Greenfield commission passes same-sex marriage resolution

GREENFIELD — For the first time in its 16-year existence, the town’s Human Rights Commission has passed a resolution that it will send to the U.S. president.

Chairman Lewis Metaxas said the commission will ask Barack Obama and Congress to guarantee that the same federal benefits extended to heterosexual married couples be equally extended to same-sex married couples “swiftly and smoothly.”

“Constitutional rights that are not immediately, fully and fairly implemented and protected are not effective constitutional rights,” said Metaxas. Five of the six members voted to pass the resolution. He said member Penny Ricketts abstained.

Metaxas said after hearing from the public and from Precinct 7 Town Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud, who is also chairwoman of the council’s Community Relations and Education Committee and who authored a diversity resolution that the council passed last year, the commission decided it needed to do something.

He said the commission discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that found the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional before it took action and voted for the resolution. The defense of marriage act defined marriage as between a man and a woman and had barred married gays from getting federal benefits extended to heterosexual couples.

The Greenfield resolution calls on the president and Congress to exempt any and all federal agencies tasked with the implementation of same-sex marriage equality, including the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration, from the fiscal mandates of the federal sequestration, which has led to layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes within those departments, said Metaxas.

“In addition to implications for Social Security benefits, veterans benefits and child-care rights, the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional has tax implications,” said Metaxas. “Couples may be able to amend their prior years’ tax returns to receive large refunds now that their marriages are recognized by the federal government.”

He said due to the inability to file joint tax returns, same-sex married couples have been denied deductions and credits allowed to married heterosexual couples, such as tax allowances offered to those selling a home, as well as child-care related credits.

“I think our decision reflects the opinion of many in our community,” said Metaxas. “Once our legislators and the president have the resolution, we need to work to move it forward to implementation.”

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