WASHINGTON — The Federal Election Commission ruled Thursday that the political contributions of married same-sex couples should be treated equally to the donations of married straight couples, acting after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court on gay marriage.
The FEC unanimously approved two advisory opinions that were requested after the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law which denied federal benefits to married gay couples. The FEC decisions place it among the first federal agencies to approve new rules following the high court’s decision.
“Whether this will benefit one campaign or another is going to fluctuate over time. But the fact is we should all agree, whether Democrat or Republican, all Americans — whether gay or straight — should have equal rights to participate in the political process,” said Marc Elias, a campaign finance attorney who represented the parties.
One of the opinions, sought by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, would let legally married same-sex couples make contributions to political candidates from the same bank account, even if only one of the spouses earns income. It also asked the FEC to allow a Senate candidate married to a same-sex spouse to use jointly-owned assets for campaign-related expenses.
A second opinion was requested by Dan Winslow, a Republican who sought the Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry. Winslow is trying to retire about $150,000 in debt after losing the GOP primary to Gabriel Gomez and wanted to attribute certain contributions from same-sex couples to both spouses, even when the funds were drawn from the income of only one of them.
The FEC noted that the term “spouse” is not defined under its rules and is typically defined as a person legally married under state law. It said same-sex couples married under state law should be considered spouses under FEC regulations.
Both parties cheered the decisions. Guy Cecil, executive director of the DSCC, said it was an example of how the party 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, a state representative from suburban Boston, said the rulings were an “important step on the path to equality and freedom for all Americans and for the Republican Party to remember its roots” under President Abraham Lincoln.