The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that legally married gay couples must be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex couples under election law, reversing its previous position in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In light of the court’s decision, the election commission said that same-sex spouses can now make a single campaign contribution from a joint bank account if only one spouse has earned the income, as opposite-sex spouses are permitted to do. The commissioners also concluded that gay federal candidates who are legally married can use assets they jointly own with their spouses in their campaigns, and that same-sex spouses are considered family members of gay candidates for purposes of campaign finance rules.
The decisions came in response to requests from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Dan Winslow, a Republican who ran in a Massachusetts special primary election this spring to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-Secretary of State John Kerry.
The five-member panel, which is short one commissioner, set aside the rancor that has engulfed the agency in recent months to approve the two motions unanimously.
The commission’s rulings were heralded by gay rights advocates, who are pushing the Obama administration to move quickly to update federal regulations and codes to comply with the high court’s decision on DOMA.
"We are incredibly pleased that the FEC agreed with our request and voted unanimously to allow gay couples who marry the same rights and responsibilities in the electoral process as straight couples,” Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “While this victory was a long time coming, it’s proof that with hard work, our grass-roots supporters can achieve victories outside of the ballot box, as well as on Election Day, that make our country a more fair and just place to live.”
Winslow, who lost his Senate bid but is still fundraising to retire his campaign debt, said he pushed for the ruling to demonstrate Republican support for gay rights.
“My campaign sought to reassert the principle that ‘GOP’ stands for ‘Growth, Opportunity and Prosperity’ for all people,” he said in a statement. “Just as Lincoln stood for equality in his time, we must stand for equality in our time. Our strength as a nation depends on lifting all Americans up and we've never accomplished that by pushing any American down. Today is an important step on the path to equality and freedom for all Americans and for the Republican Party to remember its roots."
The commission had ruled in April that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman, prohibited married gay couples with a single income to donate through one check.