DOMA is Dead

RedEqualityQuite a day yesterday! For those living in the 13 states – I’m including California in that number – and the District of Columbia, a hearty congratulations on federal recognition of your marriage! Now, get ready for the marriage penalty on your joint federal returns 🙂 And don’t wait until next April to figure out how much it will be 😉

Seriously, Wednesday was a great day for marriage equality. But there’s more work to be done, especially here in Virginia.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


9 thoughts on “DOMA is Dead

  1. Being a CPA, do you have any insight as to the reasoning behind the creation of all the tax benefits/penalties for married couples? Just looking at how marriage is viewed via the tax code, it seems to me that once you take away all the controversy and moral judgments, that you are left with the government subsidizing and/or penalizing pairs of people because they signed a contract to, generally speaking, indefinitely live together. Once all the barriers to marriage equality and same-sex adoption are removed, or even before then, I think the country should have a serious discussion about just what kinds of Federal benefits married couples should receive.

    I think we’d be much better off scraping most of the existing system and shifting all the benefits to people or couples who are parents or legal guardians of children. People who get divorced and re-married without children don’t deserve the same benefits as a same sex couple who decide to adopt children. Gay, straight, or whatever, having two responsible adults in a child’s life is a lot better than just one and is a lot more worthy of government support than two people simply living together with a marriage contract and no children.

    1. “[Having] two responsible adults in a child’s life is a lot better than just one and is a lot more worthy of government support….”

      Yet the government REWARDS single-parenthood. If she marries the daddy, her benefits are cut.

      The government m.o. is to reward bad decisions and punish good decisions.

    2. Max – the tax code has a history of rewarding/penalizing behavior. Joint returns were not initially required by the tax code. I believe they were made mandatory in 1941. (See history here.)

      Even then, there was a discussion of the marriage penalty. Efforts over the years to mitigate the penalty have taken various forms, including tax credits. The current tax code mitigates it by doubling the 10% and 15% tax brackets. If your combined income takes you into a higher bracket, though, you have a penalty.

      (There is, of course, the marriage bonus for single-earner married couples, of which there were a lot more in 1941 than today.)

      Children are really not a part of the question of marriage penalty/bonus because the exemption for them is the same. (There are some tax credits, though, that cannot be claimed for children if the parents file separately.)

      1. Thank you for the link, it was a very interesting read.

        About how taxes aren’t the only part of benefits, I remember reading somewhere that there are hundreds if not thousands of places in the USC where the word marriage is used not directly related to taxes. In light of this decision, I can’t see how any number of those won’t end up conflicting with state laws to the point that they will soon be struck down, at least to some extent, especially considering how old some of the laws still on the books are. Spousal privilege against testifying in criminal and civil cases involving parties from multiple states, say people on vacation, is going to be really interesting to watch.

  2. Can’t they just file separately and avoid the Marriage Penalty?

    Anyway, why should ANYONE get government benefits for being married?

    The government should have NO PART IN MARRIAGE AT ALL — neither prohibiting any, nor sanctioning any, nor forcing anyone to recognize any marriage he does not want to recognize.

    1. No, filing separately doesn’t do away with the penalty because the MFS brackets are exactly half of the MFJ brackets.

      There’s a heck of a lot more to “government benefits” than just taxes. Next of kin considerations immediately come to mind.

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