By Antonio Cordero
Democratic auditor candidate Mike Claytor stood in front of the Indiana Department of Revenue on Thursday to talk about one of his main campaign goals: Equal rights for same-sex married couples.
Claytor, an accountant, focused on the tax policy set by the state Department of Revenue - and confirmed by the General Assembly - establishing that same-sex couples legally married in other states would not be allowed to file joint tax returns in Indiana. That's even as those couples will be allowed to file federal tax returns jointly for the first time.
Instead, couples in Indiana will be required to file separate individual tax returns. That means same-sex married couples will need to start with a minimum of five different tax return forms, while heterosexual married couples only need two, Claytor said.
"Our state tax policy should not discriminate," he said. "Filing your tax return should be an easy, streamlined process."
Claytor is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for state auditor. The party's nominee will be chosen at a convention this summer and no other Democrats are running.
Earlier this month, the General Assembly voted to keep Indiana's tax system as is - despite the federal changes - to comply with the state law that doesn't recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.
On Thursday, Claytor said that the Indiana Department of Revenue has not provided a worksheet to help same-sex couples file their taxes as Wisconsin and Michigan did. So Claytor created a worksheet to facilitate the transfer of information from the federal tax form to the state one. People interested can find it at www.claytor4auditor.com/worksheet.
"This worksheet will begin the process of alleviating some of the headache, by allowing couples to fill out four forms instead of five. I hope this helps, but we can't stop here. We must encourage our state officials to rescind this discriminatory practice entirely," Claytor said.
But Bob Dittmer, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Revenue, said the agency's website - www.in.gov/dor/ - has plenty of information to help same-sex couples navigate the tax situation.
Dittmer said Indiana's decision not to comply with the federal marriage rules won't cost same-sex couples more money.
Claytor encouraged people who support equal rights to voice their concerns about the issue to Gov. Mike Pence.
"During this legislative session, we saw an all-out attack on equal rights," Claytor said.
He also pointed to House Joint Resolution 3 - a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage - as an example. He said it was the "focus of too much attention and reinforced legal discrimination in Indiana."
A spokeswoman for state Auditor Suzanne Crouch referred questions about the issue to the Indiana Department of Revenue.
Antonio Cordero is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College students.