Charles Merrill Won’t Pay Tax Until Same-Sex Marriage Legal

I briefly mentioned the case of Charles Merrill. He decided to stop filing his income tax returns because the federal government refused to let him and his husband file jointly — refused, in other words, to recognize their marriage for the purpose of filing taxes.

Tuesday, I went down to San Francisco’s main library branch to look into some microfilm & microfiche that had come in from interlibrary loan concerning my recent obsession with early American Quaker war tax resistance. Before and after my research, I stopped by City Hall to watch the celebrations taking place there during the first day on which gay couples could get bona fide marriage licenses in California. There was a party atmosphere on the steps, as two-by-two, couples would emerge with a certificate of marriage and everyone would stop to applaud.

, Charles Merrill revealed that this week the government charged him with criminal failure to file.

The Internal Revenue Service has finally caught up with Charles Merrill and he may face three years in prison for not filing income taxes . The penalty for not filing for each year is 3 years in jail or a $25,000.00 fine.

Merrill said from his Waldorf Astoria suite in New York, “Marriage between ‘gender neutral’ couples is legal in California, but our union is not recognized by the Federal Government and we don’t get the over 1,000 Federal benefits automatically extended to heterosexual couples. This inequality, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, was voted on by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. What a can of worms that has turned out to be… President Bush believing in and talking to an imaginary sky god and wanting to make an amendment to our Constitution that would ban two people in love from getting married. The Government has no business in checking out the gender of two people who want to be married. Presidential Candidate John McCain was living in adultery with his present wife Cindy while still married to his former wife. According to the Bible, he should have been stoned to death for adultery.”

Merrill continued, “Since our marriage is not recognized by the Federal Government, the carving over the Supreme Court of the United States is just meaningless words, the words that say, ‘Equal Justice Under The Law.’ ”

Merrill’s trial is scheduled for at the U.S. Tax Court, San Diego, California.

, Time magazine decided it was time to say something about The War Tax Protesters.


Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay his poll taxes, which would have supported the U.S. invasion of Mexico, earned him a night in jail in . Today, tax resistance is once again becoming a lively philosophical issue. The best-known recent convert is Jane Hart, wife of Michigan Senator Philip Hart, who announced last month that she “cannot contribute one more dollar to purchase more bombs.”

The Government claims that the war tax protest amounts to very little loss of actual revenue, citing the fact that the number of income tax protesters in was up only 92 from the year before. The resisters argue that, like Thoreau, they are fighting for a matter of principle. They also take a modest pride in the fact that their harassment has forced the IRS to assign someone at each major center to the task of “Viet Nam Protest Coordinator.”

It’s interesting that the IRS claimed to be able to count the number of war tax resisters. They don’t do that anymore, and I wonder what methodology they used at the time. Just counting the letters of protest or the people who claimed a “war tax credit” on their returns?

The Reverend Parsons Cooke, a conservative Calvinist pastor in Lynn, Massachusetts, wrote a defense of the puritan tradition thereabouts (of which he considered his church a descendant): A Century of Puritanism, and a Century of its Opposites, with Results Contrasted to Enforce Puritan Principles, and to Trace what is Peculiar in the People of Lynn to what is Peculiar in its History ()

New England puritans had on occasion persecuted Quakers during colonial times, even executing some for the crime of being Quakers. Cooke hoped to find that the puritans of Lynn hadn’t been quite so monstrous, so he asked Samuel Boice, a local Quaker, to search the records of Quaker sufferings.

We requested Mr. Boice, consulting the records of the society of Friends, to furnish us in detail all the instances in which that society suffered any thing like persecution from ours. And he has done it. But we give in a condensed form the results of the list which he has furnished. We intended to spread out all the details; but the work has filled so much more space than we had expected, that we have crowded out not a little of our own material that we intended to insert. All the ends of the publication of this list will be answered by this condensation of the facts.

It does not appear that any acts of persecution took place, except that of distraint of goods, and fines for refusing military service. Most of the cases of distraint of goods are dated in the latter part of Mr. [Jeremiah] Shepard’s ministry. None of them bear date earlier than , and none later than . So they all come . A small portion of them were for military fines; the rest to support the ministry, and pay expenses on the meeting house. The aggregate sum of the value of all goods distrained for those purposes through those twenty years is one hundred and twelve pounds eighteen shillings. The instances specified of persons having goods distrained are fifty-three; but the number must somewhat exceed this, as in some cases et ceteras are put down. Such is the substance of the paper referred to.

The explanation of the causes of that action, so far as it concerns the support of the ministry, we have given in full. So far as it relates to military fines, we think that, if this were all that the Friends paid for their defense from Indian wars, so rife in those days, they were let off easy; for then the military work was no children’s play. To this their reply would be, that the non-resistant principles of the Quakers were their defense. This is a matter of mere assumption and much question, to say the least. But if it were so touching Quakers living in separate communities, where their non-resistant principles could be known to the Indians, and the Romish priests who guided their operations, and who would be sure to hate them none the less for their Quakerism, it could not be so with Quakers living in communities with the Puritans undistinguished. If the settlement in Lynn, as it then stood, had come under a sudden assault and massacre by the Indians, by what process could the tomahawk have distinguished and passed by the Quaker families? And this community of exposure to the tomahawk by a promiscuous residence with the Puritans, chosen by the Quakers against the desire of the others, was a fact for which only themselves were responsible. They had chosen a residence where all were exposed to a common danger, but were not forced to go forth in person for wars of defense; and it was no hardship that, to so small an extent, their money was taken for the common purposes, any more than it now is that they pay taxes to the common purposes of government, one of which purposes is that of national military defense. In other words, the principle on which military fines were collected from Quakers then was the same as that on which Quakers now pay taxes to the government; and this is not regarded as a matter of persecution.