THE Internal Revenue Service’s announcement that same-sex married couples will be allowed to file joint federal income tax returns is welcome. It recognizes the rights of gay couples and reflects the change in the American people’s perception of them.
The movement in opinion has been substantial in every state, but the states are in different places in the journey — and it is the states that define who can be married. But once a couple is married, the IRS should not care where they live, and under this ruling, it doesn’t.
A same-sex couple in Idaho, which bans same-sex marriage, can be married in Washington, live in Idaho and file a joint tax return to the U.S. government. Their relationship to the federal government is not defined by Idaho, nor should it be.
Oregon is ahead of Idaho: It has civil unions. But the new IRS ruling doesn’t work for them. It is based on the Defense of Marriage Act Supreme Court opinion, which was about marriage. In that case, the U.S. ruled that the federal government must treat married couples, gay or straight, the same in regard to federal benefits and protections.
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Petitions are being circulated in Oregon to put a measure on the ballot next year to approve full marriage. Oregon voters should sign those petitions. The Evergreen State has taken the final step on marriage, and the experience is a good one.
Idaho and the other hard-“no” states will take longer. But the IRS has just given all the non-marriage states a reason to move faster: most couples save money by filing joint tax returns.
And most of the “no” states have a state income tax based on the federal tax. Same-sex couples will be filing a joint return on the one and separate returns on the other, which is one more thing that will make no sense at all.