Will Colo. Recognize Gay Marriages in Tax Returns?

Gay Denver Democrat Sen. Pat Steadman plans to introduce legislation that would allow legally married gay and lesbian Coloradans to file joint state tax returns.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

January 11 2014 8:00 AM ET

Sen. Pat Steadman poses over the holiday with he and his late partner's new grandson and the family dog. 

A gay Denver lawmaker is looking to help legally married same-sex couples file joint state tax returns, even though Colorado's constitution prohibits marriage equality. 

Sen. Pat Steadman plans to introduce a bill that would effect a small change in the formal filing status used on state tax returns to link that status to a resident's federal returns, according to Denver's KUSA-TV. Since the federal government now recognizes legally married same-sex couples regardless of where they reside, couples can file joint tax returns and receive all the benefits granted by that status. 

"Because of the U.S. Supreme court ruling last June, the IRS now recognizes same-sex marriages," Steadman told 9NEWS. "But because of a [state] constitutional prohibition, Colorado does not."

Steadman's bill would link Colorado's state return forms to the federal form, meaning that couples considered legally married by the federal government for tax purposes would also be considered legally married for state tax purposes. Several states, including Missouri, already connect the filing status on residents' state and federal returns.

Last November, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued an executive order proclaiming that his state would recognize any same-sex couples recognized as married for federal tax purposes, as married for state purposes, as well. If Steadman's bill passes, Colorado would join Missouri as the only two states without marriage equality that allow married same-sex couples to file state taxes jointly. 

Steadman, a longtime advocate for the LGBT community who served as a prominent lobbyist before being appointed to the state senate in 2009, was one of the primary sponsors of the state's recently enacted civil unions law, though he acknowledged in various senate hearings that civil unions were a "separate and unequal" substitute for full marriage equality. 

But because Colorado voters approved an amendment to the state's constitution in 2006 defining marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman, civil unions are broadly considered the closest Colorado can come under current law to full marriage equality. While Steadman is an outspoken supporter for the freedom to marry, he told KUSA that neither he — nor any of his seven fellow gay and lesbian lawmakers in the state legislature — have current plans to push for full marriage equality.

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