BOISE -- Tuesday at the Statehouse, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee upheld a rule that mandates same-sex couples, legally married out-of-state but living in Idaho, file their state income taxes separately. That's despite being able to file their federal taxes jointly, for the first time this year.
"This is a hearing on a pending rule. It is not a hearing on same-sex marriage," said Rep. Gary Collins (R-Nampa), the committee chair.
Even with that clarification, this may have been one of the more emotional meetings you'll ever see from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. "Denying legally married, same-sex couples the freedom to choose their filing status, protects nobody and places an unconstitutional burden on those couples whose taxes also pay your salary," said Tim Walsh.
Same-sex couples said the rule would boost their annual tax payments, complicate filings for them, and the state, and show that Idaho does not respect their marriages.
"The question of whether or not we file as married, filing jointly or married, filing single, should be left to us, not the government," said Walsh.
Opponents to the rule called on Idaho to allow same-sex couples to file jointly in state, a move similar to other states with gay marriage bans.
"We ask that you follow the examples of other states that do not recognize same-sex couples, like Oregon and Missouri, and still follow the IRS guidelines for their residents," said Nikki Tangen.
Despite arguments from both sides of the issue, the committee's decision mirrored the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court this past summer to strike down most of the Defense of Marriage Act. The court essentially allowed states to define marriage. Some allow same-sex marriage, but Idaho does not.
"I can tell you, in my dealings with the Tax Commission, there are many individuals [who] are very sympathetic with the frustrations expressed today by the public," said Phil Skinner, Deputy Attorney General. "But from a legal perspective, the Tax Commission does not have the authority to go beyond what the Legislature has provided, and the Legislature has provided that a husband and a wife can file a joint return."
All told, Republican lawmakers were joined by one Democrat, in voting to back the rule. That means same-sex couples will have to file separate state tax returns in Idaho.
For supporters of same-sex marriage the battle now heads to court. The rule has already been singled out in a constitutional challenge in U.S. District Court seeking to topple Idaho's 2006 gay-marriage ban.