Rep. William Owens (D-NY) has signed on as the newest sponsor to legislation that would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, increasing the total number of supporters in the House to 120. A companion bill in the Senate has attracted 28 co-sponsors. “I indicated I would not become a co-sponsor until New York took action [and legalized same-sex marriage],” Owens said Tuesday. “Once they did that, I felt I had an obligation to the citizens in the state to make sure they weren’t adversely impeded by federal law.”
Owens is still somewhat uncomfortable with extending marriage to gays and lesbians and is unsure if he would have voted for the New York law. But since it passed, the newly-minted Congressman says that all marriages should be treated equally by the federal government:
In his short career in the House, Mr. Owens has walked a fine line on gay marriage. He calls the right for gays to wed a “civil rights issue,” and says: “I think that people should have the freedom to make those kinds of decisions.”
But in his first campaign, in 2009, he expressed reservations about using the word “marriage.” He has those same doubts today, which is why, when asked, he says only that he’d “lean toward” voting in favor of legalizing gay marriage were he a state legislator in New York.
“To be honest with you, I still have some of those concerns,” he said. “That’s why I said I would have likely voted for it.”
Married gay and lesbian New Yorkers still don’t have access to the over 1,000 federal benefits and protections to which opposite-sex couples are entitled and remain strangers in the eyes of the federal government. For instance, because DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay couples, they’re required to include the costs of dependent health insurance and pay federal taxes on the cost of the coverage. Employers are also assessed FICA taxes on the benefit.
Tax filing can become even more complicated. Newlyweds in New York will be able to file their taxes in New York State as jointly or married, but will “have to file their official tax return as ‘unmarried’ with the Federal government and then file an unofficial, dummy Federal tax return as married. Only in this way can same-sex newlyweds in New York State supersede the Federal Government’s alternative tax code.”