriage. A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
The official statement of effect of adoption of the ballot measure said this: “If adopted, the proposed amendment would add language to the Constitution of the State of Idaho to provide that a marriage is only between a man and a woman. The language prohibits recognition by the state of Idaho and its political subdivisions of civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage. The language further prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from granting any or all of the legal benefits of marriage to civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other relationship that attempts to approximate marriage.”