Individual Income Tax Insights: U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Constitutionality of Same-Sex Marriage at the State Level


This year will likely be one for the history books, as the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to rule on: (1) whether all states must allow same-sex marriage ceremonies within their borders, and (2) whether same-sex marriages performed in states recognizing such unions must also be recognized by states that do not — two issues the court before has consistently refused to consider.

The court granted certiorari for four petitions from the 6th Circuit, consolidating DeBoer v. Snyder, No. 14-571 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Bourke v. Beshear, No. 14-574 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); and, Tanco v. Haslam, No. 14-562 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015).

In previous petitions for certiorari, the court has refused to hear cases that asked for clarity on these particular same-sex marriage issues. The difference now, however, is that there is a split among the federal circuit courts, and such a controversy is needed for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the constitutional questions presented. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit created this controversy when it held constitutional the bans against same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee in DeBoer v. Snyder, No. 14-1341 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2014). This holding created disagreement between four other federal appeals courts — the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuits, all which found same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, according to Politico.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states, many of which began recognizing same-sex marriage initially for tax purposes.

The Department of Justice released a statement announcing that it will file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief urging the court to mandate state recognition of same-sex marriage on a national scale. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling early this summer. 

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group on LinkedIn: Do you think the U.S. Supreme Court will rule same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S. Constitution across the states?

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