On July 16, House Ways and Means Committee ranking minority member Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) introduced the Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act of 2015 (Equal Dignity Act). The bill proposed to amend the Tax Code to clarify that all provisions would apply to legally married same-sex couples in the same manner as opposite-sex married couples. Obergefell v. Hodge, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June, served as the impetus for the bill: “As the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of marriage equality, my bill would effectuate this equality to all married couples under our country’s tax code, providing them with the fairness, dignity, and basic rights we all deserve,” stated Rep. Levin on the Ways and Means Committee website.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), all 14 Ways and Means Committee Democratic members, and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) joined as cosponsors of the bill. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and the full Senate Democratic Caucus introduced identical legislation in the Senate.
Section 2 of the Equal Dignity Act changes the language of the Tax Code, replacing “himself” with “self” and “husband and wife” with “married couple.” For other references in the Tax Code, “taxpayer and his spouse” is replaced with “the taxpayer and the spouse of the taxpayer,” and “husband and wife” is replaced with “married individuals.” In instances in which the Tax Code refers to “gift by husband or wife,” that phrase will be replaced with “gift by spouse.”
In essence, the Equal Dignity Act replaces all gender-based pronouns with neutral pronouns: for example, “his last known address” is changed to “the last known address of such spouse;” “his taxable year” is replaced with “the individual’s taxable year;” and “his spouse and his dependents” is replaced with “the employee’s spouse and dependents.” The Equal Dignity Act also treats a married couple as one person.