S.F. assessor grants tax break for gay couples

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 11 2002 11:00 PM ET

San Francisco County has become the first in California to end the practice of reassessing a gay couple's shared property when one partner dies, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Under state law, married couples are exempt from having their property reassessed when one of them dies. But because same-sex couples cannot legally marry, they have been subject to such reassessment. As a result, the tax bills after one partner dies can be financially crippling. Under the San Francisco County assessor's ruling, gay couples who are registered as domestic partners receive the same exemptions as married couples.

"I feel like I should celebrate," said Ursula Bellamy, a 64-year-old who has been fighting a property tax bill since her partner died in 1995. When the couple bought their Glen Park home in 1974, it was valued at about $62,000. But after Bellamy's partner died, the assessor's office reassessed the value at about $500,000. Used to paying about $980 in property taxes every year, Bellamy said she faced a $13,300 bill last year, which included the taxes due for the five years since her partner died. "It's a horror story," she said. Bellamy should be able to successfully appeal the reassessment under the new rule, deputy chief assessor Ronald Chun said.