Democrats move for LGBT-inclusive language in tax code

 On Valentine’s Day, Democrats in Congress introduced the Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act.

The act would change the language used in the federal U.S. tax code, replacing the gendered “husband” and “wife” with the neutral term “spouse” to make the code LGBTQ inclusive.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in individual states beginning in 2004. In August 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service determined “same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.”

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in Obergefell v. Hodges. But the language of the code has yet to be revised and amended to reflect that inclusivity.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), who introduced he Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act, asserted that the tax code does not reflect marriage equality and must be amended to reflect the current law.

“Today, as Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, I introduced this bill to make simple, commonsense changes to our tax code so that it accurately represents all people to whom it applies,” Levin said. “Marriage equality became the law of the land four years ago, and it is past time for our laws to reflect that. The Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act will make small changes that have a huge impact on the affirmation of the LGBTQ community.”

Chu said, “Tax filing is often difficult enough already without also making LGBTQ families feel prejudiced against. This is a simple and commonsense fix that acknowledges LGBTQ couples as equals. The Supreme Court has recognized that love is love no matter your gender identity. It’s time our tax code does the same.”

A Senate version of the bill is being introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who said, “The tax code still reflects the discrimination of a bygone era. It’s past time for that to change.”

The bill has been introduced every year since 2015, reflecting the law. It was first introduced in the House by Levin’s father, Sandy Levin, who retired in 2011 at 80 after 36 years in office.

Wyden had introduced the bill in the Senate at that time and signatories have included local senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE) as well as senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who are currently running for president.

The bill has more than 50 House Democratic original co-sponsors and is supported by groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In a statement posted on Levin’s website, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “This bill is an innovative step to scrub our tax code of anachronisms that sideline transgender taxpayers and ignore the progress our country has made in securing the right to marriage equality for all. Any law that tries to enforce strict and outmoded definitions of gender is bound to hurt every American of every gender.” 

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