In Washington, D.C. there has been little to celebrate over the last several days. The weather is hot and humid, most of the city is out of town, and members of Congress are in their districts for summer recess. If you don't really care how well people in D.C. are doing because you’re busy at the beach, fair enough. But certainly the developments in Syria and the fact that I had my wisdom teeth taken out have kept me down all week.
So it’s welcome when a tidbit of news is dropped that makes you jump out of your seat and yell with joy. It’s not the news that Robert Griffin III will start for the Redskins next weekend (although that's exciting too), it’s this announcement that I received from a Politico Breaking News alert Thursday afternoon:
“The Treasury Department and IRS announced today that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married couples for federal tax purposes. This tax treatment will apply even if a couple lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage so long as they were married in a state that does.”
This rule change, stemming from the Supreme Court ruling this summer that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, says same-sex couples can begin filing tax returns as "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" for the 2013 tax year.
"Today's ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.
Our tax code is riddled with supposed “moral incentives” with things like marriage credits to encourage us to get married, and the mortgage interest deduction to encourage us to buy, rather than rent, a home. Personally, I consider these “tax expenditures” to be inefficient and think the government has no business giving them out, especially since there are many penalties that run counter to the purpose of these credits. But while the government is in the business of creating these incentives, then it might as well treat everyone equally under the law.
That’s why this decision by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service is so great, not only for those who support marriage equality, but for all those who support equality in the way we're treated by our government. Even Suze Orman, the tax expert and CNBC contributor, has said the (now-obsolete) discrimination in the tax code for gay couples is indefensible.
And given that we're all interested in jobs and the economy, I guess it’s good to mention that there have been studies proving that gay marriage could be a net positive to the economy and budget. While this doesn't have the same sweeping effect as legalizing gay marriage nationwide, many of the economic benefits will still apply. So a win for equality and the economy — sounds like a “win-win” to me.