January 23, 2014 in Idaho

Idaho House votes 57-12 to ban same-sex couples married elsewhere from filing joint state returns

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, argues against legislation in the House on Thursday to ban same-sex couples legally married in other states from filing joint income tax returns in Idaho, even though they can legally file joint federal returns.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - The Idaho House today voted 57-12 in favor of HB 375, which writes into Idaho law – retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year – that same-sex couples legally married in other states may not file joint income tax returns in Idaho, meaning they’ll have to re-do their taxes from how they did their federal ones, now that federal law allows them to file jointly.

Idaho’s income tax laws generally follow federal tax laws, even to the point of requiring Idahoans to submit copies of their federal returns along with their state returns. This bill marks an exception to that rule; previously, Idahoans were required to use the same filing status on their state tax returns as on their federal.

Twelve of the 13 House Democrats voted no, with the exception only of Rep. Carolyn Meline, D-Pocatello; all House Republicans who were present voted yes. Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, missed the vote.

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said Oregon and Missouri, like Idaho, have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, but haven’t taken this step with regard to tax filings. “It is, in my estimation, a denial of equal protection,” he said.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, who like Burgoyne is an attorney, said the bill is picking just one kind of out-of-state marriage to reject under Idaho’s tax filing laws. Other out-of-state marriages, such as common-law marriages recognized by some states, or marriages that don’t comply with Idaho’s age of consent, aren’t excluded from joint filing.

“The Tax Commission is only questioning one kind of lawful marriage,” Gannon said. He said that violates the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution, and was the reasoning of the federal court in Ohio when it recently invalidated part of that state’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages; the decision ordered the state to recognize such marriages on death certificates, giving the survivor widow or widower status.

“The problem with this bill is that it in all likelihood is not lawful,” Gannon said. “It will result in litigation and it will result in a lot of expense to this state, and we will in all likelihood ultimately lose.”

Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, the bill’s floor sponsor, said, “I would remind the body that this bill is about income tax. … We do have a severability clause within this should the law be challenged, so that the rest of the conformity bill will not be changed. We do also have a Supreme Court ruling which states the individual states have the right to define marriage within their states. And in statute 32-209 it states that marriages are valid unless they violate the public policy within the state. And same-sex marriage at this point, under statute and following our Constitution, is in violation of that.”

Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate side; if it passes there, it goes to Gov. Butch Otter.

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