Warren Proposal Could Mean Tax Refunds For Married Same-Sex Couples

Massachusetts Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan to allow married same-sex couples to possibly recoup some of the taxes they paid before the federal government recognized marriage equality.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Massachusetts Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan to allow married same-sex couples to possibly recoup some of the taxes they paid before the federal government recognized marriage equality.

Warren recently re-introduced her proposal, titled ‘The Refund Equality Act,’ in the U.S. Senate.

Originally introduced by Warren in 2017, the goal of the legislation would be to allow same-sex couples to file amended tax returns in order to collect funds they paid when they were legally married but not allowed to file as married couples.

Current law allows Americans to file amended returns reaching back as far as three years, but Warren’s proposal would give same-sex married couples the right to re-file returns for the entire period the couple has been married.

In a statement, Warren said, “The federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade.”

In 2004, Warren’s state of Massachusetts became the first in the nation to recognize same-sex marriage.

But it wasn’t until the 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. v. Windsor, that the federal government (including the Internal Revenue Service) allowed LGBTQ married couples to access some of the tax advantages of being married.

For instance, I married my husband in 2003 in Toronto, Canada. While it was a beautiful, emotional day in my life, once we returned to the U.S. it was (in legal terms) largely ceremonial as it wasn’t recognized at home.

Michael and I getting married in Toronto in 2003

Living in California at the time, other than my using the actual term ‘husband’ to refer to my guy, it didn’t count for much in terms of legal standing until the state Supreme Court ordered same-sex marriages recognized in 2008.

Proposition 8 interfered with that, but after a long back and forth, we were allowed to keep our legal status. But, that’s another story…

But, as our marriage wasn’t recognized by the federal government, we continued to file our tax returns as “Single.”

Until – the Windsor decision.

Our accountant did take advantage of the new filing status, and I can tell you it made a BIG difference in our taxes.

CNBC reports that “married couples have access to higher standard deductions: $24,400 for joint filers in 2019, compared to $12,200 for singles.”

Additionally, couples who file jointly enjoy wider income tax brackets compared to singles.

That’s not to say every couple would benefit financially from refiling their returns.

Known as the “marriage penalty,” two spouses who have similar incomes might end up in a higher tax bracket.

But in the case of married couples where one spouse makes more/less than the other, the joint tax bill could be lower.

The Joint Committee on Taxation reported last week that perhaps $57 million could be reclaimed under Warren’s legislation.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) has introduced the companion bill in the House as well.

Hillary Clinton’s Eulogy For Civil Rights Hero Edie Windsor

Hillary Clinton speaks at memorial for LGBT civil rights hero Edie Windsor

Hillary Clinton was among the many who showed up today to honor and eulogize LGBT civil rights hero, Edie Windsor.

From Hillary’s eulogy:

The day Edie won, much of America cheered with her. Not with the style or the pink scarf. That was uniquely hers. But with a recognition that a wrong had been righted. Through it all, her strength never wavered. Though she did confess to one moment of panic. The day she saw her name in print as United States v. Windsor. It is fitting that she will be immortalized in history books in that landmark decision – synonymous with equal rights and dignity under the law. But she didn’t stop there. She continued to support the needs and the rights of the LGBT community. She helped change hearts and minds, including mine. And we are forever grateful to her for that.

[snip]

How she experienced loss, grief, and injustice made her only more generous, more open-hearted, and more fearless in her fight. She refused to give up on the promise of America. There wasn’t a cynical, defeatist bone in her body. That’s especially important for us to remember now. Through her determination and sheer force of will, she brought us another step closer to that more perfect union. Now, in this moment when so much hard-fought progress is hanging in the balance, it is up to all of us to pick up where she left off.

Hillary closed with this quote from poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Let us continue to be inspired by Edie’s wild and precious life,” Clinton said. “And let us make her proud every day of how we answer that question for ourselves. Thank you, Edie.”

Really – stop and watch. Really quite wonderful.

For the record – not even a tweet from Donald “Better for the gays” Trump about Edie’s passing.

Hillary said she would be there for us. And there she was today. No votes to be had. Just support.

President Obama On The Passing Of Edie Windsor: She Spoke Up For Equal, Not Special, Rights

(image via Facebook)

President Obama issued this statement via Facebook on the passing of LGBT civil rights hero Edie Windsor:

America’s long journey towards equality has been guided by countless small acts of persistence, and fueled by the stubborn willingness of quiet heroes to speak out for what’s right.

Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.

I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love. She was engaged to her partner, Thea, for forty years. After a wedding in Canada, they were married for less than two. But federal law didn’t recognize a marriage like theirs as valid – which meant that they were denied certain federal rights and benefits that other married couples enjoyed. And when Thea passed away, Edie spoke up – not for special treatment, but for equal treatment – so that other legally married same-sex couples could enjoy the same federal rights and benefits as anyone else.

In my second inaugural address, I said that if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And because people like Edie stood up, my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. The day that the Supreme Court issued its 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor was a great day for Edie, and a great day for America – a victory for human decency, equality, freedom, and justice. And I called Edie that day to congratulate her.

Two years later, to the day, we took another step forward on our journey as the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. It was a victory for families, and for the principle that all of us should be treated equally, regardless of who we are or who we love.

I thought about Edie that day. I thought about all the millions of quiet heroes across the decades whose countless small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that love is love – and who, in the process, made us all more free. They deserve our gratitude. And so does Edie.

Michelle and I offer our condolences to her wife, Judith, and to all who loved and looked up to Edie Windsor.

Edie Windsor, Who Brought Down Defense Of Marriage Act, Passes Away At 88

Edie Windsor (L) with her lawyer Robbie Kaplan (R)

Edie Windsor’s life story was a lesson in how two people falling in love can change the world.

From the New York Times:

Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and granted same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to myriad federal benefits, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 88.

Her wife, Judith Kasen-Windsor, confirmed the death but did not specify a cause. They were married in 2016.

Four decades after the Stonewall Inn uprising fueled the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in America, Ms. Windsor, the widow of a woman with whom she had lived much of her life, became the lead plaintiff in what is widely regarded as the second most important Supreme Court ruling in the national battle over same-sex marriage rights.

The Windsor decision was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia. But in 2015, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere in the nation, with all the protections and privileges of heterosexual couples. Its historic significance was likened to that of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which decriminalized gay sex in the United States.

Ms. Windsor had just wanted a tax refund. But for thousands struggling for gender equality, the stakes went far beyond tax advantages available to married heterosexuals, including Social Security, health care and veterans’ benefits; protection in immigration and bankruptcy cases; and keeping a home after a spouse had died, as well as food stamps, green cards and federal aid to the poor, the elderly and children.

Like countless others, Ms. Windsor had been snared by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which barred same-sex married couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” effectively excluding them from federal benefits available to married heterosexuals — precisely 1,138 benefits, according to a count by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s fiscal watchdog agency.

After living together for 40 years, Ms. Windsor and Thea Spyer, a psychologist, were legally married in Canada in 2007. Dr. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited her estate. But the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals, and she had to pay taxes of $363,053.

She sued, claiming that the law, by recognizing only marriages between a man and a woman, unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.”

Affirming two lower court rulings, the Supreme Court overturned the law in a 5-4 ruling, citing the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Great sadness. RIP Edie Windsor.

Radio Show: This Week In LGBT News 10/1/16

Happy Sunday, folks!

Here’s this week’s episode of The Randy Report on BlogTalkRadio.

My recap of popular & important stories of pop culture, politics and entertainment of interest to the LGBT community:

• Edie Windsor, LGBTQ hero who helped bring down the Defense of Marriage Act, finds love a second time.

• Anti-gay Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore suspended from the bench for instructing judges to not perform same-sex marriages even after SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality.

• The first presidential debate came and went this week. Who won? I think Randy Rainbow did with his parody of a classic Mary Poppins song that recaps the Donald’s debate performance.

GLEE star Alex Newell teams up with the CDC to share new music and a new campaign to help stop HIV.

Tune in for these stories and more.

Florida: Edie Windsor Asks Gov. Rick Scott To Stop Appealing Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Marriage equality icon (and SCOTUS victor) Edie Windsor has recorded a “Letter To Gov. Rick Scott” for Equality Florida asking him to drop opposition to marriage equality in the Sunshine State:

“I am Edith S. Windsor, the plaintiff in Windsor v. United States, the case that won federal recognition of marriages for same-sex couples. The two extremely positive decisions in favor of marriage equality were Justice Jacobs’ decision in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Kennedy’s decision in the Supreme Court, both self-described conservatives. Five judges in Florida have also ruled that it’s wrong to exclude same-sex couples from marriage, and the majority of Floridians agree.

“My dear Governor Scott, I implore you to use the power of your office to allow loving couples to marry now in your state. Very respectfully yours, Edie Windsor.”

Edie Windsor turns 85 today!

Edie Windsor leaving the US Supreme Court

Today marks the 85th birthday of Edith Windsor, whose lawsuit against the federal government led to the fall of DOMA.

Every marriage equality ruling since last June 26, 2013 has referenced the landmark ruling.

The LGBT community will forever be grateful for the courage and tenacity Edie demonstrated in standing up for fairness and equality.

Happy Birthday Edie!

One year ago today: SCOTUS strikes down anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act

Edie Windsor emerging victorious on the steps of the US Supreme Court

One year ago today, Windsor v. United States became one of the most important court cases for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.

Since then, every single one of the 13 court cases striking down same-sex marriage bans has used the Windsor decision at the core of their legal decision.

From Evan Wolfson at Freedom To Marry:

One year ago today — with smiles of joy and happy tears — we cheered as the Supreme Court announced its ruling to gut DOMA.

Our movement made history that day. And now tens of thousands of same-sex couples have their marriages respected by the federal government.

That landmark decision kicked off a momentous year, with 22 pro-marriage court decisions, including yesterday’s freedom to marry rulings in Indiana and the 10th Circuit federal appellate court. In just 12 months, we’ve grown public support to historic levels and won the freedom to marry in six more states.

Watch below as Edie Windsor talks with Marriage Equality USA about the historic ruling:

One year anniversary of historic oral arguments at SCOTUS – United States v. Windsor

One year ago today, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments that led to the fall of DOMA.

We all have Edie Windsor to thank for going the distance in bringing her history-making case to the Supreme Court.  The image above, taken as Edie Windsor exited the Supreme Court, shows the exuberance of the moment.

It was the eventual ruling from SCOTUS three months later that opened the doors for much more success in marriage equality lawsuits.

You can read more about the expansive reach of the historic ruling at HRC.

Thank you again Edie Windsor!

Edie Windsor meets President Obama at the White House

President Obama invited DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor to the France State Dinner this week and took the time to chat with her privately as he thanked her again for her courage to bring her case to the Supreme Court last summer.

From the White House blog:

“The thanks expressed by the President that day have been echoed by millions of Americans, including thousands of legally married couples who can now live their lives with greater justice and dignity – thanks to heroes like Edie Windsor who have been willing to stand up and fight for equality under the law.”