Analysis: La. at Odds With Federal Benefits Rules
Federal regulations are loosening to offer more benefits to same-sex married couples around the nation, but not so in Louisiana, where Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is complicating how couples can get those federal benefits.
Leaders in the Jindal administration made two decisions last month that are at odds with federal policies, and in one instance put legally married gay couples out of compliance with state law:
-The state revenue department said it won’t recognize same-sex marriages for tax filings, despite a new IRS rule that allows legally married gay couples to file joint federal tax returns and a Louisiana law requiring taxpayers to use the same filing status on state and federal tax forms.
-The Louisiana National Guard said it won’t process requests from same-sex couples seeking benefits, despite a Pentagon directive to do so. National Guard personnel have to instead seek to file benefit requests with federal military installations around the state for processing.
The leaders of both agencies were appointed by Jindal, a gay marriage opponent. In both instances, the agencies cited Louisiana’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Approved by lawmakers and voters in 2004, the Louisiana Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman and declares a legal status of marriage for any other couples "shall not be valid or recognized."
Joe Traigle is a Baton Rouge businessman, former state revenue secretary and a gay rights activist. He said the Jindal administration makes such decisions as part of a "proven record of pandering to the bigoted and intolerant segment of people in Louisiana."
On the tax issue, Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield takes the position that Louisiana’s constitution trumps a state law that directs taxpayers to use the same status on state tax returns that they use on federal returns.
"Louisiana’s secretary of revenue is bound to support and uphold the Constitution and laws of the state of Louisiana, and any recognition of a same-sex filing status in Louisiana as promulgated in (the new Internal Revenue Service rule) would be a clear violation of Louisiana’s Constitution," Barfield wrote in his directive on the issue.