As of July 24, 2011, New York enacted the Marriage Equality Act making the gender of the partners of a marriage irrelevant. This means the state cannot consider gender when deciding on benefits, rights, or responsibilities connected with marriage and no application for marriage can be denied based on the gender of the partners to be married. Federal law does not recognize same sex marriage and therefore same sex couples are excluded from federal benefits and protections.
The new state law requires all married couples, same sex or opposite sex, to file married (filing jointly or filing separately). The federal law does not allow same sex partners in a marriage to file married. They must file single, or if applicable, head of household.
The process for compiling a tax return for the married same sex couple is complicated. Each person must prepare and file a federal return as single (or head of household). Then a combined federal return must be prepared (not filed) as if the marriage was recognized by the federal government. It will be this return that is used to create a New York State married filing jointly return.