April 15, 2014. Columbia. WMBF News. By Michael Turner. A group that represents South Carolina's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community partnered with ACLU of South Carolina to protest what they say are unfair marriage and tax laws.
Supporters gathered inside Reformation Lutheran Church Tuesday afternoon to protest laws and policies that discriminate against same-sex couples in South Carolina, particularly those who are legally married in another state.
"There is an impact in people of faith in our state who cannot recognize and celebrate the marriage that they wish they could because of our state's tax and marriage laws said Ryan Wilson, executive director of SC Equality.
Reformation Lutheran Church Pastor Tim Bupp says it's a faith question, a civil rights question, and a question the church needs to step up and be a part of.
"We have to ask ourselves where is our place in this conversation about equality especially recognizing marriages that are legally done in other places, "Pastor Bupp said. "I think we ask the wrong question when we ask what is the sexuality of your partner. What we should be asking is how do you treat your partner, how you treat others, how do you treat them rightly and how do you lift up this equality, not just in the civil realm, but in the realm of relationships."
Following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS announced in September that all legal same-sex marriages will be recognized for Federal tax purposes.
The ruling applied whether the couple lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage or a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, such as in South Carolina.
While the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal government cannot refuse to respect the marriages of married same-sex couples, the state of South Carolina refuses to recognize the legal unions because of a state constitutional amendment and because of that, they cannot legally allow couples to file joint returns, said Wilson.
South Carolina's legally married same-sex couples have committed to being married every day of the year. However, due to the tax policies by the state Revenue Department, married same-sex couples must report that they are not married on the day they file their state taxes making same-sex married couples feel they are only married 364 days of the year.
"It's like being asked to take off our wedding ring on Tax Day," Wilson said.
"In America, 17 states plus Washington, D.C. allow same-sex couples to marry," Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. "That means nearly 40 percent of the American population lives in a freedom-to-marry state. We are working to do everything possible to fix the unfair patchwork of state laws that discriminates against same-sex couples."
Similar Married 364 Tax Day events were being hosted by Equality North Carolina and Equality Virginia, both states are in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which will hear a challenge to a Virginia same-sex marriage ban in May. That ruling could potentially impact the future of South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban.