This summer has seen change in American civil rights.
In June, the Supreme Court repealed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA.
United States v. Windsor, the case was regarding a surviving same-sex spouse whose inheritance from her deceased spouse had been subject to federal taxation as if they were unmarried.
This led to the Supreme Court changing the standing definition of marriage that required the married couple to be one man and one woman.
“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion.
This doesn’t mean that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, only in the states granting same-sex marriages will the federal government recognize them.
For example, a gay couple married in New York will have their marriage recognized on the state and federal level, but if they were to move to a state that has a ban on same sex marriage, the marriage will not be recognized by that state.
Since the ruling, there are 13 states and one federal district that allow same-sex marriage.
Thirty-seven states either ban same-sex marriage legally or constitutionally. This creates another problem in regards to taxation of a married couple.
Since DOMA made same-sex marriage federally recognized, what does a same-sex couple have to do to file federal and state taxes?
Federally, the couple must file as married but depending on the state they live in, they may or may not have to file as married — meaning two separate statuses exist for state and federal taxes in the 37 states that ban same-sex marriage. Couples claim married status on federal taxes, while on state taxes they claim as unmarried.
Yes, DOMA has granted some Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) people federal recognition of their marriages, but there are still states that ban it on a constitutional level, thus keeping the status quo of separate but equal.
It may not be as visible as a separate water fountain or sitting in the back of the bus, as with the Jim Crow laws during the Civil Rights movement, but it is the same mentality: You’re not the same as me, so I can treat you differently.
DOMA has opened the conversation and helped to shift the national opinion of same-sex marriages. We have a long road ahead but we are making forward progress.
One day, people will see a married couple, disregarding the gender of the couple, and see two loving people.
To create real change we need to legally recognize same-sex marriages nationwide.