DENVER – The terms “husband” and “wife” may be stricken from Colorado statutes by Democrat lawmakers to allow same-sex partners in civil unions or marriages recognized in other states to file joint tax returns in Colorado.
State Senate Democrats approved a bill Wednesday that would strike terms such as marriage, spouse, husband and wife in statutes regarding Colorado income tax filings by couples.
Republican lawmakers voted against Senate Bill 19, which would change the tax code language to “taxpayer” and “two taxpayers.” Colorado law requires taxpayers to file their income tax return with same status used on their federal income tax return.
SB 19 sponsor Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) said the measure “does some cleanup” on the Civil Unions Act that prohibited same-sex partners from filing joint income tax returns. Steadman sponsored the act which was signed into law last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Some Republican senators argued that SB 19 violates the Colorado Constitution which defines marriage as between one man and one woman – an amendment approved by statewide voters.
“We have an eight-page bill that does nothing but strike the word ‘marriage’ out of state statute,” declared Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) during the measure’s second reading Tuesday.
“This is a direct attack on the institution of marriage,” said Harvey. “(It’s) a complete and utter attack on the institution of marriage in the state of Colorado.”
Steadman countered that the institution of marriage has a lot of threats – but SB 19 isn’t one of them.
“I don’t think this really rises to the level of something that is an attack on marriage,” declared Steadman. The bill, he said, “is trying to make taxes a little more fair.”
SB 19 was amended by Democrat members of the Senate Finance Committee to allow couples in civil unions to file joint returns and amend their previous filings over the past three years.
Steadman conceded that amending tax returns to joint filings would likely generate higher tax refunds but the unknown amount of lost state revenue would not change this year’s state revenue forecast.
“I am completely appalled that the fiscal note says, ‘No Fiscal Impact,’” declared Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud). He criticized the bill’s fiscal analysis because it expressly said that it was written without input from the state Department of Revenue.
Senate Democrats rejected an amendment offered by Harvey that would have restored the statute’s language regarding marriage and created a separate tax code policy to process joint returns filed by same-sex partners.
That would create a “special disadvantage and inconvenience for one class of taxpayers,” said Steadman who equated Harvey’s amendment to discrimination against African Americans before Civil Rights was enacted.
“It’s sort of like going back to the days of establishing separate restrooms or water fountains for different classes of citizens,” claimed Steadman.
Harvey argued that his amendment proposed an ethical and legal solution that upholds the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the state constitution. SB 19, he said, is the latest attack on marriage by the Democrat-controlled legislature over the past two years.
If you don’t like marriage, then run a ballot initiative implored Harvey. “If you have the votes to change the state constitution, do it – but you don’t!”
Jeremy L. Mathis of Aurora and Lisa Starcher of Colorado Springs hope to gain the 86,105 valid petition signatures required to place the question of legalizing same-sex marriages on the November ballot. Neither Mathis nor Starcher returned calls for comment.
“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution declaring that a union of a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple shall be valid and recognized as a marriage and shall be treated equally in all respects under Colorado law?” states the ballot initiative title and submission.