Same-sex couple files joint NC tax return in protest

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Mary Jamis (left) and Starr Johnson get postage for their North Carolina tax return from the downtown Winston-Salem post office. (Walt Unks/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Mary Jamis and Starr Johnson probably weren’t the only couple to mail off their state tax return the day before the deadline, but theirs wasn’t a case of procrastination.

The same-sex couple hoped to make a statement at the height of tax season.

The Mocksville residents have been together for 14 years and legally married last year in New York. While they can jointly file federal income taxes as a married couple, the state of North Carolina – with its continued ban on same-sex marriage – instructs them to file state returns as single individuals.

As part of the “Refuse to Lie” campaign, Jamis and Johnson visited the downtown Winston-Salem post office on Monday to mail a joint state income tax return in protest. Friends and representatives from the Campaign for Southern Equality were standing by in support.

“We’re holding this up as an opportunity to say let’s revisit Amendment One and let’s look at that law as unconstitutional,” Jamis said.

The state legislature approved Amendment One – a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman – in 2012. The amendment is currently being challenged by lawsuits.

The federal government began recognizing same-sex marriages last year after the Supreme Court declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Prior to that federal action, Nadine Smith of Equality Florida launched the Refuse to Lie campaign encouraging married same-sex couples to refuse to file separate returns.

The Campaign for Southern Equality expanded the campaign to North Carolina this year, and other couples across the state have taken the same action as Jamis and Johnson.

Jamis and Johnson attached a photo and a copy of their marriage certificate with their state return on Monday.They chose to send it by certified mail to draw more attention.

It cost them $6.70. Jamis works in Winston-Salem, so the downtown post office was convenient, and the process took only a few minutes.

They filed their federal return much earlier this year and saved an additional $4,000 by filing as a married couple.

“These kinds of actions financially impact the lives of LGBT couples across the state in so many ways, not only with tax returns but with health insurance benefits, with same-sex partner benefits,” Jamis said.

Johnson said everyone close to her and Jamis knows of their relationship and supports it.

“We have an opportunity to speak about this in a really positive and profound way that some couples really don’t. They’re worried about their jobs, they’re worried about family, they’re worried about friends discriminating against them. We don’t have to worry about that, so we must take the opportunity to speak out,” Johnson said.

Margaret Scales of Winston-Salem has known the couple for at least a decade and was on hand Monday to show her support. She believes it is only a matter of time before North Carolina recognizes same-sex marriages.

“I’m just sorry that our state is lagging behind the attitudes of the nation, which are shifting very quickly,” Scales said.

Johnson said they don’t know what to expect yet from the state revenue department and are not sure how they will respond if their return is rejected, but they will probably rely on counsel from groups such as the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Aaron Sarver, communications director with the Campaign for Southern Equality, said the organization does not have any tax filing litigation planned at this point. Activists are hopeful that North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban will be struck down this year by courts.

“I think we’re pretty confident that come next tax day … all married couples will be treated equally,” Sarver said.

Trevor Johnson, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Revenue, said he could not get into the specifics of how non-compliant returns are handled due to secrecy requirements. He referred back to the directive issued by the state last October.

The directive states that same-sex couples married in other states cannot file a North Carolina return using the married status and gives instructions on how to file as singles.


  • Richard Nance

    Its All about the money for these people, either its for more money from Income tax returns, insurance from the others employment for free, Social Security payments if one of them dies, military benefits for the other person basically All Taxpayer money, so, as usual the American Taxpayers paying for “These People” as usual!!!

    • FaithC

      Really? So they are not entitled to the most tax refund like anybody else? That would be taxes they paid!
      As far as social security, why should they not get the benefits if their partner dies, they paid into the system too. They are not looking for a hand out, they are looking to be treated equally. Something I am sure you feel only you and others like you are entitled to.

    • Casey Lester

      These people are exactly that, People! they should be given the same benefits that everyone else are. as everyone else has stated they arent looking for a handout just looking to get what they had to pay in. Sounds like you need to realize that you arent above anyone Richard. Id bet you could find alot of these same comments during the 1960’s. history is repeating itself and you can either be an oppressor or an enlightner.

    • Casey Lester

      Just remember that is your thought and its not representative of everyone. Everyone forgets that there is a seperation of church and state and marriage is of the church. Honestly there should be no advantage to being married and every individual should have to pay the same in taxes no matter what but since marriage entered into the government long ago then every couple should be given the same opportuinity not just the one fellow man sees as right!

      • Mike

        Article [I]

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        The bill of rights does not separate church and state. That was a term made up in the 1920’s by the ACLU.
        What the bill states is “Congress will not tell you what religion you can be, and they will not prohibit your right to exercise your religion (although they have blown that out of the water every time someone wants to pray ”in Jesus’ name”)

        As for your comment on marriage being of the church; you don’t have to get married at a church, or a chapel, or a synagouge.

  • Rex

    The homosexual liberal agenda raises it’s ugly head yet again. A slap in the face during Holy Week. Stop pushin this on North Carolinians who handily rejected this way of life!

  • stantheman

    Who cares. These people only want to get their picture on TV or in the newspaper. Who called the TV station to report they would be at this location at a certain time? Fox8 is all over something like this (LGBT) but hun dreds of good deeds go unreported daily.

  • JT

    Kudos for them! Civil disobedience at its finest! These laws have already been struck down in several other states–Amendment One will fall, too. The ACLU will challenge it, they will win as the legal precedence has already been set, and the south will be forced to catch up to the 20th century (we’ll make it to the early 21st century in another 50 years or so). Sorry, but liberalism WINS every time. Why? Time moves FORWARD; it doesn’t stand still or move backwards.

    • Learnthelaw

      Oh no.Bill Bentley has figured me out. I can not hide my tolerance of people born the way they are.
      If you can figure out where I stand on the issue how can you be so dumb to think I would be insulted by being called LBGT. HHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    • Adam Z.

      Casey, you’ve got it backwards. The government decides who can and cannot get married as they are the ones who issue marraige licences. Hence my statement that the government should get out of the marraige business.

  • GodIsMyDefense

    If it’s such a big deal to be seen as “married,” they should just move to another state. Then they can file however they want. Instead of trying to ruin the few morals left in the state of North Carolina, they can be happy somewhere else. Liberalism needs to take a step back. I hate the way things are changing. If I could, I would grow up when people were more Conservative. It’s a week meant to celebrate God now, so can the LGBT community just shut up for a week?! I guess not.

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