Beetem denies restraining order in 'same sex' tax returns case

The lawsuit continues, but Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem on Friday denied the request for an order restraining the state Revenue department from accepting income tax returns from same-sex couples filing returns as a married couple.

“Because the Plaintiffs have not established irreparable injury in the form of pecuniary loss,” Beetem wrote in a two-page order issued Friday afternoon, “and because the proposed relief fails to avoid the intangible injury claimed, the Court finds that a temporary equitable relief is not authorized.”

Kansas City attorney Mike Whitehead told Beetem on Thursday the four plaintiffs in the case worked for the voters’ passage of a 2004 amendment to Missouri’s Constitution that defines “marriage” as being only between a man and a woman.

Their Jan. 9 lawsuit said Gov. Jay Nixon violated his duty to uphold the state Constitution and laws when he issued an executive order last November, telling the Revenue department to accept “combined” Missouri income tax returns from same-sex couples who were married in other states — where those marriages are allowed — and filed “joint” tax returns to the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Nixon’s office said late Friday afternoon that Beetem’s “ruling provides certainty to Missourians who are preparing to file their taxes before the April 15 deadline.”

Nixon’s news release also said the judge had “rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to stop the Department of Revenue from accepting (the) jointly-filed state tax returns from all legally married couples who file joint federal tax returns, as required under Missouri law.”

Beetem’s order noted: “While a TRO (temporary restraining order) is normally directed at maintaining the status quo, it is difficult to say that the requested relief represents the status quo when most tax returns have been likely already filed.”

Because the April 15 tax-filing deadline is a week from Tuesday, Whitehead had proposed that Beetem issue an order blocking the department from “soliciting, inviting, accepting, permitting or requiring the filing of a combined State Income Tax Return by anyone known to be other than a married individual” as defined by Missouri’s Constitution and laws, for any returns filed after the April 15 deadline.

But one of the questions raised during Thursday’s hearing involved how the Revenue department would “know” if a couple filing a combined return was a man-and-woman or a same-sex couple.

Nixon’s release Friday afternoon repeated the argument Solicitor General James Layton made to Beetem in Thursday’s hearing: Missouri law requires legally married couples who file joint federal tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service to file Missouri’s “combined” returns with the state Revenue department.

Last August, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” known as DOMA, the U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service ruled that legally married same-sex couples would be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of where the couple lives — prompting Nixon’s November executive order that the Revenue department do the same.

Whitehead’s clients are Don Hinkle, public policy director of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s executive board; Kerry Messer of Fenton, who lobbies for the MBC’s Christian Life Commission and is a founder of the Missouri Family Network; Hannibal pastor Justin Mosher, who is an officer of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission; and former state Rep. Joseph Ortwerth of St. Charles, executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council.

Whitehead told Beetem on Thursday that, since many couples save on some taxes by filing a combined return, allowing Nixon’s order to continue likely will cost all taxpayers.

In his Friday afternoon order, Beetem wrote: “Plaintiffs admit that their personal tax obligations are not affected by the challenged executive order.

“It is possible that there are Missouri income tax savings available to a same-sex couple who files jointly, but that, at this point in the litigation, such a savings has neither been established or quantified.”

Beetem set a May 2 hearing for the attorneys to set a trial date on the overall lawsuit.

Whitehead told the Associated Press on Friday that Beetem’s ruling on the restraining order request doesn’t change their overall legal position.

“We are glad the judge set a May 2 date to schedule these next steps as soon as possible,” Whitehead said. “It is the final judgment that is important.”

Earlier coverage:

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem today denied the request for a restraining order in the same-sex tax returns case.

"Because the Plaintiffs have not established irreparable injury in the form of pecuniary loss," Beetem wrote in a two-page order issued this afternoon, "and because the proposed relief fails to avoid the intangible injury claimed, the Court finds that a temporary equitable relief is not authorized."

The plaintiffs are four men who worked 10 years ago for the voters' passage of the 2004 amendment to Missouri's Constitution that defines "marriage" as being only between a man and a woman.

Their Jan. 9 lawsuit said Gov. Jay Nixon violated his duty to uphold the state Constitution and laws when he issued an executive order last November, telling the Revenue department to accept "combined" Missouri income tax returns from same-sex couples who were married in other states — where those marriages are allowed — and filed "joint" tax returns to the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Nixon said state law requires Missouri taxpayers to file the same kind of form as their federal form.

Beetem set a May 2 hearing for the attorneys to set a hearing later this year on the overall lawsuit.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments