With Crazy New Laws That Penalize Same-Sex Couples, Virginia Is For Taxes

AP0805130533241-1280x960Apparently the Virginia Department of Taxation thinks that they understand taxes better than the IRS. They just came out with a bunch of new tax codes, and guess who bears some extra-stiff penalties? Why, yes, it’s LGBT couples. How ever did you guess?

For married gays, it’s a familiar situation: you have to file extra tax returns, because one government entity recognizes your relationship while another considers you strangers. But there’s a twist: while it used to be that states (like Iowa and Vermont) recognized the marriage and the federal government did not, this time it’s the other way around.

Since US Supreme Court overturned DOMA, the IRS has been steadily working on updating its policies to recognize LGBT couples. Hooray for that. But Virginia has decided to be less accommodating: even if you’re legally married (in Maryland or Connecticut, for example), Virginia won’t accept your join tax return. You’ll need to file as married for the feds, then whip up a fake “single” federal return, and then file a “single” state return for VA. This is great news for tax prep companies, but not for anyone else.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Missouri has a marriage ban, but they allow couples with out-of-state licenses to file as married. Yes, Virginia’s sunk so low as to make Missouri seem sophisticated and progressive. The state known for the racist anti-miscegenation laws that gave us Loving v. Virginia is at it again.

The good news is that incoming Governor Terry McAuliffe (pictured) is a staunch ally, so he could be our best hope for reversing the rotten policy. Bolstering our case is the anticipated burden to businesses that the discriminatory policy is expected to impose.

But fiddling with tax laws is no easy task, particularly when you have an equality ban as strident as Virginia’s. The state constitution doesn’t just ban marriage, it also prohibits civil unions. McAuliffe’s hands may be tied, and not in a fun way.

Fortunately, there’s one more chance of a resolution before tax day: AFER’s lawsuit. After overturning Prop 8, AFER filed a federal suit against Virginia. If they can wipe out the anti-gay law before taxes are due, maybe (and this is a big maybe) Virginia will have time to reform its tax policies for this year.

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  • Kristin Davis

    Sadly, this is the same story for other states as well. Although Virginia obviously have its issues, Oklahoma is dealing with a governor who is doing everything she can to block spousal benefits at state-owned facilities of the National Guard. At least Gov. McAuliffe is an ally – there’s hope.

  • AxelDC

    When the Supreme Court kept DOMA Section 2 intact during the Windsor decision, they set up a legal mess. States can issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and the Federal government must respect those licenses. However, states do not have to respect those marriages if they do not wish to, meaning that the US is divided into two classifications: gay friendly and antigay. If you get married in Maryland and move to Virginia, the Federal government recognizes you as married but Virginia does not. That makes for a legal mess for gay couples.

    In Mississippi, you cannot get divorced if you have a gay couple, even though the state doesn’t recognize your marriage. You cannot get divorced where you got married because you are not a resident.

    The Federal government cannot charge you inheritance taxes from your spouse, which was the heart of the Windsor case, but apparently the state can discriminate against you for taxes. This obviously sets up future court cases and more legal wrangling until gays are finally given their 14th Amendment equal protection under the law.

  • Kristin Davis

    AxelDC, you make some excellent points, and it’s true that we’re in for more legal wrangling, as sad as it is. The divorce issue is a little less straight forward than you mentioned.

    It’s accurate that if you were legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage and reside in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, you are unable to get a divorce in your state of residence. However, you can still get a divorce depending on where you married. For example if you married in California, it is possible to obtain a divorce without being a CA resident. This just adds more confusion to the mix as couples grapple with what the laws are in their particular state of residence, their particular state of marriage celebration, etc.

    These are crazy times right now, with much in limbo and much confusion. It would be so much easier if people simply had equal rights under the law. A new online resource,, is working to provide information on these very issues to LGBT individuals and couples to help clear the confusion. Hopefully one day there won’t be a need for specialized legal resources for LGBT couples, but for now there are solutions to help level the playing field.

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