Editorial: PA’s rights for same sex couples must follow federal change

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

Under new rules that were announced Aug. 29, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service, along with the Treasury Department, have altered the benefits same-sex couples receive with regard to taxes and Medicare.

The IRS now recognizes same-sex couples that are legally married in terms of federal tax purposes. Beginning with the 2013 tax year, same-sex couples will be able to file under the “married filing jointly” category. The IRS’ new rule is also retroactive, allowing same-sex couples to file for federal tax returns for the past three years.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June to partially strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse recognition of marriages between individuals of the same sex, the move to allot same-sex couples national recognizance has become more prevalent with the IRS’ move to equalize federal benefits.

The Department of Health and Human Services also released new rules altering Medicare policies offered to same-sex couples.

“Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

The effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling of DOMA are creating widespread change within federal agencies. Same-sex couples are finally seeing the equality they deserve — not only on a social level — but as far as the government’s view of such unions

The IRS ruling is by far the largest ripple since the ruling, exemplifying true change. By recognizing same-sex marriage tax filings, the IRS will provide same-sex couples the security to live in any state and still be considered legally married. The ruling specifically deters any state from interfering with same-sex unions with regard to their tax status.

Hopefully, the IRS’ new rules will pressurize decisions being made in Pennsylvania as far as same-sex marriages go. Yesterday, a Commonwealth Court began hearing arguments from the state seeking a court order to prevent Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes from continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Although the case is being limited in scope to just the legality of Hanes’ actions, the case sheds light on how discriminatory Pennsylvania’s view of same-sex marriages really is. It’s time to stop fighting a losing battle and realize this: No law should dictate who an individual can love or marry. 

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