State agencies quickly started adjusting to the reality of same-sex marriages in Louisiana as the last federal court roadblock came down Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman rescinded his ruling supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman, citing last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling which made same-sex marriages the law of the land. Feldman ordered state officials who had been sued over the refusal to recognize same-sex unions to comply with the law.
Gov. Bobby Jindal had refused to comply until Feldman’s action -- even after a 5th Circuit order the day before.
After Feldman’s ruling became public the state health agency immediately said it would start issuing marriage licenses at its Office of Vital Records in New Orleans. The state agency had been one of the few lone holdouts among license issuing entities. Parish clerks of court had already started issuing the certificates - although some were slow to come aboard.
State revenue officials issued a bulletin at mid-afternoon announcing that married same-sex couples could file tax returns using the married filing jointly status.
Also, the state Office of Motor Vehicles said it would begin processing name changes on driver’s licenses for same-sex couples beginning Monday. Only a day earlier, officials said it would take a week or two to finish computer programming changes.
Feldman’s order encompassed the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couple as well as the addition of a second parent to birth certificates and the state acceptance of joint income taxes for the couples.
“We will follow the order included in the decision,” Olivia Watkins, communications director for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said.
DHH has already made necessary modifications to the marriage license application printed forms and the certified copies. The new form, which is being shared with clerks of court, has been changed to recognize same-sex marriages, Watkins said.. For example, instead of bride and groom, the new form has bride/spouse and groom/spouse. Additional long-term changes will be made to the electronic records system through which the state documents marriage licenses, birth certificates and death certificates, she said. Marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by clerks of court in Louisiana and submitted to Vital Records will also be documented in the system.
Watkins said the birth certificate issue is “a little more complicated” because of the circumstances surrounding various adoption or circumstances. “We will work with families,” she said.
Department of Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield said his agency has been looking at how the same-sex marriage decision would impact tax issues since the U.S. Supreme Court decision came down last week.
“We will be coming out with some guidance in the next couple of weeks,” Barfield said prior to news of Feldman’s ruling.
At the time, he said, one thing was clear: the current ban on same-sex couples filing joint tax returns must go away.
By afternoon, a 2013 bulletin that states Louisiana policy is to not recognize same-sex marriages when determining tax filing status was no more.
The initial bulletin came in the wake of a Internal Revenue Service ruling that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, would be treated as married for federal tax purposes.
The bulletin cites the Louisiana Constitution ban on same-sex marriages as reason for the deviation.
Barfield said he’s had agency personnel researching what else may need to be tweaked. He said he doesn’t expect any “major issues,” not anywhere near what’s being required of the agency as it writes bulletins giving guidance on the implementation of new tax laws approved by the 2015 Legislature. Those went into effect July 1 and a lot of time has been devoted to getting that guidance out involving “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of taxpayers,” Barfield said. “That’s been our priority.”
At Motor Vehicles, the spouse who choses to change their name can get driver’s license name changes in offices across Louisiana starting Monday.
“They just need to have their marriage license, have made their name change with Social Security, and bring in the right money,” said State Police Maj. Doug Cain.