Virginians Shouldn’t Have to Wait for Federal Courts to Act

Richmond, VA -- Another state tax deadline comes and goes today without action by Governor McAuliffe to ensure that Virginia’s married same-sex couples will no longer face discrimination when filing state income taxes.  The ACLU of Virginia first wrote Governor McAuliffe in early December about the discriminatory policy put in place last November by the Virginia Department of Taxation that denies married same-sex couples the ability to file joint state tax returns.  In late December, the ACLU and Equality Virginia joined together in a letter denouncing the policy and including a draft executive order to overturn it.
“This policy singles out one group of legally married Virginians for discrimination,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia.  “It’s shameful that LGBT Virginians continue to face inequality in the Commonwealth.  Governor McAuliffe has the authority to rescind this discriminatory policy and instead put in place a policy that fulfills Virginia’s statutory obligations while ensuring non-discriminatory treatment.”
Though married same-sex couples in Virginia can file joint tax returns at the federal level, under Virginia’s discriminatory state tax policy, these same couples are forced to file as single or head of household at the state level.  The tax department’s ruling conflicts with federal income tax laws and with Virginia law that requires conformity with federal rules.
The Virginia Department of Taxation policy also imposes additional paperwork and accounting requirements on Virginia businesses.  Under the policy, Virginia businesses that utilize the federal tax deduction must adjust their state tax filings to reflect the Commonwealth’s refusal to allow married same-sex couples to file jointly.
“Especially in these harsh economic times, it is outrageous that the Commonwealth maintains a discriminatory policy that also imposes new and burdensome paperwork and accounting requirements on Virginia businesses,” said Gastañaga.  “These requirements will be particularly onerous for small businesses.  No other state has imposed such requirements on businesses.  Whether you support equality, Virginia businesses, or both, the solution is clear: this policy has got to go.”
“While the federal lawsuit, where the ACLU, ACLU of Virginia, and Lambda Legal represent a class of all unmarried same-sex couples in Virginia and all same-sex couples in Virginia who have already married in a different jurisdiction, will compel the Commonwealth to end its discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples, neither Virginia residents nor Virginia businesses should have to wait for the federal courts to act to assure them fair treatment under the law,” concluded Gastañaga.