Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love and Marriage

The United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, issued a decision on July 8, 2010 on Nancy Gill & Marcelle Letourneau, et al., v. Office of Personnel Management. The case has a very important tax issue. And that issue is, who exactly can file under the married filing status.

The case presents a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The seven same-sex couples contend that they have been denied certain federal marriage-based benefits that are available to similarly-situated heterosexual couples, in violation of the equal protection principles in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The court agrees with the couples that there is an irrational prejudice which prevents the same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. The court states:

In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled. And this court can conceive of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue. By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married individuals and unmarried individuals. To further divide the class of married individuals into those with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction without meaning. And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class is different, in relevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification. As irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of
DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As such, the court holds that the couples would file as married under Internal Revenue Code 7703(a)(1) and be entitled to the married rates, whether filing jointly or separately.

If you have any same sex couples, this is an important case to read and understand. I don't expect this to be the last development in this issue, do you?

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