Same-sex marriage tax benefits passes vote in Senate

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The debate over same sex marriage was back at the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday.

The issue this time is your taxes. The IRS recognizes joint returns from same sex partners, but Indiana doesn't and lawmakers are trying to rectify that.

There were no demonstrators in the hallways this time around. The amendment (HB 1380) was only adopted Monday and the Senate passed it out with a 41-6 Tuesday afternoon. Lawmakers call it a technicality, others call it something quite different.

When the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in Indiana was passed without a line banning civil unions, it looked like that would be end of the gay marriage debate in Indiana during this legislative session.

But Monday a bill was amended to allow Indiana to split from the Internal Revenue Service and not grant same-sex couples the right to file jointly.

"To create a law for a group of people who are not a threat is unjustified," said Dr. Henry Fernandez.

Fernandez says the proposed amendment is segregating the tax filing process.

"If approved, this will be one more reason why the federal courts will cite that the Indiana ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional," he said.

The IRS announced it would recognize all same-sex joint tax returns, even if the couple lives in an area where the marriage is not recognized.

"In this case, the IRS decision regarding same-sex filing, if we had adopted all of the updates to the Federal revenue code would have brought that tax filing code in conflict with state law banning same-sex marriage," said Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck City).

"The backers of HJR-3 did not get their way and this is one consolation prize," Fernandez said.

"Obviously, this is a contentious issue with strongly-held views on both sides that had nothing to do with getting back into that debate. It's more of a consistency issue that we follow existing law," Hershman said. "If people want to change it, that's a different debate for a different day for a different bill. This was a minor change with respect to the revenue code."

House Bill 1380 is now headed back to the House for concurrence or to conference committee.

Indiana Equality Action says the last-minute push could pose issues for couples who have a little more than a month to file taxes. The group also opposed the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban.

Indiana senators advanced that proposed ban without a provision that would ban civil unions. Under the state's constitutional amendment process, the civil unions ban needed to be included in the amendment for it to be placed on this November's ballot. Because that line was removed, the earliest a public referendum can be held on the proposed constitutional amendment is 2016.