Same-sex couples who rushed to City Hall after the Supreme Court's anti-DOMA ruling in June can rest easier now, knowing that they now have an endorsement from the U.S. Treasury Department.
Officials announced today that they will respect gay marriages on all federal tax forms, regardless of where they live. That means gay couples will reap all the benefits of filing jointly, such as depositing money into an IRA, using a spouse as a tax shelter, protecting an estate, or poaching a spouse's benefit packages.
Today's announcement isn't just a Civil Rights victory; it also clears up some confusion in light of the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling, which blunted, but didn't completely repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Months after its issue, many tax attorneys were still advising gay couples to pool their assets into trusts to ensure that one partner would have an inheritance if the other died.
Apparently, that portion of the legal sphere just lost a sizable swath of business. Gay rights advocates call it a sweeping victory. Whereas many aspects of marriage are symbolic, equitable tax laws have direct, tangible effects on a family's finances, says Evan Wolfson, founder of the group Freedom to Marry.
Yet he points out deficiency in the law as it's currently written: It applies only to married couples, and not to domestic partnerships. That won't help LGBT populations in states that haven't yet legalized gay marriage -- and most still haven't. As Wolfson notes, we still have a long way to go before anyone can marry anyone in any state, and get recognized by the IRS.