City Council: Yes to Partnership Rights

Philly supports a house bill that offers inheritance tax exemption to domestic partners

During a city council session last week, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a resolution in support of House Bill 1828 in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which was originally introduced by Representative Babette Josephs to save same-sex couples from having to pay inheritance taxes. And it passed unanimously.

If it passes on the state level, it seeks to add domestic partners to the list of relatives who are currently exempt from paying state inheritance taxes. Currently, property jointly owned between husband and wife is exempt from state inheritance tax. But couples who are not registered as civil partners upon death must pay a full 15 percent state inheritance tax (this goes for opposite and same-sex couples alike).

House Bill 1828 proposes that surviving domestic partners would not be required to pay taxes on estates transferred to them after the death of their significant other. In some cases, there have been incidents where the taxes have been so costly that the surviving “spouse” is forced to sell the home – a property that he or she may have paid into for most of his/her life. The law would level the playing field – making it that same-sex couples (who are not eligible to marry in Pennsylvania thanks to existing laws – or lack thereof) would not be forced to pay taxes on property that rightly belongs to them.

“While City Council does not have a vote in Harrisburg, we do have the power of our collective voice as a legislative body representing 1.5 million Pennsylvanians,” says Reynolds Brown. “We have learned from past experience that when we put our support on record, whether people agree or not, they do pay attention. We hope that advocacy organizations can use this as a tool to start a dialogue in municipalities across the state.”

We hope the legislators in Harrisburg are listening loud and clear.