Marriage Laws Attacked on Tax Grounds

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – On the eve of Supreme Court rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, four Doe plaintiffs sued California and the United States, challenging laws on marriage and domestic partnerships.
     Known Doe Plaintiffs 1-4 sued California and its tax division, the United States and the IRS, and the Kern County Clerk of Court. They sued on their own behalf and for 1 million Unknown Doe Plaintiffs.
     Known Doe Plaintiffs 1 and 2 are an opposite-sex couple who are not married, and whom Kern County refused to register as domestic partners because they are not of the same sex.
     Known Doe Plaintiffs 3 and 4 “are the first two Known Doe Plaintiffs who have a current valid registered domestic partnership (DP) in California. They complain of having to incur numerous and constant incidents of retribution and discrimination from those who know or learn that they are a DP, and, consequently, they hide the fact that they are a DP and, consequently, in fear of further incidents of retribution and discrimination, refrain from applying for all available government (federal and state) benefits equal to married couples, though those benefits are available in law. Additionally, they complaint that, to retain government benefits equal to married couples, they have to go through irrational and numerous additional procedures that married couples do not, costing them considerably more in time and money,” according to the complaint.
     The Does allege violations of the Federal Equal Protection Clause and the Establishment Clause.
     They claim, inter alia, that the state and federal governments unfairly provide tax credits to married people with children, but not to domestic partners in the same situation;
     that the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 were unconstitutionally “enacted to preserve the tradition of marriage; that is, as a religious institution”;
     that “The State of California spends untold millions of dollars, each year, defending and promoting the institution of marriage”;
     and that “Pursuant to Cal Fam C § 300, solemnization is required to be married in
     California.”
     Known Does 1 and 2 say they do not want to participate in any sort of religious ritual to have their family relationship authorized. But they were not allowed to register as a domestic couple and were not allowed to be married without solemnization.
     “To register as a DP in California, solemnization is not required,” the complaint states. “This fact alone reveals that solemnization is neither required nor serves a legitimate State purpose.
     “Cal Fam C §§ 300, 307, 359, 400, 400.1, and 402, reveal that solemnization is a purely religious ceremony. It has no State purpose. The act of solemnization originated from the Bible. It has no other significance, purpose, or context, outside the religious scripture from whence it came. Further, solemnization is authorized to be performed by clergy, showing that it is indeed religious in nature.”
     The Known Doe Plaintiffs say they filed anonymously “because they are afraid of the certain and extreme retribution, discrimination and invasion of privacy which, almost without exception, has been visited upon parties to suits involving these issues, wreaking havoc, misery, ostracization and extreme financial loss upon them simply because they dared to ask for some semblance of justice.”
     They claim that California laws on marriage and domestic partnerships violate the Equal Protection Clause because the state’s practice of “maintaining two separate schemes for officially recognizing and managing family relationships, effectively, discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.”
     They add: “The distinction drawn by the current California statutes between the designation of the family relationship available to opposite-sex couples and the designation available to same-sex couples impinges upon the fundamental interest of same-sex couples in having their official family relationship accorded dignity and respect equal to that conferred upon the family relationship of opposite-sex couples.”
     The federal Defense of Marriage Act “was and is being defended by a number of purely religious organizations,” the plaintiffs say.
     “The IRS provides credits for and deductions from federal income tax obligations to those who are married, with and without children, but not to those who are in a DP.
     “The United States spends untold millions of dollars, each year, defending and promoting the institution of marriage,” in violation of the Establishment Clause.
     They want California’s family code on marriage and domestic partnerships declared unconstitutional, and they want the Kern County Clerk enjoined from issuing marriage licenses, and the Franchise Tax Board and the IRS enjoined from providing tax credits and deductions to married people.
     The Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions today on DOMA and California’s Prop. 8, which bans gay marriage. It is unclear how these rulings might affect this litigation.
     Plaintiffs are represented by Bobby L. Cloud Jr., of Bakersfield.

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