Paul Sakuma/AP
Jerome Nicolas, left and Randy Matsuno, right, from Honolulu, give the Hawaiian "Shaka"
sign after their marriage at San Francisco City Hall. (AP)

Legal Red Tape Marks End of Honeymoon for Gay Marriage

July 18, 2008 01:02 PM
by Rachel Balik
Gays can be legally married in two states, but the Defense of Marriage Act ensures that legal complications are ubiquitous.

30-Second Summary

Gay couples who wed in Massachusetts or California and declare themselves as married on the 2010 census report will have their answer changed by the U.S. Census Bureau. They’ll be listed instead as unmarried same-sex partners. Molly McKay, a gay-marriage advocate who is engaged to her partner of 12 years, points out that the government ought to know who is married in order to evaluate costs of benefits. Instead, she says, “It’s like the federal government is trying to say that we don’t exist.”

The director of the Census Bureau, Steven Murdock, explains that the census relies on citizens’ responses to questions about age, ethnicity, religion and income without fact-checking, but will have to alter answers of same-sex couples who state they are married. “It really should be what you say you are, not what I perceive you to be,” he said.

Gay couples, whether they are married or in a civil union, are also unable to file federal taxes as a family. Some couples incurred extra fees this year because the H&R Block software would not allow them to file their taxes online.

The root of the problem is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law which defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” Gay marriage is now legal in California and Massachusetts and will be recognized by the state of New York, but the law mandates that, “in determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States,” only heterosexual marriages can be recognized at the federal level.

Headline Links: Census Bureau and IRS won’t recognize gay marriage

Background: Gay marriage legalized in Mass. and Calif., recognized in N.Y.

Related Topic: California county clerk avoids performing gay marriages

Reference: The Defense of Marriage Act


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