FEC asked to recognize rights of married gay couples on campaign donations

July 1, 2013

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday asked the Federal Election Commission to treat married gay couples the same as opposite-sex spouses, part of an early push to bring federal statutes in line with the Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In its advisory opinion request, the DSCC said the high court’s ruling gives married same-sex couples new rights under federal election law, including the ability to make a single campaign contribution from a joint bank account if only one spouse has earned the income.

Under FEC rules, a federal campaign committee that receives a single check from a married couple credits half to one spouse and half to the other. That allows each spouse to donate the maximum allowed under law, even if only one earns income.

The commission ruled in April that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman, prohibited married gay couples with a single income to donate through one check.

That decision had come in response to a request by Dan Winslow, a Massachusetts state representative who was running in the Republican primary for the special U.S. Senate election in the spring. He said same-sex spouses in that state wanted to contribute jointly to his ultimately unsuccessful campaign.

While the panel turned him down, several commissioners indicated that they did so only because DOMA tied their hands.

In its filing Monday, the Democratic campaign committee also asked the commission to allow a married gay candidate to treat the assets of his or her spouse as personal funds that could serve as collateral for a loan.

Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director, said the DSCC filed the request because it expects to recruit more gay candidates and to continue fundraising in the gay community.

“They deserve the same rights and responsibilities to participate in the election process as their straight counterparts,” Cecil said.

The filing comes as gay rights activists are pushing the Obama administration to move quickly to update federal regulations and codes to comply with the high court’s decision on DOMA. The Office of Personnel Management released a memo Friday outlining how same-sex spouses of federal employees can apply for benefits.

“DOMA was irrational discrimination against married gay and lesbian couples, and we expect the FEC and all federal agencies to treat all marriages equally in keeping with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign. “With DOMA gone, we can finally get to the point where a marriage is simply a marriage, without exception.”

Matea Gold covers money in politics for The Washington Post.
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