Marriage Equality Equals Financial Equality

By |2013-11-14T09:00:00-05:00November 14th, 2013|Michigan, News|

LIVONIA – Marriage is now more equal than ever, thanks to a September ruling from the Internal Revenue Service that says the IRS will consider all marriages legal for the purpose of filing federal taxes, even if the couples live in states that do not recognize their marriages. Professor Gina Torielli explained the new legal and financial landscape emerging for same-sex married couples at a sold out breakfast meeting and seminar sponsored by BTL Nov. 6 at the Detroit Marriott Livonia.
Torielli, chairman of the Graduate Tax Program at Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, is widely recognized as one of the state’s leading experts on tax law. She and her partner of 27 years are not married yet, but they are considering it. So this topic is not only an intellectual challenge, but is also intensely personal for her.
“My partner has said all along that she doesn’t want to have to leave her home state to get married,” she said. “I don’t know though. We might have to reconsider that position given all the changes coming out of the federal government.”
Torielli’s presentation started with a comprehensive overview of the state of marriage equality internationally, nationally and in Michigan. She then explained the rules and regulations on restating prior years taxes, employment and employee benefit taxation, insurance issues including life insurance, estate planning, pensions and more.
Even though the IRS now recognizes same-sex marriages regardless of where the couple lives, known as “place of celebration,” other federal agencies do not – yet. Torielli cited the legislation that created Social Security which only recognizes marriages of couples that live in states where it is legal, known as “place of domicile.” This definitional clash creates a bizarre patchwork of rules and benefits. For example, a same-sex married couple in New York State may file for social security benefits as a married couple, but a same-sex married couple that lives in Michigan cannot.
Torielli said that the state of marriage equality in Michigan is dismal. “When I explain all the barriers to my students, they are shocked. Some say they can’t wait to leave Michigan,” she said. Michigan has a constitutional amendment and statutes that bar marriage equality. There are no statewide protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accommodations. Couples are generally not permitted to adopt, and non-biological co-parents have no legal standing or responsibilities to the children they raise.
Despite the negative situation in Michigan, Torielli said she is hopeful. “The Obama administration is doing everything it can within the law to recognize our marriages. For example, the military now recognizes all marriages, regardless of where couples live, and extend full benefits to them. They will even grant leave for couples to go get married in a state that has same-sex marriage, if stationed somewhere that doesn’t allow it,” she said.
Attendees left with a packet of information and copies of the new federal rulings. “This was so helpful and interesting. I’m so glad I came to this presentation,” said John Kuderick, a Royal Oak accountant, echoing comments from many of the other participants.

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