State Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) introduced H. 4461 on January 14, which calls for the following amendment to 12-6-5000 of the state Code of Laws:
"For purposes of this chapter, the terms ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ and ‘spouse’ include legal same-sex marriages from another state and must not be construed to gender specific."
The bill responds to a recent proposal from the state’s Dept. of Revenue that would have legally-married same-sex couples file state income taxes separately with “single” or “head of household” status, and despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the IRS to accept married-status filings from eligible gay couples.
Because the state constitution specifies that South Carolina will not recognize same-sex marriages, SCDOR shouldn’t have to on state income tax filings, either, it argues in proposal of Revenue Ruling #13.
In a January 16 press release, Rutherford states:
"Requiring legally married same-sex couples to file excess paperwork and additional tax forms is not only discriminatory, but it is a waste of time and tax dollars. By putting this additional burden on legally married couples, the state of South Carolina is intentionally creating bureaucratic red tape for political purposes. It simply isn't right and it is our responsibility to change this discriminatory policy."
Staying one-up on SCDOR’s argument, Rutherford also filed H. 4460 on the same day, proposing that the voting public decide on amendment to the state constitution in the next election cycle. If H. 4460 clears state legislature, November 2014 ballots in South Carolina will read:
"Must the Constitution of this State be amended so as to delete Section 15, Article XVII, which provides that the only lawful domestic union recognized in this State is a marriage between one man and one woman?"
A non-profit advocacy group in the state has called for these same changes, and leads a drive to have residents contact SCDOR to object to its tax-deduction proposal. The organization is quick to praise Rutherford’s efforts, too.
“South Carolina Equality applauds Rep. Rutherford for introducing this important bill to repeal South Carolina’s ban on marriage equality,” says Ryan Wilson, executive director of South Carolina Equality.
His argument is that the proposal will not only result in higher taxes for eligible couples, and not just additional time to calculate and file state taxes, either; it will create more work for SCDOR, too, Wilson says. “(SCDOR’s proposal) will make the return more difficult to audit and require manual processing of the return.
“We look forward to working with Rutherford and other legislators to secure the freedom to marry for all South Carolinians while we also work on ending discrimination in the workplace and making our schools safe from bullying,” Wilson says.
“These bills give us the opportunity to engage legislators on issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people living in our state including the very pressing issue of workplace equality which could be solved by passing H.4025, known as The Workplace Fairness Act, this session. The time has come for South Carolina to treat all its residents equally and fairly under the law.”
SCDOR’s public meeting on its proposal regarding state tax filings begins at 9 a.m. on January 22 in conference room MPC02 of its office building (300-A Outlet Pointe Blvd. in Columbia).
The department is accepting comments on the proposal by email to email@example.com through January 17. SC Equality’s website also has a link through which a message could be prepared and directly submitted to SCDOR.
Since 2003, 17 states allow gay marriage, and a majority of the U.S. public believes it should be allowed in all states, recent polls find.