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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 3 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 01
Same-sex couples sue Kansas for tax discrimination
Section One
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Same-sex couples sue Kansas for tax discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two married same-sex couples, one Gay and one Lesbian, filed suit on December 30, charging that the state of Kansas was discriminating against them because it forbids them to file joint state tax returns as opposite-sex spouses do.

Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon and Roberta and Julia Woodrick were legally married in California, but reside in Kansas.

They say that the Kansas Department of Revenue is violating state tax laws that tie the Kansas income tax code to the federal code. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes same-sex marriages, if they were performed in states where they are legal, regardless of where the married couple resides.

New directives from the Kansas Department of Revenue, however, do not recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states. In October, the state's Department of Revenue issued a rule book titled 'Guidance for Same-Sex Couples,' spelling out the policy.

It requires each person in a Gay or Lesbian marriage to file either as an individual or head of household. The couples argue that the guidelines are discriminatory and relegate the couples 'in second-tier' unions.

The lawsuit also says the state agency exceeded its authority by imposing what amounts to a new regulation without first seeking public comment or standard legal reviews.

The plaintiffs seek a court injunction blocking the department from enforcing the policy and a ruling that the policy is discriminatory.

According to their attorney, the couples do not intend their suit to be a broad challenge to Kansas' marriage laws, which limit marriage only to opposite-sex couples.

'Our lawsuit is specifically limited to the actions of the Department of Revenue,' he said.

Department of Revenue spokesperson Jeannine Koranda told Associated Press that the department's guidelines follow the state constitution and Kansas law. The state constitutional amendment blocking recognition of same-sex marriage was approved by a 70% majority in 2005.

'Several other states that do not recognize same-sex marriage have published similar guidance,' she added.

Equality Kansas, the state's leading LGBT rights organization, praised the lawsuit, saying the department had singled out married Gay and Lesbian couples for 'unfair and illegal treatment.'

'By requiring legally married same-sex couples to file additional tax forms and say they are not married on those tax forms, Kansas is penalizing and stigmatizing Gay and Lesbian Kansans,' said Tom Witt, the group's executive director.

Robert Noland, executive director of the anti-Gay Kansas Family Policy Council, said same-sex couples in Kansas have always had to file individual tax returns in the past.

'I don't think anything really changed for them at the state level,' he said.

All that has changed, Noland added, is the U.S. Supreme Court decision in USA v. Windsor, striking down the key section of DOMA, and the subsequent IRS decision to treat married same-sex spouses the same as opposite-sex spouses.

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