Editor's Note: Guest blogger Bob Summersgill is a long-time GLBT rights activist in the District of Columbia who has successfully led numerous human rights efforts.
Lost in the aftermath of the D.C. Council hearing on the marriage bill and in the rush of Election Day news and last minute campaigning in Virginia, Maine, and Washington State, a small but significant marriage rights bill passed the D.C. Council.
Last July, the District started to recognize same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions. However, that bill did not include the right of same-sex married couples to file taxes jointly, nor does the pending marriage equality bill. All married couples in the District must file taxes with the same filing status as they use for their federal returns. However the Defense of Marriage Act prevents the recognition of same-sex couples, so same-sex couples who are now recognized as married must still file as single.
Back in 2006, the District changed the law so that domestic partners could file their taxes jointly. Same-sex married couples were not included as the District did not recognize them at the time, and the Congress and President Bush were not on our side. The current bill follows the same procedures that were worked out for domestic partners.
Perhaps the most significant thing to have happened is that Councilmember Marion Barry praised, and then voted for a gay marriage bill. Last June, Councilmember Marion Barry--the notorious crack smoking, tax-evading, corruption prone, and general embarrassment to D.C.--led an anti-gay chant at an anti-gay-marriage rally organized by Rev. Harry Jackson. In riling up the crowd, Barry ironically declared himself to be the moral politician and vowed to keep gay marriage out of D.C. He was the sole vote against the marriage-recognition bill and hero to the people who want to hurt our families.
Tuesday, the joint filing bill was presented to the full Council by Councilmember Jack Evans. Barry was the only other Councilmember to comment on the bill. He praised Evans and the bill. The Council then unanimously approved the bill and went on to the next item on the agenda. It was a complete reversal for Barry.
The "Income Tax Joint Filing Clarification Act of 2009," has a name that brought it no attention. It corrects a problem that hardly anyone noticed. The Office of Tax and Revenue testified that it was needed. I was the only public witness, and I emailed my testimony since I was nursing a cold. It went through the Council with barely a mention. The Council will need to vote on it again on December 1; legislation in D.C. must be voted on twice. This little bill will be completely overshadowed when the marriage equality bill is voted on the same day.
Hopefully this shows that Marion Barry, who has a long history of support for gay rights, will vote with us on the marriage equality bill. It may also signal that Councilmember Yvette Alexander, the only other possible no vote on the marriage equality bill, will vote with us once again.