BOISE • A last-minute attempt to scuttle a proposed state crackdown on same-sex couples died Tuesday in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.
The committee rejected the motion by a 13-2 vote that would have gutted proposed tax rules forbidding same-sex couples legally married elsewhere from filing joint income tax returns.
The change to tax policy — requested by the Idaho State Tax Commission — may potentially result in same-sex couples paying more in taxes as well as require them to fill out more paperwork than heterosexual couples.
Democratic state Reps. Grant Burgoyne and Mat Erpelding, both of Boise, unsuccessfully tried to kill the new tax policy, which heads to the floor of both legislative house. Pocatello Rep. Caroline Meline was the only Democrat to vote alongside the 12 Republicans to keep the new rule, which included Magic Valley Reps. Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, and Clark Kauffman, Filer.
More than a half dozen Idahoan same-sex couples testified against the proposed tax regulation, which runs counter to the federal approach.
Steve Martins said he and his partner had been together 17 years. They were married last year in Seattle after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“We love each other and wanted to demonstrate that love and commitment to our family and friends,” Martin said.
Last year’s pivotal Supreme Court decision, however, still allowed states to use their own definition of marriage.
Idaho is one of 33 states that ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. In 2006, the state passed a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between only a man and a woman.
“If you pass these changes, you are saying that my marriage is not due the same level of respect that all marriages deserve,” Martin said.
Many who chose to speak in front of the committee stood hand in hand with their spouses while one couple brought their young baby to the front of the room. The committee meanwhile, remained quiet, choosing not to ask questions to anyone that spoke.
“Please treat us fairly,” said Nicki Tangen, standing next to her wife, Rebecca George.
They own three businesses, share multiple bank accounts and own two houses together, Tangen said. Asking them to recalculate their income taxes will cost them thousands that opposite-sex couples don’t have to pay, she said.
“Requiring us to have different guidelines puts an undue burden on us,” she said.
Tim Walsh said he plans on marrying this year his partner of 10 years later.
He said the government should not determine how he should choose to file.
“The question if we should file married as singles or married filing jointly should be left to us and not the government,” Walsh said. “If members of the committee truly believe in a less intrusive government, you would believe that.”
Others that chose to spoke explained that under the Affordable Care Act, legally married same-sex couples must file as joint-married on their federal tax forms in order to receive their insurance benefits. This means filing several rounds of paperwork in order to comply with the Idaho’s tax rules along with the federal health care reform act.
Monica Hopkins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, also urged the committee to reject the rule.
Hopkins listed states with similar Idaho same-sex marriage laws, such as Oregon and Missouri, have found alternative solutions to follow the same guidelines of the federal government, which recognizes same-sex joint marriage income tax forms.
Tax Committee members said the Tax Commission was following Idaho law by creating the new rule.
“Let those that are contesting this take it to court to decide whether this law is legal or not,” said state Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg.
Burgoyne countered that the rule was “a denial of equal protection.”
There is no need, Burgoyne added, for a change in the filing rules because Idaho already required state tax filers to follow the same filing on their federal returns.
Hartgen the proposed tax rule is appropriate considering the state Constitution.
“It can be changed at some future date, should court rulings and other considerations come into play. This is a rapidly changing field,” Hartgen said.