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FEC rules married gay couples get equal treatment

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON -- The Federal Election Commission has ruled that married gay couples must receive equal treatment under election laws and be allowed to make political contributions jointly from the same bank account.

The decision issued Thursday is one of the first legal reverberations of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

It was made in response to a filing by Republican Massachusetts state Rep. Daniel Winslow during his unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee later echoed Winslow's request.

Winslow, a former judge and chief legal counsel to former Gov. Mitt Romney, told The Boston Globe the decision was "potentially huge."

"It effectively doubles the free speech rights," he said. "It effectively doubles the campaign buying power, if you will, of married gay couples in the United States. Up until now, there were two sets of rules.

Winslow said he hopes to benefit from the decision by retiring roughly $150,000 in campaign debt in part through contributions from gay couples.

Under the FEC ruling, the spouse of a gay candidate running for federal office is now considered a family member under campaign finance rules. Assets owned jointly by such couples can be used for campaign purposes.

Winslow petitioned the FEC after a gay couple who were married in Massachusetts sent a $500 check from a joint bank account, with instructions to split the donation equally. That would allow the contributions to have been counted separately toward their individual $2,600 contribution limits.

In Thursday's ruling, the FEC said, "the commission concludes same-sex couples married under state law are 'spouses' for the purpose of commission regulations."

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This raises more questions than it answers. Does that only qualify spouses who are legally married in the state they reside? What if a couple was married in New York, but residing in Florida? Can the couple donate to a Florida candidate (where marriage equality does not exist)? What about a national candidate whose account is in a state that has marriage equality? What about a state candidate running in the same state in which the couple got married but in which they no longer reside? This is precisely why marriage equality on a state by state basis is an asinine idea. I understand the concept of State's rights, but this is a national issue that needs to be addressed at the national level. Marriage equality needs to be across the board - now!

All that needs to happen is for President Obama to, by executive order, require all federal agencies to recognize same gender marriages in all respects, the same as opposite gender marriages, provided their marriage was legal in the state of its celebration.

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