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Pa. asks judge to dismiss lesbian widow’s inheritance suit

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The state of Pennsylvania is asking a county judge to dismiss an inheritance tax lawsuit brought by a lesbian widow.

Barbara Baus and Cathy Burgi-Rios, a year before Burgi-Rios' death.

Barbara Baus and Cathy Burgi-Rios, a year before Burgi-Rios’ death.

Barbara Baus file suit against the state last October sued the commonwealth after receiving a nearly $11,000 inheritance tax bill following the her wife’s death from leukemia. She and Catherine Burgi-Rio were married in Connecticut in 2011.

In Pennsylvania, spouses are not subject to inheritance tax, but the state charged Baus a 15 percent inheritance tax because it does not recognize her same-sex marriage.

Baus argues the state is violating the U.S. Constitution by recognizing some marriages and not others.

During oral arguments on Tuesday, attorney Thomas Gohsler, representing Pennsylvania, asked the judge to dismiss the case. At its core, he said, the case is not about constitutional rights or gay marriage and thus belongs before a review board, not a judge.

The judge indicated that he might not rule until he sees how Pennsylvania’s pending marriage equality suits are resolved.

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