On January 21, the Colorado State Senate gave SB-19 initial approval on its first reading, a bill that would permit legally married gay couples to file their state taxes jointly, despite the state’s official ban on marriage equality, if they also file their federal taxes jointly.
The text of the bill states, “The bill requires any 2 taxpayers who may legally file a joint federal income tax…to file a joint state income tax return if they file a joint federal income tax return.”
SB-19 was sponsored by Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver), a gay man himself, who was also behind the 2013 legislation that granted LGBT couples in the state legally recognized civil unions.
The largest LGBT advocacy group in the state, One Colorado, released a statement praising the decision. According to NPR’s Community Radio for Northern Colorado, Executive Director Dave Montez wrote, “Today’s Senate passage of SB-19 is an important step forward for loving, committed couples across our state—who would gain important protections to take care of each other and their families through this legislation. But the reality is that this law wouldn’t even be necessary if everyone in Colorado had the freedom to marry. So while we celebrate the fair-minded Senators whose leadership helped move SB-19 forward, we know we must continue working to secure marriage equality in our state. No Coloradan should be denied the basic freedom of marrying the person they love.”
Fox News Denver reported that Senator Ted Harvey (R-Highlands Ranch) headed the opposition to the bill, claiming, “We have an eight-page bill that does nothing but strike the word marriage out of state statute. This is a direct attack on the institution of marriage.”
In turn, Steadman pointed out that SB-19 is an amendment only to the tax code, calling the current law “sort of like going back to the days of separate restrooms and water fountains for different groups of citizens. It doesn’t make sense that we don’t allow everyone to participate fairly, pay their taxes in an equal manner.”
In 2006, Colorado voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that banned marriage equality, thus also preventing gay couples who legally married in other states from filing their taxes jointly. However, since DOMA was struck down in June 2013, such couples have been allowed to file their federal taxes jointly regardless of the law in their home state.
SB-19 must pass a final Senate vote before being sent to the House.