- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

BOSTON (AP) — As if tax season isn’t stressful enough, homosexual “newlyweds” in Massachusetts have a new question to consider: Do they check “married” or “single” on their federal tax forms?

A landmark court ruling made Massachusetts the first state to sanction same-sex “marriage” nearly a year ago, but homosexuals will have to untie the knot in April — on paper at least — because the federal government doesn’t recognize their unions.

But some aren’t ready to declare themselves “single” to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“I fully intend to file a married joint return, regardless of the fact that we’re not supposed to,” said Arthur Henneberger, 46, of Springfield. “If they kick it back, fine; we’ll go to court.”

Although Mr. Henneberger might expect to get the full backing of homosexual rights groups, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders isn’t looking to pick a fight with the IRS.

“It’s not something that should be done quickly or precipitously,” GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham said. “We wouldn’t advise anyone to try to do it alone.”

Instead, the group is advising the state’s estimated 4,900 same-sex couples who “married” in the past year to file federal returns as if they are single but to note — either through an attached letter or on the return itself — that they were “married” in Massachusetts. Same-sex couples who are residents of Massachusetts can file joint state returns.

The IRS won’t say how aggressively it will examine tax returns to spot those filed by same-sex couples. But agency spokesman William Cressman said if these couples are caught filing as “married,” “the status would be changed and they would be notified of that.”

The IRS would bill the filer for any overdue amount, plus interest, and might levy a fine. Mr. Cressman said, however, if people pay up with interest, they probably wouldn’t be fined.

Filers are permitted to write comments on their returns, but those comments are ignored when it comes time to calculate tax payments or refunds, Mr. Cressman said.

The issue has cropped up this year because seven homosexual couples who had been denied marriage licenses across the state sued, leading to the landmark ruling by the state Supreme Judicial Court that legalized same-sex “marriage.” The “weddings” began taking place May 17.

Julie and Hilary Goodridge, the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, plan to follow GLAD’s advice and file separate single returns to the IRS, along with a letter noting their “marriage.”

The issue of what to do has troubled Bob Murch and Gary Halteman.

“It’s hard enough to be different,” Mr. Murch said. “I don’t understand why the government needs to see me as gay. I pay my taxes, I go to work, I’m a good person.”

Mr. Murch and Mr. Halteman’s tax preparer advised them to file “single” federal returns, but to include a certified letter and copy of their marriage certificate. But the men, who live in Salem, haven’t decided what they will do.

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