House unanimously approves LGBTQ fix to tax code

The House unanimously passed legislation to allow same-sex couples who married before the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court to claim their tax refunds.

The House of Representatives approved on Wednesday the Promoting Respect for Individuals’ Dignity and Equality (PRIDE) Act of 2019. The bill, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Andy Levin, D-Mich., would also remove language like “husband” and “wife” from the tax code to accommodate same-sex couples, letting taxpayers instead use terms such as “spouse” and "married couple” in their tax filings.

The PRIDE Act fixes the tax code to permit same-sex couples who married before the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013 to claim the tax refunds to which they’re entitled. For years, same-sex couples in states that recognized legal marriage were denied federal refunds because DOMA didn’t let them file federal taxes jointly. The Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor overturned DOMA, but the IRS still doesn’t have the statutory authority to override limitations in the tax code that restricts to three years the period within which a married couple can file jointly after having filed separate returns. The PRIDE Act would correct that to permit the IRS to give refunds to same-sex couples who married in states that recognized same-sex marriage before DOMA was overturned (see New bill would let same-sex couples claim pre-Windsor refunds).

“This bill corrects injustices in our laws that failed to recognize the reality of legal same-sex marriage in our country,” said Chu in a statement. “For starters, it removes gendered language like ‘husband and wife’ and replaces it with neutral wording like ‘they’ and ‘married couple’. It also allows same-sex couples who married in states before the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act to go back and refile past taxes as a married couple, something they have been prevented from doing even after the repeal of DOMA by an IRS restriction that only allows married couples who filed separately to refile returns going back three years. Legalizing same-sex marriage has meant greater equality for families across our country. It’s time our tax code reflect that. I’m thrilled to have the support of my colleague Andy Levin and I hope the Senate will act on this legislation soon.”

In the Senate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has introduced companion legislation that would allow for same-sex couples married before the repeal of DOMA to refile their taxes as a married couple.

“The House today sent a message to LGBTQ married couples across America that their unions are recognized, valued and dignified by the U.S. government,” stated Levin. “The PRIDE Act moves our country closer to true equality and equity for the LGBTQ community and I am proud that the House today passed this important bill.”

Rep. Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, speaks during the Politicon convention inside the Pasadena Convention Center.
Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, speaks during the Politicon convention inside the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California, U.S., on Saturday, July 29, 2017. During the third annual Politicon pundits, politicians, comedians and entertainers gather to discuss issues that touch all sides of the political spectrum.Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

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