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Op-ed: Marriage Limbo at Tax Time

Op-ed: Marriage Limbo at Tax Time


For many same-sex couples across the country, tax time is just a reminder that marriage laws still haven't been settled.

Melanie-puskar-and-tonya-blakely-x300d_0This year, for the first time since we were married in 2008, my wife and I sent the IRS a joint tax filing.

It's strange to say, but submitting our federal taxes this time was actually a moment of celebration. It offered us a reason to reflect on and appreciate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that said the federal government can no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples.

It's a good feeling to know that finally the federal government is treating us the same as opposite-sex married couples. Plus, in addition to the psychological gratification, the Supreme Court decision saved us thousands of dollars we would have otherwise had to pay as single filers.

But our moment of appreciation was short lived. As soon as we e-filed our joint federal form, it was time for of each of us to begin again from scratch. We each had to fill out our own 1040 as if we were strangers, as if we don't share our home in Glendale, Ariz., as if we don't have four children together.

Arizona doesn't recognize our legal marriage and therefore doesn't recognize the joint adjusted gross income that we gave to the federal government. So we began again -- Tonya took the mortgage interest deduction and the children became, once again, just my dependents.

The act of divorcing our lives on paper, each checking the "single" box, so that we can satisfy Arizona's discriminatory tax system makes liars out of us and is depressing, to say the least.

Yes, it's a pain in the neck, and complicated, and takes away time that we could be spending with our kids (ages 11, 9, 4, 3; one boy and three girls). It also causes us to lose thousands of dollars that we, just like so many other working Arizona families, need to support our children.

But more than the lost money, more than the time, this unequal treatment takes a toll on my soul. It reminds me that there are people out there who want Tonya and me to experience what amounts to punishment for being ourselves.

We're good people and good parents. Tonya and I are committed to each other and to our children. Even if we wanted to, we can't stop loving each other. We're not more peculiar or eccentric or strange than any other couple that has settled into its ways after being married more than five years.

To the Arizonans who have not already accepted families like ours as deserving of equal treatment by our state government, I say: The current state of affairs hurts many families and helps none. It's also putting our state at a competitive disadvantage.

Employers throughout Arizona want to recognize all married couples and our state's discriminatory marriage policies force them to spend time figuring out how to fairly tax compensation and benefits for thousands of same-sex couples.

I look forward to what I hope is a not-too-distant future when all Arizonans dread Tax Day simply because it's Tax Day, not because it reminds some of us that we're not treated equally by our tax-supported government.

MELANIE PUSKAR-BLAKELY (pictured right) lives in Glendale, Ariz., with her wife, Tonya Blakely (pictured left), and their four children.

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Melanie Puskar-Blakely