Thursday, June 13, 2013

RI Affirms MA Same-Sex Marriage as Recognized Under State Law

Chapter 22, Title 44, Sec. 44-22-1(e) of the estate tax code provides for an estate tax marital exclusion similar to the federal marital exclusion.  The Rhode Island Civil Unions Act (7/1/11) “provides that a party to a civil union shall be included in any definition or term that denotes the spousal relationship as those terms are used throughout Rhode Island law, whether or not the terms are gender specific.  Sec. 15-3.1-6 of the Act further states that parties to a civil union shall have all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities under the law as people joined together in a lawful marriage in the State of RI.” (RI Declaratory Ruling 2012-02).

The declaratory ruling was requested by the surviving spouse of a same sex couple who were married in Massachusetts in 2007.  The issue was whether or not the language in Sec. 15-3.1-6 of the Act (“people joined together in a lawful marriage in the State of Rhode Island) would prevent the estate of the deceased from receiving the RI marital exclusion because of the out-of-state Massachusetts same-sex marriage.

Governor Chafee addressed the matter in Executive Order 12-02 when he stated that the term “spouse” in the Act “requires that civil union partners be afforded the opportunity to benefit from the Rhode Island marital deduction…the term spouse shall be constructed to include lawful same-sex marriages and Rhode Island has a long history of recognizing valid marriages from other jurisdictions.” The Declaratory Ruling, therefore, was issued in favor of the estate of the decedent.  

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