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Amber and Rachael filed their lawsuit against Idaho in Nov. 2013. They were married Oct. 15, 2014.In November 2013, eight women -- four couples -- sued the state of Idaho over its 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.The plaintiffs, Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori Watsen and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, say Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage violates equal protection and due process guarantees.Two of the couples have been legally married in other states and two have tried to get Idaho marriage licenses and been denied.Their case went to U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale in May 2014. On May 13, eight days after Dale heard the case, she struck down Idaho's same-sex marriage ban.Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden appealed that ruling in an effort to uphold Idaho's Constitution as approved by voters in 2006.On Oct. 7, 2014, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Dale's ruling, striking down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. After more than a week of legal challenges, same-sex marriages began Oct. 15, 2014 in Idaho.

Idaho Lawmakers Make It More Complicated For Gay Couples To File Taxes

Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio

A legislative House committee Tuesday approved a rule that will make it more complicated for married same-sex couples in Idaho to file their taxes. It’s a rule designed to try and appease state law, which does not acknowledge same-sex marriage, and the federal Internal Revenue Service, which does. It was a rare chance for gay Idahoans to speak their mind before lawmakers.

The Idaho Legislature is 81 percent Republican and many in the GOP oppose gay marriage. It’s not a topic that comes up often, if at all, in the Legislature, since Idaho law and its constitution both define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Gay rights advocates have tried, and failed, for eight years to pass a statewide law that makes it illegal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Idahoans before the Legislature. Some lawmakers have spoken out on gay issues, but the public has had little chance to weigh in on the issue.

Tuesday that changed, as lawmakers considered what should have been just another mundane rule, brought by the Idaho Tax Commission. At issue is whether married gay couples can file joint tax returns in Idaho.

Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, who chairs the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, set the stage before public testimony. “This is a hearing on a pending rule,” he warned. “It is not a hearing on same-sex marriage.”

Those who testified made sure they talked about the pending tax rule. But they also took a rare chance to speak to lawmakers about gay marriage.

Tim Walsh says he has been with his partner for 10 years. They plan to travel to Washington state in August to get married. He’s worried about filing taxes next year. “Whether or not we file as married, filing jointly, or married filing singly, should be up to us, not the government,” said Walsh. “We should not be forced by the government to file as single. If members of the committee truly believe in individual freedom, if you truly believe in a less intrusive government, you could agree with that.”

Walsh says it's an issue of fairness.“If you believe in fairness under the law for everyone, please allow all married couples the freedom to choose their own filing status. Please treat all people equally under the law. Please do not place an undue burden on my family.”

Steve Martin lives in Boise and married his husband Jim Smith in Seattle after being together for 17 years.  He says the rules put an undue burden on him and his husband because they will have to complete two sets of tax forms. But he says it's more than that. “If you pass these changes, you’re telling Jim and I that our legal union is not due the same level of respect,” Martin said. “You’d be telling us that we are not equal.”

People speaking before the committee emphasized they were in long-term relationships, that they had roots in the community, and that they paid taxes just like opposite-sex couples. But despite some passionate testimony, lawmakers voted in favor of the rule that will require gay couples to fill out two sets of tax forms in Idaho.

Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, voted for the new rule. He says some may have individual sympathy for these cases, but he has to look first to Idaho law. “The controlling law and the State Constitution of Idaho make it clear that the tax policy should follow what the constitution and the law requires.”

Hartgen says the rule could be changed at a future date if there is a court challenge.

Four Idaho couples are suing the state over Idaho's gay marriage ban.

Republican lawmakers were joined by one Democrat, Rep. Caroline Meline of Pocatello, in backing the rules.

In the Idaho Legislature, rules work differently than laws. The tax rule does not have to get a vote from the full House and Senate to become final, but either side can start a process to reject the rules.  If no one acts against the rule by the end of the session, it will become final.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

As Senior Producer of our live daily talk show Idaho Matters, I’m able to indulge my love of storytelling and share all kinds of information (I was probably a Town Crier in a past life!). My career has allowed me to learn something new everyday and to share that knowledge with all my friends on the radio.

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