Gay ‘marriage’ advocates shift debate to tax code

A new Senate bill proposing changes to the state tax code to accommodate same-sex couples has revived impassioned debate about the definition of marriage.

Senate Bill 19, which proposes substituting the words “husband” and “wife” with “two taxpayers” on state income tax forms, moved swiftly through the state Legislature last week.

If passed, the bill would codify and reinforce a recent government ruling that allows same-sex couples legally married out-of-state to file joint state tax returns in Colorado if they file a joint federal income tax return. This does not apply to same-sex couples who entered a civil union in Colorado.

Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic Conference said it’s a back-door way to erode the definition of marriage, defined as between one man and one woman in the state constitution.

“They’re slowly chipping away at marriage and they’re using the tax code to do it,” she said. “It’s disrespectful to what our constitution says and it’s disrespectful to the voters of Colorado who voted for marriage to mean something very specific in Colorado.”

Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who sponsors the bill, told the Denver Catholic Register constitutional approval of gay marriage is inevitable but his bill won’t accomplish it.

“I acknowledge I’m taking words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ and ‘married’ out of the tax code, but I don’t see that as an attack on marriage; that’s not my intent,” Steadman said. “I don’t think that marriage has a more special place in our society just because there are particular little details in the tax code that use language like a husband and wife.”

The debate arose after the state Department of Revenue made an emergency ruling in November declaring same-sex couples must file joint state returns if they filed joint federal returns, which is typically done by any couple filing jointly. But Colorado law doesn’t allow it for same-sex couples.

The state Department of Revenue’s ruling permits joint state filings for 120 days, and Steadman said his bill would “bolster” that ruling.

Kraska said while a solution is needed for couples filing jointly, Steadman’s bill is not a solution that respects the state constitution.

“Senator Steadman says it’s needed to clean-up the language in the statute because it doesn’t reflect the emergency ruling of the Department of Revenue,” Kraska said. “My argument is for good reason because the state of Colorado does not recognize same-sex marriage.”

She said the right solution would be like that of Wisconsin, which adopted a new form for same-sex couples in this tax return dilemma. The state’s new form helps couples calculate income from joint federal returns in order to file individual returns at the state level, she said.

“I believe there can be a remedy as proven by other states that have already done this,” Kraska said.

Colorado not “marriage neutral”

Steadman argued in a committee hearing Jan. 14 that the bill makes state tax forms “marriage neutral.”

Kraska said Colorado is not a marriage neutral state and therefore tax forms should reflect this.

“Anyone who cares about our constitution and the will of people, who put in a constitutional amendment that defines marriage between one man and one woman, shouldn’t be happy with the fact that we’re making our tax code marriage neutral,” she said.

At the same hearing, attorney Michael Norton of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit religious liberties organization, testified that the state department’s ruling is unconstitutional.

Its ruling is contrary to state law that limits joint income tax returns to “a husband and wife.”

“If the Colorado Department of Revenue persists in this ruling and two people who are not married are permitted to file joint returns, litigation can be expected,” Norton said in his prepared comments.

Litigation may be mute, however, if the bill passes quickly through the Legislature, he said.

Nonetheless, Norton questions the department’s authority to make such rulings and called it another step in the “subterfuge effort to undermine marriage.”

Carolyn Tyler, public information officer for the state attorney general’s office, said it is not making a statement on the Department of Revenue’s ruling at this time.

“The fact the attorney general hasn’t taken a position on this is also somewhat troubling because it affects our constitution,” Kraska said.

However, documents obtained by the Denver Catholic Register dated Dec. 6 show the attorney general’s office “finds no apparent constitutional or legal deficiency in their form or substance” with the department’s ruling.

The bill headed to the Senate for a second reading after it passed a finance committee 3-2.

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR

Visit the Colorado Catholic Conference’s website to find your legislators and contact them regarding legislation. www.votervoice.net/COCC/Address.

Read tips at www.cocatholicconference.org on how to write, call or visit your legislator.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.