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D.C. official rejects request for joint tax filing by married gays

D.C. official rejects request for joint tax filing by married gays

Sparing the city the wrath of a Republican Congress, a Washington, D.C., official said Tuesday that legally married same-sex couples may not file joint tax returns in the nation's capital. The move raises the specter of a legal challenge from the city's sizable gay population, reports The Washington Post. Responding to a query from two men married last year in Massachusetts, D.C. chief financial officer Natwar M. Gandhi said D.C. law does not specifically forbid recognition of same-sex marriages. But it does provide that only taxpayers who file jointly under federal law may file jointly in the District of Columbia. The federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibits same-sex couples from filing with the Internal Revenue Service, Gandhi said. Therefore, "the couple cannot file a joint or combined-separate income tax return under the district's income tax laws" either, he said. The ruling appeared to defuse a controversy that erupted two weeks ago, when D.C. attorney general Robert J. Spagnoletti advised the couple that they could file a joint return with Gandhi's office under D.C. law. Spagnoletti's statement drew a warning from Republican U.S. senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a leading opponent of same-sex marriage and the new chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the district. He said any attempt by D.C. officials to recognize same-sex marriage would trigger a backlash by Congress. Gandhi's ruling appears to avoid that backlash, but it disappointed Edward G. Horvath and Richard G. Neidich, the couple who made the query. Horvath said Tuesday that he has no immediate plans to sue the city but that he and Neidich "are open to consider anything" if legal experts think a case is worth pursuing. Several gay activists said the ruling does little to answer broader, more fundamental questions about the legal status of gay married couples living in D.C. They predicted that Spagnoletti and D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams will face a welter of such queries regarding health benefits, property rights, and other matters until they state definitively whether the District of Columbia will grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

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