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Same-sex marriage tax benefits nixed by Senate

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Gay rights advocates said they're deeply concerned about a split in state policy from a new federal approach to taxes recognizing same-sex marriage that the Indiana Senate approved 41-6 on Tuesday.

Lawmakers voted to change a tax bill Monday, a move allowing the state to keep its current policy, which does not recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes.

The vote comes in the wake of an emotional debate to ban gay marriage in the state constitution that was derailed earlier this session.

Tim Orient, who lives with his husband and two children in Indianapolis, was married five years ago in Massachusetts. If the bill passes through final legislative negotiations and is signed by Gov. Mike Pence, Orient will have to file jointly for his federal return but split his assets to file for the state return.

"I guess it was something I'd figured I'd have to live with," Orient said. If Indiana keeps the split with federal policy, "it's going to cost us twice as much" to file his returns, he said.

Without the changes to the bill, Indiana could have adopted a new Internal Revenue Service policy giving same-sex marriages equal privileges in tax filings.

Supporters say the change was necessary to match Indiana's ban on gay marriage, while opponents say it's another instance of discrimination against same-sex couples by the Legislature.

"The revenue code is not the appropriate place to have that discussion," said state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek. "We would be adopting that policy without any legislative action to back it up."

Monday's amendment — made the day before the Senate vote — denied an opportunity for public input, Indiana Equality Action President Chris Paulsen said. The group was one of several that also opposed the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban.

"It would've been productive to have a candid and meaningful discussion in which the public could participate," Paulsen said in a prepared statement. "We'll hope for a resolution for this matter."

Hershman said a late catch of the new IRS policy, which was established Aug. 29, 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, led to the delayed amendment.

Adopting federal policy would have meant thousands could have avoided filing multiple tax statements before the April 15 deadline, Paulsen said.

Keeping the status-quo policy on same-sex taxes will bring "backlash," said Henry Fernandez, who lives with his partner and two children in Indianapolis but is not married.

"Inevitably there will be a federal suit that will be filed on behalf of Indiana same-sex couples," Fernandez said.

But Hershman and others say recognizing same-sex marriage in state taxes would have caused a rift with the state's current ban on gay marriage.

"Without a constitutional amendment protecting marriage," said Micah Clark, the executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, "the state has to be very careful not to enact policies that undermine traditional marriage, which activists wanting same-sex marriage could then use to cause a judge to overturn our marriage laws."

The House has already passed the broader tax bill. Because it was amended in the Senate, it will now go to a conference committee.

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  • Wow....
    Wow..... once again, Indiana legislators prove to be TOTAL embarrassment to the state. And..... why can't I buy beer and wine on Sunday?????????
  • Republicans Again Showcase Their Gross Bias
    Indiana lawmakers, who are mostly Republicans, once again showcase their gross bias against the LGTB community. As Jim said, set your clocks back 50 years...and I will add that the state is making Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Arizona look progressive compared to Indiana. If we didn't have grandchildren in the state, my wife and I would be gone ASAP.
  • What a joke...
    I wish our GOP would at the other who have already passed such measures and read the freaking Constitution, especially the "Supremacy Clause". Please quit passing laws that are blantently unconstitutional and in turn wasting tax payer money defending this garbage...
  • Costs
    I beg to differ on the subject on taxpayer's dollars not being wasted. Mr. Bosma made extremely clear at the inception of this session that this was a non-issue, yet the vast majority of his efforts were concentrated solely on this issue. Next, while the tax rate in Indiana is based upon the AGI on the Federal tax return, that is somewhat superfluous when it comes to overall rights and privileges. For example, what about inheritance taxes? ALL assets inherited on what would, in other states, be recognized as a legal marriage are, on the contrary, be fully taxable here in Indiana. There are too many discrepancies here...
  • @Sharon
    I believe you are correct, Sharon, when looking at this at an individual level. Unfortunately this protracted fight will cost all Indiana taxpayers - gay and straight - in investment and talent leaving our state for places that value people equally.
  • What are the benefits of marriage in Indiana?
    Although I fully support marriage rights for same sex couples, I don't think that this absurd vote by a bigoted Indiana Congress has much dollar cost to taxpayers. Since Indiana's income tax is basically a flat-rate tax, I'm at a loss at what benefits there are to filing married. The only thing I can come up with is the cost to file two returns if you are paying a tax preparer. What am I missing?
    • Welcome to Indiana
      Please set your clocks back 50 years
    • History
      People such as Micah Clark and the legislators that approve things like are very similar to members of the KKK. It's too bad that discrimination in this way is still allowed and celebrated.
    • Hmmm
      I commented on this article yesterday evening. This morning my comment is nowhere to be found...

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    1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

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