Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved, by voice vote, a bill to remedy the Internal Revenue Service’s unfair treatment of same-sex couples.
For years, same-sex couples in states where marriage equality was the law were wrongfully denied refunds because the federal government, under DOMA, was prohibited from recognizing their legal relationships, and thus, they were prohibited from filing federal taxes jointly.
Even though DOMA was overturned in 2013 by the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, the IRS lacks the authority to override provisions in the tax code that limit the period within which a married couple may file jointly, after having previously filed separately, to three years.
To remedy this problem, U.S. Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Andy Levin (D-Mich.), proposed the Promoting Respect for Individuals’ Dignity and Equality (PRIDE) Act of 2019.
If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump, the bill would allow same-sex couples who married before the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down to claim the refunds to which they would have been entitled.
The PRIDE Act also removes gendered language like “husband” and “wife” from the tax code and replaces it with gender-neutral language in order to ensure same-sex couples aren’t denied benefits in the future that are awarded to similarly situated opposite-sex married couples.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has introduced companion legislation that would allow same-sex couples married before the repeal of DOMA to refile their taxes as a married couple.
Experts estimate that legally married same-sex couples lost up to $57 million in eligible refunds due to DOMA’s ban on granting federal recognition of their relationships.
It remains unclear whether Republican leaders in the Senate, specifically, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will allow the PRIDE Act to receive a hearing, let alone a floor vote.
“This bill corrects injustices in our laws that failed to recognize the reality of legal same-sex marriage in our country,” Chu said in a statement calling on the Senate to take action on the bill. “Legalizing same-sex marriage has meant greater equality for families across our country. It’s time our tax code reflect that.”
“The House today sent a message to LGBTQ married couples across America that their unions are recognized, valued and dignified by the U.S. government,” Levin said in a statement. “The PRIDE Act moves our country closer to true equality and equity for the LGBTQ community and I am proud that the House today passed this important bill.”