Utah Will Allow Married Same-Sex Couples to File Joint Taxes

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com January 16 2014 6:30 PM ET

The mixed messages just keep coming to the 1,360 same-sex couples who married in Utah last month during the in the brief period when such unions were legal. 

Utah's Tax Commission announced today that it will allow those couples whose marriages were solemnized between December 20 — when a federal judge struck down the state's constitutional ban on performing or recognizing same-sex marriages — and the end of the year to file joint state tax returns for 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court put the same-sex weddings in Utah on hold January 6, when it issued a stay on that ruling pending an appeal. 

Allowing married Utah same-sex couples to file joint state taxes is a complete reversal of the position announced by the state Tax Commission just three months ago, reports the The Salt Lake Tribune

Even more surprising is the commission's announcement that it will also allow same-sex couples legally married in other states to file joint state tax returns for the year 2013 — a privilege specifically prohibited by the state's constitutional amendment, which U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled in violation of the U.S. Constitution in December. 

A spokesperson for the state commission told the Tribune that "Shelby's ruling played a big role" in the commission's decision to essentially abandon the provisions of the amendment, which was approved by 65 percent of Utah voters in 2004.

Utah's new tax policy brings the state in line with federal guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service, which announced that it would allow legally married same-sex couples to file joint federal returns as long as their marriage was legal in the state where it was performed — regardless of whether the couple's state of residence embraces marriage equality. 

But while the Utah Tax Commission's decision signals a positive step for the more than 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah's 17-day equality window, it does not change the position of the governor, who announced January 8 that his administration, and by extension, the state, will not recognize those unions. Pro-LGBT organizations have promised to fight that decision in federal court to bring full equality to the couples who married in their home state while it was legal for them to do so.