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.
"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."