Will DOMA Issues Doom Tax Reform?

Will DOMA Issues Doom Tax Reform?

by Clint Stretch

The already grinding gears of immigration reform slowed again last week when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) angered conservatives by suggesting that his committee extend to roughly 40,000 binational same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by other couples to sponsor their spouse for a visa to enter the US. If the Supreme Court has not declared DOMA unconstitutional before the Finance Committee turns to individual income tax reform, same-sex marriage also will have to be addressed in that context. Every one of the Finance Committee's thirteen Democratic members supports same-sex marriage as does Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) on the Republican side.

Already the issue is on the table. In an April 18, 2013 Senate Finance Committee Staff Tax Reform Options Paper entitled "
Families, Education and Opportunities", the staff explicitly raised marriage parity as an issue. It also explained that, "As long as the tax code is progressive and married couples are taxed jointly rather than as individuals, there will be marriage penalties, marriage bonuses or both."

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When Congress turns to tax reform, members on both sides of the aisle who have advocated passionately for tax reform will have to decide whether their commitment for, or against, same-sex marriage is more important than their commitment to tax reform. I suspect same-sex marriage is the more important issue for many. Senator Leahy's proposal has made more apparent a major hurdle for tax reform advocates

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