Tag Archives: national lgbt bar association

Tax Day trouble? LGBT Bar Association offers online help for same-sex couples

The National LGBT Bar Association, BNY Mellon and White & Case LLP have announced a first of its kind Online LGBT Tax Resource — at LGBTBar.org/tax — to help same-sex couples and their tax advisors navigate state tax laws.

The resource is a tool for both tax preparers and payers, providing a comprehensive, state-by-state list of reporting regulations for LGBT couples.

Tax law remains one of the most complex and nuanced issues impacting the LGBT community, especially in states where couples are not allowed to file married tax returns.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act, married couples are now eligible to file married federal returns. In 33 states, however, those same couples cannot file joint state returns. In response, the Online LGBT Tax Resource was developed to ensure families are equipped with the most up-to-date tax information for their home state.

“The end of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was a giant step forward for couples, but state laws continue to legally discriminate against many families,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar. “The Online LGBT Tax Resource unveiled today will ensure couples can maximize state tax laws, and the repeal of DOMA, as they navigate what is often a very confusing area for LGBT families. The Resource is designed to ensure they, and their tax preparers and attorneys, have reliable, trustworthy information.”

Among the information provided on the site, are key areas such as:

• A recap of states’ rules concerning same-sex marriage and the impact on state income tax in clear and concise language

• Individual state guidance for married same-sex taxpayers

• Information on litigation, and legislation, that could impact LGBT tax law; and

• Up-to-date information from states’ departments of revenue, and state constitutions.

“In states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex couples and their tax preparers are struggling to make sense of how to apply the federal tax guidelines based on the ruling last year that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional,” said John Lillis, a tax partner with White & Case, who worked on the project pro bono. “This database is an important tool to help tax preparers and same-sex couples navigate the inconsistent rule that applies to state income tax laws.”

“Working collaboratively with the LGBT Bar Association, Pro Bono lawyers from BNY Mellon and White & Case have created an online resource to help same-sex couples reduce the complexity of tax laws. BNY Mellon’s pro bono team reflects our uncompromising commitment to diversity and inclusion as a core business issue,” said Deborah Kaye, managing director and senior managing counsel, BNY Mellon.

The Resource presents the many state-level regulations in easily understandable language. The site, which will be updated quarterly with any new developments impacting tax laws for LGBT couples, provides the only inclusive, accurate listing of filing regulations in all 50 states. 

Effort to stop attorney use of gay ‘panic’ defense advances

The American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has taken up a resolution to protect victims of so called gay and trans “panic” legal defenses. The resolution supports the LGBT community by no longer allowing defense attorneys to use victims’ identities or their sexual orientation against them in court.

“This resolution puts an end to a longstanding injustice in our legal system and gives a voice to countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of violence, a voice we never hear because they are no longer here to speak for themselves,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association.

Gay and trans “panic” defense tactics ask a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s excessively violent reaction. The perpetrator, according to the association, claims that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explain – but excuse – his or her loss of self-control and subsequent assault of an LGBT individual. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT victims, these defenses imply that LGBT lives are worth less than others, said the LGBT bar.

The two men who nearly 15 years ago murdered Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old college student in Wyoming, tried to use a panic defense.

The LGBT bar said the defense is still being used today, most recently in connection with the February murder of Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian. McMillian was the state’s first openly gay candidate for office. Lawrence Reed, the man who admitted to killing McMillian, has made comments to the press indicating that he might use the gay panic defense to mitigate the charges against him.

“We have been fighting against gay and trans panic defenses for more than 15 years,” said Kemnitz. “We must protect the LGBT community by refusing to allow defendants to use a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to justify their heinous crimes.”
 
The National LGBT Bar Association developed the resolution, calling for jury instruction and providing for training for judges, attorneys and juries geared toward supporting victims by minimizing the use of the gay and trans “panic” legal defenses.

The ABA House of Delegates must pass the resolution at the 2013 ABA Annual Meeting in August for the recommendations to become official ABA policy.