Bill would let married gays file joint Colo. tax returns
DENVER — The Colorado House gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill that would allow gay couples married in states that allow it to file joint state income tax returns.
The sponsors of SB19, all gay and lesbian lawmakers who helped create civil unions in Colorado last year, said the measure is about fairness.
“When we passed the civil unions act last year, we didn’t have this problem because the federal government did not recognize the valid marriages conducted in states where it’s recognized between same-sex couples,” said Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, one of those sponsors. “That has changed. We have same-sex couples in Colorado who were legally married in states that recognize it, yet they still have to file separate state income tax returns even though they may file joint federal tax returns.”
Several Republicans, many of whom opposed last year’s civil unions law, said the problem is that approving the bill would violate the Colorado Constitution, which says a marriage is between a man and a woman, and only married couples can file joint returns.
As a result, they tried to amend the bill to follow a tax-filing model approved in Wisconsin, which has a similar one-man-one-woman law.
That state’s Department of Revenue created a new state tax form to deal with the matter, but still requires same-sex couples to file separate state returns.
Republicans, including former House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said there’s no way to allow such couples to file joint state returns without violating the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.
“We can’t simply ignore what’s in our state Constitution,” McNulty said.
“We can’t simply ignore the fact that it says what it says, that marriage is between one man and one woman. While I know that some would simply prefer to ignore that provision, you can’t,” McNulty said.
The current speaker, however, said there is no constitutional conflict.
“There’s no such thing as equality if it’s separate,” said House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. “What we’re doing here is treating like couples differently, saying that if you are a same-sex couple who’s married in another state who under federal law can file jointly, you can be equal, but you’ve got to be separate. Attitudes and opinions are changing in this area quicker than anything else, and building into our tax code more discrimination … that is not fair, that is not right.”
The measure, which cleared the Colorado Senate last month on a party-line vote, requires a final House vote before it heads to the governor.