When the Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act at the end of June, it struck down the part of the law forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages that had been recognized by states. But the Court did not address the part of the law that permits individual states to determine whether they will acknowledge the legality of same-sex marriages performed in other states.
As a consequence, the federal government has to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed by Massachusetts, but Florida does not. If a married gay couple then moves from Massachusetts to Florida, what happens if they want to file jointly for their federal income taxes?
In August, the Treasury Department announced guidelines for handling same-sex tax filings with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The federal policy will acknowledge the legality of a same-sex marriage based on where the wedding was recognized, not where the couple currently lives. If a gay couple gets married in one of the 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) that legally recognize same-sex marriage, the IRS will recognize that marriage regardless of where the couple ends up living. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noted, "This rulingâ€¦assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change."