Call it the affirmation of normalcy. Epic Supreme Court decisions, citizen referendums and initiatives, and legislative action in state capitols and the U.S. Congress can launch dramatic social change. Other events serve as welcome milestones of ordinariness and acceptance.
One sure sign of two individuals crossing the threshold into life as a couple is filing a joint tax return. Last week the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said that legally married same-sex spouses can opt for married filing jointly or married filing separately.
As an article in The New York Times explains, this all spins off a Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage. Legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits.
The IRS deals with taxes so it gets complicated by nature. Civil unions are not covered, but location does not matter. Legally married in one state and residing in a state that does not recognized same-sex marriages does not trump the federal tax benefit. Sorting out state tax laws might take an accountant.
As U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., noted, “the IRS sent a clear message: America’s federal tax system will not discriminate based on who you love.”
Public opinion in America is moving swiftly to embrace same-sex couples and families. Getting a nod from the tax collector is a reminder how delightfully ordinary this has all become.