Last Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation, praised the news that the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have proposed new regulations implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. According to the Treasury Department, the proposed regulations will clarify “that a marriage of two individuals, whether of the same sex or the opposite sex, will be recognised for federal tax purposes if that marriage is recognised by any state, possession, or territory of the United States. The proposed regulations would also interpret the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses.”
“This proposed rule change is further evidence that the Obama Administration stands firmly behind marriage equality,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “With this straightforward proposed change, the Treasury Department is making clear that for federal tax purposes all legally married couples will be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”
In 2013 following the Supreme Court’s historic decision in United States v. Windsor, the IRS clarified that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions that authorise same-sex marriage would be treated equally for federal tax purposes. According to the Treasury Department, today’s newly proposed regulations clarify and strengthen that guidance further by “reflecting that same-sex couples can now marry in all states and that all states will recognise these marriages. The proposed regulations will apply to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”
The IRS 2013 revenue ruling reflected the Obama Administration’s broad implementation of the Supreme Court’s previous marriage equality decision in the Windsor case. However, there were a few federal areas – such as social security benefits, veterans benefits, and copyright ownership – in which married same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states remained at risk due to discriminatory language in the statutes governing those areas. These barriers to equality were resolved with the Supreme Court’s decision affirming a constitutional right to nationwide marriage equality in the Obergefell case.