File photo by Patrick Robinson
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott has introduced a proposal that would “level the playing field for same sex couples” by paying back county employees for federal income tax they are required to pay on their partner or spouse's health benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act.

McDermott introduces tax parity plan for county employees in same sex relationships

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, representing West Seattle and White Center, introduced a proposal on April 15 that would “level the playing field for same sex couples” by paying back county employees for federal income tax they are required to pay on their partner or spouse's health benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release a decision on whether or not to strike down DOMA in June.

“We each have a responsibility to do what is within our own power to ensure equality in our communities. This legislation will bring us one step closer to full equality under the law,” said McDermott, chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, said in a statement.

From McDermott’s staff:

Under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), individuals in same-sex marriages are required to pay income tax on the value of health benefits their spouse receives from their employer. This is not the case for different-sex spouses. Additionally, DOMA provides discriminatory treatment for same-sex couples during times of family illness. Federal law provides no protected leave for an individual to care for their same-sex spouse if they get sick.

McDermott’s legislation would reimburse King County employees for the taxes they pay for their same-sex spouse’s health insurance. The second proposal would provide the same leave benefits for King County employees who need to care for their ill same-sex spouse as provided to different-sex couples.

“King County residents spoke loudly in November, they want committed and loving same-sex couples to have equal rights and responsibilities under the law,” McDermott said in a statement. “This legislation supports that goal.”

The legislation would take effect on January 1, 2014 and would not be required if DOMA is overturned by the Supreme Court.

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