Metro Weekly

FEC set to expand political-donation rights to same-sex couples

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The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday to allow lawfully married same-sex couples to make joint political donations from an individual bank account in what is the latest repercussion of last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In two draft advisory opinions posted on the FEC’s website on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, the agency tasked with regulating the financing of federal elections states that following the decision in the Windsor case, “the term ‘spouse’ includes same-sex couples married under state law.” 

The two opinions come in response to separate requests by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as well as a same-sex Massachusetts couple who are members of Log Cabin Republicans and wanted to donate to the special election campaign for pro-gay Republican Senate candidate Dan Winslow. The conclusions of the two opinions are identical in language.

“The term ‘spouse’ is not defined in FECA or the Commission’s regulations. The Commission has previously relied on state law to supply the meaning of terms not explicitly defined in the Act or Commission regulations,” the opinions state. “In light of the foregoing, the Commission concludes same-sex couples married under state law are ‘spouses’ for the purpose of Commission regulations.”

Previously, same-sex couples could only make a joint donation to a federal candidate through a joint account and not an individual account. 

According to Winslow, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination in the race for Secretary of State John Kerry’s Senate seat (which was won by Democrat Edward Markey), the FEC has provided a “silver lining” to his run for the Senate. 

“I am proud my campaign reasserted Lincoln’s principles of equality for donors and candidates in the future,” Winslow said in a statement. “I am proud to have given the opportunity for the FEC to be one of the first federal agencies to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA.”

Winslow continues to pay off his remaining campaign debt, which, according to the Massachusetts newspaper The Republican, stands at $161,000.

According to Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo, the expected vote is a win for his organization, which joined Winslow in his request, and for “all Americans — gay or straight — who value the First Amendment and freedom of speech.”

“DOMA may be done, but important legal questions remain,” Angelo said in a statement.

The FEC had previously concluded that under DOMA, the Code of Federal Regulations precluded same-sex couples, but promised revisit the issue upon request if DOMA were found unconstitutional. The commission is expected to vote on the two opinions during a public 10 a.m. meeting at the FEC’s D.C. offices on Thursday.

[Photo: Marriage-equality supporters outside the Supreme Court (Credit: Todd Franson/Metro Weekly).]

Read the draft opinions here:

Winslow FEC Opinion

DSCC FEC Opinion

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Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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