Policy and Legal Update - October 14-20, 2013
Marriage Equality USA Projects Manager Ned Flaherty closely monitors marriage equality polls, ballots, laws, and lawsuits nationwide, and keeps the MEUSA website updated with changes in these areas on a near-daily basis. Every Monday we update you via our blog with policy and legal updates covering the preceding week. You may always find the most up-to-date information, including changes that have taken place between these weekly posts, on the Current Policy & Legal Status page on the MEUSA website.
Send questions and comments to: [email protected].
Policy & Legal UpdatesOctober 14 – 20, 2013
- On 18 October 2013, the NJ Supreme Court decided to start same-gender civil marriages on 21 October 2013, so MEUSA updated its National Marriage Map to reflect that 33% of Americans live in 15 states with full, state-level equality (CA, CT, DC, DE, IA, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA), and 17% live in cities, counties, or states with partial equality (mainly CO, HI, IL, NM, NV, OR, WI), but 50% live in 29 states that still ban all types of unions except one-man-one-woman couples. • Map
On 11 October 2013, Pew Research Center surveyed earlier polls, and reported that from 2001 to 2013, support for same-gender civil marriage grew from 35% to 50%, and opposition declined from 57% to 43%. Opposition is strongest among evangelical Protestants, Republicans, and political conservatives, but even in those groups is rising, as older voters die off and younger people reach voting age. • Survey Details
LAWSUITSCALIFORNIA • In 2008, the authors of CA Proposition 8 (NOM, Protect Marriage.com) filed a federal lawsuit claiming that because they suffered boycotts, hate mail, phone calls, and unreported “death threats” they should be forever exempt from compliance with CA campaign disclosure laws, and their donors should stay secret. The U.S. Supreme Court does make exceptions for small, persecuted groups who need anonymity to survive, but the Proposition 8 authors don’t qualify because they raised over $43 million and got 52% of the votes cast. On 20 October 2011, the district court ruled against them. On 11 October 2013, they argued their case in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. • MEUSA Summary • News Source VIRGINIA • On 3 Ocober 2013, in National Organization for Marriage v. U.S. Internal Revenue Service, NOM filed a federal lawsuit claiming that IRS unlawfully released its confidential tax data. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NORTH CAROLINA • On 15 October 2013, in preparation for a lawsuit, Buncombe County, NC Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger began accepting marriage license applications from same-gender couples, and he asked NC Attorney General Roy Cooper to decide whether the NC statutory and constitutional bans on same-gender civil marriage violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ALASKA • On 14 October 2013, in Debra Harris v. Millennium Hotel, et al., Lambda Legal appealed to the AK Supreme Court to obtain survivor benefits for same-gender couples, for whom marriage is banned by AK’s law and its constitution. • MEUSA Summary • News Source OREGON • On 15 October 2013, in Deanna Geiger et al. v. OR Governor John Kitzhaber et al., two couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging OR’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, and OR’s refusal to recognize legal marriages from other jurisdictions. • MEUSA Summary • News Source MICHIGAN • On 16 October 2013, in April DeBoer & Jayne Rowse v. MI Governor Rick Snyder, et al., U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman denied both sides’ petitions for summary judgment, saying that he will expedite completion of the case, witness lists will be exchanged in October 2013, and expert testimony will be heard during a trial starting on 25 February 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source ARKANSAS • On 12 December 2013, in Kendall Wright et al. v. AR Governor Michael Beebe et al.,11 same-gender couples who are seeking to overturn the AR constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, the state law banning same-gender civil marriage, and the federal law allowing states to ignore same-gender marriages from other states, and also seeking parental rights, birth certificate names, insurance, and other benefits, will request a preliminary injunction and a declaratory judgment. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW JERSEY • On 18 Octobner 2013, in Garden State Equality, et al. v. NJ Attorney General Paula Dow, et al., the NJ Supreme Court ended a 12-year legal battle when it unanimously affirmed a Superior Court ruling that same-gender civil marriages may begin on 21 October 2013. Despite the governor’s appeal which will get decided in 2014, the court concluded that starting marriages now benefits the couples, without harming the state. • MEUSA Summary • News Source NEW MEXICO • By 18 October 2013, NM county clerks had issued over 1,000 civil marriage licenses to same-gender couples, in advance of the NM Supreme Court hearing on 23 October 2013. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
STATE LEGISLATION & POLLSOREGON • On 16 October 2013, the OR Department of Justice announced that all same-gender couples with legal marriages from elsewhere (and all common-law marriages from elsewhere) are fully eligible for marriage-related benefits in OR. • MEUSA Summary • News Source VIRGINIA • On 16 Ocober 2013, Christopher Newport University surveyed 944 registered VA voters including 753 likely voters, and reported that 56% oppose VA’s 2006 constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage, and 36% favor it. • MEUSA Summary • News Source TENNESSEE • On 16 October 2013, Knoxville, TN expanded employee benefits coverage to include same-gender and opposite-gender domestic partners, effective 1 January 2014. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
STATE BALLOTS & POLLSOREGON • On 19 October 2013, Intel Corporation, OR’s largest employer, joined Nike, Portland General Electric, Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Business Association, and Oregon Business Coalition to support marriage equality. • MEUSA Summary • News Source
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Guest Post: Marriage and Refunds of FICA Taxes
[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="112"] Boyce Hinman[/caption] Authored by Boyce Hinman, founder and director of the California Communities United Institute, and member of Marriage Equality USA. Hinman has been writing and posting a series, "Monday Morning Marriage Memo," as part of his Anatomy for Justice blog. This article was first published there, and is republished here with the author’s permission. Hinman resides in and serves California, therefore the posts sometimes have a California slant. NOTE: Marriage Equality USA is not a legal firm or a tax/accounting firm. No action should be taken based solely on the content of our news blog or website. If you are part of a same sex couple who married in California during the summer of 2008 you might qualify for a refund of part of the FICA taxes that you paid for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Your employer may also qualify for partial refunds of FICA taxes it paid during those same tax years. To qualify for those refunds you would have to have been working for wages during those years. The same is true of same sex couples who married legally in other states or other nations where such marriages are legal, such as Canada. And it would still be true for same sex couples who married in states or nations which allow such marriages but who now live in states which do not allow same sex marriages. Note: I am not an attorney or a qualified tax expert. No action should be taken based solely on the content of these memos. However, I hope the memos will help you ask the right questions of people who are qualified in these issues. First let me explain what FICA taxes are. FICA taxes are taxes that employees pay into the Social Security fund and the Medicare fund. The taxes in those fund accounts are used to provide you with Social Security and Medicare in your senior years. Employers also pay taxes into these funds. In 2013, workers are paying Social Security Taxes equal to 6.2% of their total earnings. Each month that amount is withheld from the worker’s check and sent to the Social Security fund. The worker’s employer pays the same amount into that fund. With regard to Social Security that 6.2% applies only to the first $113,700 in annual income. Any income over that amount is not taxed. Also, in 2013, workers are paying Medicare taxes equal to 1.45% of their wages. Employers pay the same amount of Medicare taxes for each employee. This tax is charged against the total wages of each employee. There is no upper limit on the wages taxed for Medicare. So, why might refunds be due? Before DOMA was overturned, if an employer offered health insurance to the same sex spouse of an employee, the IRS considered the value of that insurance to be taxable income paid to the employee. So, when computing the FICA taxes owed, the IRS said, for same sex married couples, the FICA taxes owed were a percentage of the wages paid plus the value of the insurance provided to the same sex spouse of the employee. By contrast the IRS did not charge FICA taxes against the value of health insurance provided to the opposite sex spouses of employees. Now that DOMA has been overturned FICA taxes are not charged against the value of health insurance provided to the same sex spouses of employees where the couple married in a state or nation that allows such marriages. In addition, both employers and employees may seek refunds of that part of the FICA taxes that were charged against the value of the same sex spouse’s health insurance in the years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Guest Post: Community Property and Federal Tax Returns
[caption id="attachment_368" align="alignleft" width="112"] Boyce Hinman[/caption] Authored by Boyce Hinman, founder and director of the California Communities United Institute, and member of Marriage Equality USA. Hinman has been writing and posting a series, "Monday Morning Marriage Memo," as part of his Anatomy for Justice blog. This article was first published there, and is republished here with the author’s permission. Hinman resides in and serves California, therefore the posts sometimes have a California slant. NOTE: Marriage Equality USA is not a legal firm or a tax/accounting firm. No action should be taken based solely on the content of our news blog or website. The federal government requires that all same sex married couples either file joint federal income tax returns or file as married filing separately. This includes same-sex married couples. However, in 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a ruling that affects the filing of federal income tax returns by registered domestic partners, as well. The key wording in that ruling is as follows: “For tax years beginning after December 31, 2006, A California registered domestic partner must report one-half of the community income, whether received in the form of compensation from personal services or income from property, on his or her federal income tax returns.” Note: I am not an attorney or a qualified tax expert. No action should be taken based solely on the content of these memos. However, I hope the memos will help you ask the right questions of people who are qualified in these issues. The ruling says the income of California domestic partners must be split evenly because California is a so called “Community Property” state. Under California law income earned while a couple is in a registered domestic partnership is community property. All that income is owned by both of them regardless of who earned it. There is at least one exception to the requirement of splitting the household income on the federal tax return. That exception has to do with when the income was earned, or when the property was purchased. If, for example, one of the partners retired before entering the partnership, and that person is receiving a pension, then that pension income is separate property and does not need to be divided and half shown on each federal tax returns. Similarly, if one of the partners bought a rental property, prior to entering the domestic partnership, the rental income from that property is not community property. The income from that property should be reported only on the federal income tax return of the person who bought it prior to the domestic partnership. Sadly, the IRS staff does not seem to be informed of the ruling. Once we heard of the ruling Larry and I started dividing our community income in half and each reported half of it on our federal returns. Each year the IRS responded with a letter saying I had under reported my bank account interest income and so I owed more taxes than I had paid. However, the issue was that our joint savings accounts had only my Social Security number attached to them. Each year I cleared up the problem by sending them a copy of the IRS ruling, plus a copy of our registration as domestic partners. You can see, and download, a copy of the IRS ruling by clicking on the following link and then scrolling down to and clicking n the link at the bottom of the web based copy of this article. Here is the link to get you started. IRS Ruling These are complicated matters. Anyone wanting to act on this information should definitely consult an expert on income taxes before taking that action.