The Tax Man Must Be Straight


You can tell your mama, and you can tell your friends, and a lot of you can even tell your boss. Just don’t go telling the IRS you went and got married in Canada. If you’re a same-sex couple, Uncle Sam doesn’t want to hear about it.

Should two women or two men try to file a joint return in the United States, the Treasury Department will flag it and schedule them for an audit, with penalties ranging from heavy fines and house arrest to hard time in federal prison. That’s because the national Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Never mind that a Canadian ceremony is legal and binding and that any straight pair hitched north of the border can file jointly. Never mind that you’re essentially perjuring yourself by denying the fact of your marriage. Some advocates have suggested marking yourselves as married, then writing a check for the amount you’d pay as two singles and enclosing a letter explaining the whole mess.

Forget about it, says the IRS. Anyone who tried that “would be included with those who earned money and didn’t pay taxes on it,” said a spokesman.

Return to Laura Conaway’s article “Gay Americans Won a Court Victory—Now Comes the Fight to Wed.”

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