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Domestic partners get veterans' tax break in New Jersey

Domestic partners get veterans' tax break in New Jersey

Gay and lesbian veterans in New Jersey would be able to extend a special tax break to their domestic partners under a bill released in the state assembly last week, reports The Montclair Times. On Tuesday, March 7, the assembly military and veterans affairs committee released a bill that would extend the full property tax exemption afforded to 100% disabled veterans to their same-sex domestic partners. According to the Times, the bill applies to the situation of Louis Paul Hennefeld and Blair William O'Dell, who are registered domestic partners and own a home together. They sued their local township in the state tax court. Hennefeld is a U.S. Air Force veteran whose service in the Korean and Vietnam wars left him completely disabled, as certified by the U.S. Veterans Administration. However, the couple have been paying half of the taxes on their home because the Montclair tax assessor's office applied the tax exemption only to Hennefeld's share of ownership. Heterosexual spouses of disabled veterans receive the special tax break. On Wednesday the court ruled in the couple's favor. "This is another tremendous day in the civil rights history of New Jersey, which once again proves to be a state that doesn't hate," Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality told "Today we have yet another remarkable milestone on the way to marriage equality for the state's LGBTI community." Hennefeld and O'Dell had been awaiting the state tax court decision since January 21. News of the legislation came as a surprise to O'Dell, who said a neighbor alerted Hennefeld of the bill after reading about it in a daily newspaper. "I did write a letter to an assemblyperson about three [to] five months ago explaining our plight," O'Dell told The Montclair Times. "Our particular situation didn't seem to be specifically enumerated in the Domestic Partnership Act." Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, who was one of the lead sponsors of the Domestic Partnership Act and the assemblywoman to whom O'Dell wrote, said that there was a "direct connection" between the new legislation and Hennefeld and O'Dell's case. "That's how I heard of the inability of a town to grant this [right] to domestic partners as they do to married people," Weinberg said. The bill could be up for an assembly vote as early as next week, she said. An estimated 100 couples statewide would benefit from the legislation.

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