TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Minnesota District Court Denies Gay Man's Attempt to File a Joint Tax Return with His Partner

Tax_analysts_19 In McConnell v. United States (No. 04-271, Dist. Ct. Minn. 1/3/05) (also available on the Tax Analysts web site as Doc 2005-1056, 2005 TNT 11-6), the federal district court in Minnesota held that a gay man could not file a joint income tax return with his partner because he had previously litigated the validity of their marriage under Minnesota law:

J. Michael McConnell brought this action against the United States of America (Government), seeking a federal income tax refund in the amount of $793.28 and a declaration that he is "a full citizen who is lawfully married and, by that fact, entitled to be treated the same as every other married Minnesotan, similarly situated."

McConnell, a male, and his partner, Richard John Baker, a male, applied for a marriage license in Hennepin County in 1971. Hennepin County denied their request, and McConnell and Baker initiated a lawsuit in Minnesota state court related to that denial. See Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971)....While that case was pending, McConnell and Baker received a marriage license on August 16, 1971, from the Clerk of District Court in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, and on September 3, 1971, they participated in a marriage ceremony. On October 15, 1971, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued its opinion in Baker, holding that Minnesota law "does not authorize marriage between persons of the same sex and that such marriages are accordingly prohibited." Five years later, McConnell commenced a suit in federal court, pursuing claims for federal benefits based on his purported marriage. See McConnell v. Nooner, Civ. No. 4-75-355 (D. Minn. Apr. 19, 1976), aff'd, 547 F.2d 54 (8th Cir. 1976) (per curiam). Based on the Minnesota Supreme Court's holding in Baker, this Court dismissed McConnell's action.

On December 8, 2003, McConnell filed a Form 1040X with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), seeking a refund for the tax year 2000 and to alter his marital status on his 2000 form from "unmarried individual" to "married filing jointly." The IRS denied McConnell's requests on the basis that the "Federal Government does not recognize same-sex marriages." In response, McConnell initiated this action. The Government moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. Chief Magistrate Judge Lebedoff issued a Report and Recommendation on November 2, 2004, recommending that the Government's motion be granted on the basis of claim and issue preclusion....

Based on a de novo review of the record, the Court adopts the November 2, 2004 Report and Recommendation

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