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America Rejoices On News All Same-Sex Marriages Will Now Be Recognized By IRS, HHS

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Almost no one gets married for tax purposes. People marry for many reasons — almost always love, some for stability, some even out of tradition — taxes are rarely, if ever, a reason people marry. In fact, some couples actually, sadly, divorce to increase their access to life-saving benefits. But when the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, yes, the IRS, announces that it will now recognize all legal marriages regardless of the couple’s place of residence, that is a tremendous move forward for equality.

Previously, the argument has been that only states have the right to declare who is and who is not legally married — whose marriages the state will recognize. When the Supreme Court essentially struck down DOMA in June, it was assumed that the federal government would recognize same-sex marriages that their home state recognized.

Now, that’s changed, as the IRS announced today it will recognize all legal marriages — including same-sex marriages — regardless where the couple calls home. So if you married in Provincetown, but live in Tennessee, the federal government will still recognize your marriage. Today, in a similar move, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will recognize all legal marriages — including same-sex marriages — based on the “place of celebration” — based on where a couple is married — to determine Medicare benefits eligibility.

In other words, the federal government is making it clear that same-sex marriages are no different from opposite-sex marriages, and it will recognize them all equally, regardless of how the couple’s home state behaves.

So, America, on this eve of the Labor Day holiday weekend, is rejoicing.

Here are some responses:

NYC Speaker Christine Quinn:

“Today, the federal government has brought our nation one step closer to full equality for all people. The Treasury Department and IRS’ announcement that they will now recognize all legally married same-sex couples for federal tax purposes, even in states that have not yet granted their citizens the right to marry, will increase equality across America.

“No one should be deprived the federal protections of marriage because of who they love. Today’s ruling affirms what we have always known – that all love is equal, and must be treated equally in the eyes of the law. I thank Edie Windsor, whose courage and strength paved the way for today’s important ruling and the Obama Administration for recognizing that all people are equal.”

Garden State Equality Executive Director, Troy Stevenson:

“While this is great news for couples who have been married in the 13 states that recognize full marriage equality; let us be clear, New Jerseyans should not be required to cross state lines to be afforded the dignity of marriage. This decision by the IRS makes it crystal clear that civil unions are not now, and never will be equal to marriage.”

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin:

“With today’s ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation’s federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “These families finally have access to crucial tax benefits and protections previously denied to them under the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.”

“We urge all federal agencies to the greatest degree possible to join the Treasury Department and the IRS in recognizing the legal marriages of all same-sex couples,” continued Griffin. “No family should have to worry about losing important federal rights and benefits, simply because they live in a state that doesn’t recognize them as equal under the law.”

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson:

“This announcement makes today a day of celebration and relief for married same-sex couples all over America. At long last, the IRS will treat them as what they are: married. Freedom to Marry commends the administration’s swift implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling for federal equality in an area that will have a direct, tangible impact on families’ financial health.

“The fact that this new respect applies only to married couples – not those joined by domestic partnerships or civil unions – highlights the need for an America where everyone can marry the person they love in any state, and have that marriage respected at all levels of government.”

PFLAG Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby:

“The announcement today by the U.S. Department of Treasury and IRS that same-sex married couples will be treated the same as all other married couples for federal tax purposes, regardless of where they reside, is a huge step forward for equality for our LGBT loved ones. It is just and fair treatment for these loving married couples and their families to have equal standing, rights, responsibilities, and protection in the eyes of our federal government.

“PFLAG National and its members and supporters will continue to urge all federal agencies to follow the lead of those which have already taken steps to equally recognize and respect all legally married couples and their dependents. We will work fervently toward full federal understanding that without exception love is love, family is family and marriage is marriage.”

Family Equality Council

“This announcement is yet another giant step forward for our families,” said Gabriel Blau, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. “The Federal Government will now acknowledge same-sex couples, and their children, as a family under the tax code, regardless of their zip code.”

“This is a significant win for the millions of our families who work hard, pay taxes and deserve to be recognized equally by the Federal Government. Once again the Obama Administration has demonstrated that they value the lives and contributions of the 3 million LGBT parents in the US raising 6 million children.”

ACLU:

“This welcome clarification provides fair and consistent treatment for all legally married couples across the country,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “The federal government is right to recognize that people’s marriages shouldn’t dissolve when they cross state lines.”

Image by Jamison Wieser via Flickr

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MN Police Officer Sentenced 3.5 Years for Death of George Floyd

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Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Keung has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of Black city resident George Floyd.

Keung, age 29, had accepted a plea deal in order to avoid an additional charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His guilty plea acknowledged that the restraining holds used by police on Floyd were excessive and likely to cause serious harm.

Video of Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder at the hands of city police captured footage of Keung kneeling on Floyd’s back while another officer knelt of the man’s neck. for over nine minutes, officers applied pressure to Floyd while he laid face down in the street, crying and telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while also calling out for his mother.

Video of Floyd’s murder sparked international outrage and inspired protests against institutional racism and police brutality.

Keung is the fourth and final police officer to receive prison time for his role in Floyd’s death. He will serve his new sentence and a federal sentence for Floyd’s death concurrently, serving a total of about 2 1/2 years for the killing.

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'ARE YOU KIDDING?!'

Virginia Republican Files Bill Defining a Fertilized Egg as a Human

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Virginia State Delegate Marie March (R) has pre-filed House Bill 1395, a law that would define life as beginning at fertilization.

“Life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States,” the proposed bill states.

The proposed bill would effectively outlaw all abortions in the state and even endanger the use of Plan B (aka. “The morning-after pill”), a medication that prevents fertilized egg cells from attaching to a woman’s uterine wall.

The bill could also effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization, a method of inducing pregnancy that uses fertilized eggs and discards any unused ones.

Even though Republicans control the state’s House of Delegates, it’s unclear if the bill would have any chance of passing the state’s Democratic-led Senate. The legislature won’t reconvene until January 11, 2023.

Virginia currently allows a woman to get an abortion within roughly 26 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed passing a law that would reduce that window to 15 weeks, a period of time in which most women may not even realize they’re pregnant.

In response to March’s bill the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance said in a statement, “In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and despite the vast majority of Virginians who oppose it, Virginia’s anti-abortion elected officials keep proving there are no limits to their extremism and true intentions to ban abortion for all Virginians.”

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Georgia GOP Says Its Voting Restrictions “Backfired” & Helped Dems Win Senate Seat

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When two Republicans lost Georgia’s special runoff senate elections in January 2021, state Republicans in the General Assembly re-wrote voting laws to restrict absentee ballots and give voters fewer days to vote in future runoff elections.

However, after Republicans lost yet another runoff election for Georgia’s Senate seat — with Herschel Walker losing to his Democratic competitor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, earlier this month — state Republicans want to re-re-write the rules, hopeful of a more favorable outcome.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the official who oversees the state’s voting procedures, said he plans on giving three proposals to lawmakers when they return to the General Assembly in January.

“[The proposals] include forcing large counties to open more early-voting locations (in an attempt to reduce the hours-long lines some voters waited in) … lowering the threshold candidates must achieve to avoid a runoff from 50 percent to 45 percent; and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to come back to the polls again after the general election,” The New York Times reported.

To be clear, it’s unclear whether these changes would’ve helped Walker win. But they stand in contrast to the changes state Republicans made to voting laws following their failed January 2021 Senate runoff ambitions.

The changes after that time severely restricted the types of people eligible to receive an absentee ballot. While 24 percent of the January 2021 vote came via mail-in absentee ballots, the rule changes resulted in 5 percent of mail-in votes coming in for the January 2022 runoff.

Republicans also lowered the number of in-person early voting days to five (though the rule change allowed counties to add extra days.) The Times found that 28 of Georgia’s 159 counties opted to add extra in-person early voting days — 17 of the counties that did largely backed Warnock while 11 backed his challenger.

Before the recent run-off election, Raffensperger also tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect.

Overall, the changes may have “backfired,” Republicans told The Times, actually encouraging Democratic voters to come out in greater numbers.

While Republicans point to the large turnout of runoff voters as “proof” that their changes didn’t discourage voting, Warnock’s campaign criticized the changes, saying that such restrictions shouldn’t make it harder for people to vote in the first place.

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