Two heterosexual men in Ireland Matt Murphy, 83 and Michael O’Sullivan, 58 have taken advantage of the nation’s same sex marriage laws and married to avoid paying inheritance tax. Murphy intended to leave his house to O’Sullivan in his will who has been his carer and otherwise would have had to pay €50,000 in tax.
The story has been reported in the mainstream media has a touching act of friendship with O’Sullivan stating “I’ve known Matty for 30 years. We became very friendly after my second relationship broke up”. They had been through tough times with O’Sullivan being homeless and Murphy suffering from giant cell arteritis, which affects the optic nerve.
As O’Sullivan needed a place to live he stayed with Murphy who in return for being his carer stayed in his house and Murphy left it for him in his will. They figured the best way to avoid this tax bill was to get married.
Despite this marriage undermining the reasons same sex marriage was introduced Murphy and O’Sullivan still paid tribute to Ireland’s LGBT community “The equality gay and lesbian people did for this country, that they fought hard for, they were discriminated against for most of their lives, they got equality for themselves but also for everybody else”.
Of course, sham marriages for tax and immigration purposes are nothing new and have occurred for centuries with heterosexual marriages. However, the legislation of same sex marriage has meant that now any two people can marry to take advantage of any tax or immigration benefits.
While many people do object to such marriages the state can never prevent such marriages as it has never been the role of the state to ask why, however common law long recognised that for a marriage to be valid it had to be consummated.
The concept of same sex marriage being taken advantage of by heterosexuals has already been portrayed in media and entertainment with the Australian film Strange Bedfellows starring Paul Hogan and Michael Caton and the Adam Sandler movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. In the series finale of Boston Legal main characters Denny Crane and Alan Shore took advantage of Boston’s same sex marriage laws to avoid inheritance taxes.
Of course, we have just seen that same sex marriage doesn’t always have beneficial tax and welfare arrangements with an Australia woman ordered by Centrelink to pay back $7000 in family tax benefits she wasn’t entitled to since her overseas same sex marriage is now recognised.
Given that same sex marriage has just been legalised in Australia such sham marriages will certainly be an attractive option to many people who want to take advantage of the tax benefits, especially since Australia does not recognise the legal concept of marriage consummation.
Sham same sex marriages are frowned on both many LGBT advocates and traditional marriage advocates but there is no way under our legal system they can be stopped.