Our guest blogger, CPA Richard Streitfeld, recently detailed the ways in which the United States Supreme Court’s eradication of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provided incomplete tax equity for same sex spouses who live in the majority of states that either ban gay marriage, or that have not yet authorized it. The Obama administration has addressed many of these issues, first by declaring that the military will use “state of marriage” rather than “state of residence” for military benefits and VA purposes; and more recently by declaring that enforcement of federal taxation laws will essentially follow suit.
This is good news for marriage equity proponents and sympathizers; but it is way too political for comfort. Given the behavior of Congress (are they back from vacation, yet?), President Obama has addressed matters ranging from immigration reform to guns to same sex marriage by those means left open to him: executive orders and by bureaucratic mandate. While each serves a policy purpose now, does it help in the long run?
The problem, of course, is that, like the stem cell research battles of the 90’s and 00’s, and the abortion debate that continues unabated, each new president can stretch and contract executive decisions to meet his (no her yet) political and social perspectives. While Obama’s accidental (at least as to timing) embrace of gay rights, after being outed by Vice President Biden, helped to intensify the same-sex voting bloc for the 2012 election, will gay and lesbian support for the next Democratic candidate be enough to prevent a Republican administration from taking an IRS “mulligan” in 2017?
One hopes that shifting demographics and popular national support for gay civil rights, not to mention the avoidance of taxing chaos in favor of some policy stability, would incline a Republican successor to leave well enough alone, with the dust settled on Obama’s decision, and plenty of other culture wars fish to fry. But, who knows…
For now, we can hope.