The U.S. House advanced on Thursday two pieces of legislation aimed at supporting LGBT people, one by making same-sex couples eligibles for tax refund if they were married in 2013 before the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, the other enshrining into law U.S. advocacy for LGBT human rights overseas.
The House Ways & Means Committee, which is responsible for tax legislation, approved the PRIDE Act, legislation introduced by Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Andy Levin (D-Mich.) aimed updating the tax law in favor of LGBT couples.
Chu said in a statement the PRIDE Act will “make some common sense fixes to the tax code.”
“Pride month is a chance for us to celebrate equality, and the victory that all love is equal,” Chu said. “However, that is not the case in our tax code where discriminatory language and restrictions are still intact.”
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Global Respect Act, legislation introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) that seeks to impose sanctions on foreign individuals found to have committed human rights abuses against LGBT people.
“Every human being deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” Cicilline said in a statement. “Unfortunately, millions of LGBTI people around the world are targeted with violence, harassment, discrimination, and worse every single day. The United States needs to stand as an advocate for oppressed and marginalized communities across the world. That’s why I’m pleased this bill is moving to the House floor and bringing us one step closer to imposing real penalties on anyone who abuses the human rights of LGBTI people.”
Both committees favorably reported out both the PRIDE Act and Global Respect Act by voice vote.
The PRIDE Act would remove gendered language — like husband and wife — from the U.S. tax code. Additionally, the legislation comprises the Refund Equality Act, which would allow same-sex couples who married before DOMA was struck down to claim tax refunds for which they would’ve been eligible in the past if not for the anti-gay federal law, which barred recognition of same-sex marriage for the purposes of federal benefits.
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA in 2013 as of a lawsuit filed by lesbian widow Edie Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service for the first-time allowed individuals in same-sex marriages to file jointly — potentially making them eligible for tax refund not eligible to them as single filers.
The IRS also allowed these couples to file an amended return for a tax refund for up to three years in the past: 2010, 2011, and 2012. Under some circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, these couples might have been able to seek a refund from an earlier time.
The PRIDE Act would extend that period, allowing the IRS to provide refunds to married same-sex couples from previous years they lived in state that recognized their union. Jurisdictions that recognized same-sex marriage more than three years before the DOMA decision were Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and D.C.
On the same day as the House markup of the PRIDE Act, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential candidate, reintroduced a Senate companion to the Refund Equality Act with 39 other U.S. senators. Warren for the first time introduced the legislation in the previous Congress.
The PRIDE Act and the Refund Equality Act would allow same-sex couples to regain and cost the federal government an estimated $67 million, according to scoring from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
A Democratic aide said the PRIDE Act wouldn’t require same-sex couple married before the DOMA decision to file amended return, so they won’t forced to additional taxes in the event they would have had to pay more — not less — by filing a joint return.
The other bill, the Global Respect Act, takes a multi-prong to combatting anti-LGBT human rights abuses overseas:
- Require the executive branch to biannually send Congress a list of foreign persons responsible for, or complicit in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of an individual; prolonged detention of an individual without charges or trials; causing the disappearance of an individual by abduction and clandestine detention of an individual; other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of an individual based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics;
- Deny or revoke visas to individuals placed on the list, with waivers for national security or to allow attendance at the United Nations;
- Require the annual State Department report on human rights to include a section on LGBTI international human rights, as well as an annual report to Congress on the status of the law’s effectiveness; and
- Require the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor to designate a senior officer responsible for tracking violence, criminalization and restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms in foreign countries based on sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics.
Countries where LGBT human rights abuses have been reported in recent years include the Russian semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya, where local government authorities have reportedly engaged in extrajudicial detention and killing of LGBT people, and Iran, which reportedly has hanged gay men in public executions. Around 70 countries still criminalize homosexuality.
Earlier this year, the Treasury Department on its own volition under the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a Chechen group and five individuals, including at least three Russians, under the Magnitsky Act over allegations of extrajudicial killings and the torture of LGBT people.
A senior Democratic aide said leadership is working with the House Ways & Means Committee for a vote on the PRIDE Act, but didn’t respond to a request to comment on the Global Respect Act.