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PRIDE Act Fixes Discrimination Against LGBT Couples in Tax Code

June 11, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27) and Andy Levin (MI-09) reintroduced the Promoting Respect for Individuals’ Dignity and Equality (PRIDE) Act of 2021. The legislation updates the federal tax code so that same sex marriages are given full equality under the law, in both language and benefits.

The PRIDE Act includes language from the Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act, which removes gendered language like “husband” and “wife” from the tax code to accommodate same sex couples. Instead, tax filings will use “spouses” and “married couple.” It also includes the Refund Equality Act, which corrects the tax code to allow same-sex couples who married before the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down to claim the refunds to which they are entitled. For years, same-sex couples in states that recognized legal marriage were wrongfully denied federal refunds because DOMA did not allow them to file federal taxes jointly. That law was overturned in 2013 by the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, but the IRS still lacks the authority to override limitations in the tax code that limit to three years the period within which a married couple may file jointly after having filed separate returns. This bill would correct that to allow the IRS to provide refunds to same-sex couples who married in states that recognized same-sex marriage before DOMA was overturned.

The PRIDE Act was passed by the House of Representatives last Congress on July 24, 2019 by voice vote, yet was never considered by the Senate. Rep. Chu issued the following statement:

“Pride month is a chance for us to celebrate that all love is equal. Nevertheless, our tax code does not reflect this equality with discriminatory language that ignores the reality of same sex couples and restrictions that deny married couples the same benefits heterosexual couples were able to access. That is why I am proud to be reintroducing the PRIDE Act to remove discriminatory language from the tax code. First, it will erase gendered language that left out same-sex couples by only referring to a ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. We know that families come in all forms and it’s time our federal paperwork reflects that.

“Second, this bill will correct a longstanding injustice against same-sex couples when they attempt to file taxes and claim tax refunds. For too long, discriminatory laws penalized same-sex married couples by denying them the ability to file jointly and claim tax refunds they were entitled. While this injustice was finally corrected in the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision, restrictions in the code still prevent many families from claiming refunds for prior years, a particular problem for couples in states that adopted marriage equality before the ruling. For instance, in certain states, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., some legally-married same-sex couples were forced to file separate federal income taxes for years. Because of IRS restrictions, these couples cannot amend their returns to claim reimbursement credits for many prior tax years. The PRIDE Act solves this problem and puts money directly back into the pockets of families who have earned it.”

In the Senate, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced companion legislation this week to also correct that IRS code post-US. v. Windsor. The text of the bill can be found []here.

The PRIDE Act is cosponsored by: Don Beyer (D-VA); Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE); Danny Davis (D-IL); Suzan DelBene (D-WA); Brian Higgins (D-NY); Dan Kildee (D-MI); John Larson (D-CT); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Gwen Moore (D-WI); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Jimmy Panetta (D-CA); Bill Pascrell (D-NJ); Tom Suozzi (D-NY); and Peter Welch (D-VT).